Overstock, an online retailer, has become the first publicly traded company to offer over 126,000 company shares on the Bitcoin blockchain. Under a subsidiary called tØ, this new method of trading is enabled through technology the company has spent developing over the last two years.
A blockchain is a public, digital ledger of transactions. What makes it particularly interesting is that it is not governed by a central body, allowing for more transparency not currently offered in today's systems, and coupled with the use of cryptography, makes it more secure.
Watch this brief video that illustrates and explains how blockchain works:
Company CEO Patrick Byrne views the blockchain as a way to provide reliable, transparent, and automated tracking systems for capital markets. He refers to this milestone as a “Sputnik moment”—a symbolic event that demonstrates the financial industry’s attitude towards this kind of technology and how it will affect and evolve current systems.
While the Overstock project is indeed interesting and can be viewed as a definitive milestone, lack of precedent can make regulatory boards and investors wary of it. Still, established financial institutions like JP Morgan, Wells Fargo and State Street, as well as NASDAQ have begun to explore blockchain technology’s potential. Such interest in how available technology intended to reinvent the capital market is at least indicative of how blockchain could one day fundamentally change the world’s established monetary systems.
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