The age of cryptocurrencies seems to be well upon us.
2017 was not just the year when Bitcoin marched into the realms of popular acceptance with 1318% returns that saw its market cap zoom past $ 250 billion. It was not just the year when Australian Craig White briefly attempted to claim that he was bitcoin founder Satoshi Nakamoto. It was also the year when seven other cryptocurrencies delivered stratospheric returns that dwarfed those offered by Bitcoin!
Getting a 36018% return for investing in a Ripple - such was 2017!
But at the start of 2018, there are those who are looking beyond the out-of-the-world returns and keen on embracing cryptocurrencies for an entirely different reason - the anonymity they provide.
Enter Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin.
On January 2 came news that Russia is keen on launching a cryptorouble.
The esteemed Financial Times reported that Russian leader Vladimir Putin had commissioned the launch of the currency to help Russia get around sanctions imposed by Western countries.
Putin was said to have made the decision after a meeting with Vitalik Buterin, the Russian-Canadian founder of the world's third biggest cryptocurrency Ethereum.
The paper quoted Sergei Glazev, an economic adviser to Putin, as saying in a Russian government meeting that "This instrument suits us very well for sensitive activity on behalf of the state. We can settle accounts with our counterparties all over the world with no regard for sanctions. "
Like the FT reported, though, "it is not clear how a cryptorouble would help Russian companies and individuals to escape international sanctions or avoid detection by US authorities".
After all, naming it the cryptorouble and adding official backing will strip of its anonymity, won't it? All countries keen on imposing sanctions on Russia would then need to do is make trading in cryptorouble illegal. But that is our reading. Let us see how Putin and Russia play this one out.
Bitcoiners discover a pal in PayPal founder Peter Thiel
January 2, 2018 was also the day the wider world came to know about the extent of Peter Thiel's Founders Fund interest in Bitcoin.
The Wall Street Journal reported that Founders Fund, an early backer of Facebook, had invested between $ 15 million to $ 20 million through several of its recent funds and that the Fund's total Bitcoin holding was now worth several hundreds of millions of dollars.
It must have helped that the Wall Street Journal chose to headline the article Peter Thiel’s Founders Fund Makes Monster Bet on Bitcoin.
Bitcoin rose more than $13.5% on the back of the news, according to cryptocurrency tracker Coinbase.