Bitcoin, The Bell Tolls For Thee

If you think about it from a crypto economics perspective, what happened to Bitcoin this week with the inclusion of Ethereum on Coinbase is frankly devastating to Bitcoin's brand image - and utility.

Coinbase, founded in 2012, sitting on a fat 4.1 million customer userbase, and backed by some of the deepest pockets in Silicon Valley... the crypto services giant had always been staunchly a believer in Bitcoin exclusivity until this week's rollout.

As wildly exciting as the Ethereum community and ecosystem are becoming, in the back of one's mind was the realization that it is still not in the same league as Bitcoin - can't move it onto Coinbase and have it in my bank account as fiat currency the next day. Can't buy it on Coinbase with a MasterCard instant buy.

Like every "alt" crypto project before it, Ethereum was relegated to a bizarre secondary realm which typically involved trading bitcoins for Ether on a third party exchange web site - or using an institutional level crypto trading platform, with the minimums and exhausting user identity processes that institutional level account openings can come with.

Now that's all different. Coinbase has Ether on an equal footing with Bitcoin on the company's Trade page, as shown in the screenshot below.

With the Ether name and blockchain now opened up to millions of new households, and with millions of Coinbase users able to convert Bitcoin into Ether with ease and security... it will be interesting to see if the recent ETH/BTC trading ratios are maintained, given the massive increase in freedom that's been granted to their userbase by adding a second currency.

Maybe Bitcoin users are all absolute loyalists as the louder thought leaders of the community sometimes portray themselves.

But maybe they aren't. Maybe they are just interested in cryptocurrency, and if they see a swiftly climbing exchange rate, their loyalties might shift at the click of a mouse. Time will tell one way or another with certainty.

Most immediately damaging to the Bitcoin absolutist's future prospects, however, is a comment dropped today by Coinbase co-founder Fred Ehrsam during a Q&A he offered on Ethereum's Reddit community.

"Does Coinbase plan on implementing other cryptocurrencies? If so, which ones and why?" a user asked.

His answer is sure to knock the breath out of Bitcoin absolutists on every continent:

"Yes. I view us as cryptocurrency/cryptoasset agnostic long term.

However, I do have a view on cryptocurrencies vs cryptoassets. I think a lot of the early cryptocurrencies after bitcoin ("altcoins") were great from an experimentation perspective but not valuable because they tried to do the same thing Bitcoin did: create a network where the goal is store of value and transaction abilities. Ethereum was the first thing to me to come along and create something with capabilities so new that it was worth adding. Allowing arbitrary programs is amazing, fiddling with block time/inflation rate is not.

I think we are now getting a different wave: digital assets instead of digital currencies. And this is far more interesting.

So I think the future is thousands/millions of cryptoassets like we have millions of apps and web sites, but very few base networks. This mostly looks like assets being built on top of ethereum at the moment.

According to CoinMarketCap, the price of Ether is up a stunning 17.5% over the last 24 hours. This brings Ethereum's total market cap to US $1.21 billion. For comparison's sake, Bitcoin has a $10.25 billion market cap, and the price of Bitcoin is down 2.2% over the same period.

Think it's time for you to buy your first bitcoin or ether? How do you do that? And where do you store it afterward? Watch our brief tutorial video below:

Full disclosure: Not financial advice, provided for educational purposes only. Not intended as a recommendation to buy or sell any cryptocurrency or asset. At time of publication, I do hold some bitcoins and ethers in my long term portfolio.