From Banks to Blockchains
Right now, the global economy includes roughly $80.9 trillion in coins, currencies, and bank deposits. Millions of financial transactions take place every day, and people all across the globe spend trillions of dollars on everything from cars to coffee to real estate.
But while money makes the world go 'round today, in the world of tomorrow, that task will be handled by tokens.
Like cryptocoins, such as bitcoin, tokens get their unique advantages over traditional assets through the blockchain, which is a decentralized distributed database used to record transactions. A network of computers known as "nodes" are responsible for verifying and recording every transaction on a blockchain.
This decentralized nature makes a blockchain virtually unhackable, and unlike transactions made through a bank, blockchain transactions are nearly instantaneous. Crypto users don't have to worry about all the fees associated with a traditional bank account either.
While cryptocoins are basically alternatives to traditional money, tokens are smart contracts that can store multiple levels of value. Think of them as programmable assets. You can easily send two bitcoins to another person using the blockchain, but with a token, you can create a smart contract that automatically sends two tokens to that person on a specific date as long as their wallet balance is above a certain amount.
The world is quickly catching on to the remarkable potential of tokens, and today, the cryptocurrency market is worth a staggering $140 billion. However, traditional money is just one asset that can be "tokenized."
The "Tokenized" World
Using Ethereum's decentralized platform, anyone can run their own token applications. This allows them to take advantage of the many benefits of blockchain technology without having to start from the ground up. They can design their token to represent any asset they want, and already, Ethereum has been used for a variety of token applications.
If tokens were to supplant fiat money as the default transactional asset globally, the world we live in would dramatically change. Any process that currently requires the use of money, from renting an apartment to buying a cup of coffee, could be completed more securely using tokens on the blockchain. You'd never have to deal with overdraft fees or wait for days for a paycheck to clear your account, nor would you have to worry about someone stealing your money or, perhaps worse, your identity from your bank's servers.
And traditional financial transactions are only the beginning. Companies could reward loyal consumers with tokens they could redeem for free goods or services, artists could distribute tokens that gave fans access to new music, and nations could issue tokens that citizens could use to vote on pertinent issues. The applications are truly limitless.
In the world of investments, tokens could give previously illiquid assets, such as real estate, incredible new levels of liquidity.
Right now, the process of purchasing property involves numerous parties — lawyers, inspectors, banks, insurance agents, etc. — each keeping their own records of events on their own servers. Fees mount up at nearly every point in the process, a substantial upfront cost is almost inevitable, and the transaction can drag on for weeks or months. Trying to buy real estate across international borders is even more complicated, and in some place, laws prohibit women from owning property altogether.
Now, imagine if you could purchase token shares of an office building along with other investors. Everyone shares the risk, and each step of the purchase process would be recorded on the blockchain for all to see. Essentially, you could own a part of a building as easily as you could purchase stock in a company. Barriers such as location or gender would be eliminated, and any profits could be translated into new tokens that are divided amongst the investors.
If you wanted out, all you would need to do is sell your tokens.
The same process could apply to other illiquid assets, such as art. You may not be able to purchase a Rembrandt by yourself, but if the work were tokenized, a community could come together to split the cost of buying a painting amongst themselves so that it could be displayed at a local museum. If the value of the piece increased, each investor would receive additional tokens to represent the new value, and to make a profit, they could sell those tokens to other investors.
Ethereum is already equipped to facilitate the creation and execution of new tokens, like those examples mentioned above. However, trading one type of token for another — for example, trading tokens for that office building for tokens of the Rembrandt painting — is difficult.
Currently, most cryptocurrency trading takes place on centralized exchanges, such as Coinbase or Poloniex. Because these exchanges are built on centralized servers and not a blockchain, they carry all the same security problems that plague banks and other traditional financial institutions. In fact, just a few months ago, one of the world's largest bitcoin exchanges was hacked, resulting in the theft of roughly $870,000.
These exchanges have also had problems matching the pace of the rapidly growing cryptocurrency market. At the beginning of 2017, the market was a relatively paltry $17 billion, and by the end of the year, some predict it could surpass $200 billion. Because numerous exchanges all share this market, no single exchange is robust enough to handle extremely high volume orders. This lack of liquidity can increase both the cost of trading and the volatility of the crypto market.
Decentralized exchanges built on blockchains come with their own sets of problems. While they are more secure and trustworthy than their centralized counterparts, they are also less efficient, have less fluidity, and carry an increased potential for unfairness.
Thankfully, an alternative to cryptocurrency exchanges is emerging.
AirSwap is a protocol for the trading of tokens on the Ethereum blockchain. It eliminates the need for a third party exchange altogether, giving any two parties the ability to trade tokens between themselves securely and with increased liquidity.
Using the Swap protocol, token holders can find others looking to trade. They can directly negotiate pricing between themselves or even receive real-time pricing information to ensure both sides get a fair deal. Once they've agreed on terms, the token holders can use the Swap protocol to execute their trade directly on the Ethereum blockchain.
When using AirSwap, a centralized exchange is never in possession of either traders' assets, so the process is secure, and because the seller and buyer negotiate and execute their trades directly with one another, liquidity problems are eliminated. By using the blockchain only for the execution of the transaction, and not the setup, the problems of decentralized exchanges are also negated.
To truly take advantage of the benefits of a new digital economy driven by tokens, we need a better way to trade them. The AirSwap Token (AST) is launching on October 10, and it just may be that better way. To learn more about registering for the sale, you can head here.
Each recipient of this communication expressly acknowledges that the AirSwap tokens are being sold solely for the purpose of providing purchasers of such tokens with access to the services associated with the tokens, and that such persons are not being offered, and will not be purchasing, any tokens for any other purposes, including, but not limited to, any investment, speculative or other financial purpose. Each recipient further acknowledges that they are aware of the commercial risks associated with AirSwap and the network associated with its tokens.
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