Go ahead and chalk up yet another all-time high for the cryptocurrency market as of Jan. 7, 2018. Having ended 2016 with a aggregate market cap of just $17.7 billion, the nearly 1,400 cryptocurrencies that are investable as of that date now combine for a market cap of almost $836 billion. What had once seemed like an unattainable mark of $1 trillion in aggregate market cap for digital coins is looking very much possible.
As you might have rightly guessed, the world's most popular cryptocurrency, bitcoin, has played a critical role in pushing all virtual currencies higher. Bitcoin is the digital coin that's most likely to be accepted by merchants around the globe, and it's largely responsible for bringing blockchain technology into the mainstream. Blockchain is the digital, distributed, and decentralized ledger that records all transactions without the need for a financial intermediary like a bank.
Objects are closer than they appear in bitcoin's rearview mirror
But despite hitting a more than $300 billion market cap during December 2017, the glory in recent weeks and months really belongs to the other digital currencies in bitcoin's rearview mirror. Potentially believing that bitcoin has run its course, cryptocurrency investors are on the hunt for "the next bitcoin." This hunt has given rise to more than a handful of virtual coins that have risen by over 10,000%, 100,000%, and, in very rare cases, beyond 1,000,000%.
Occasionally, these big moves make some sense (I'm using the word "some" here very liberally). For instance, Ripple rocketed higher by almost 50,000% over the trailing 53-week period, beginning on Jan. 1, 2017. Putting the torrent of rumors about its now-foiled listing on Coinbase aside for the moment, Ripple's rally rests on its announced partnerships with major global banks.
Ripple announced that seven global banks were testing out its blockchain technology in June 2016, but didn't get a ton of recognition until American Express (NYSE: AXP) and Banco Santander (NYSE:SAN) were snagged in November 2017 by Ripple for a real-world cross-border payment test. For this partnership, American Express users in the U.S. sending noncard payments to U.K. Santander accounts will have those payments processed through Ripple's blockchain. Purportedly, these payments will process instantly, which would be a nice improvement over the multiple-day verification that sometimes takes place with cross-border payments.
Then again, some moves higher are complete head-scratchers.
Meet the unknown cryptocurrency that turned $100 into $13.7 million in roughly one year
Take Experience Points and its coin (XP) as a perfect example. On Dec. 31, 2016, Experience Points had virtually no trading volume, according to CoinMarketCap.com, and was valued at just $0.000000044. If you rounded up every single available XP coin, you might have had enough to buy a really fancy Apple MacBook.
However, things have changed in a big way over the past 53 weeks. On Jan. 5, 2018, following a monumental rally in December, Experience Points hit a high of $0.006031, sending its market cap (briefly) over $1 billion in the process. True, six-tenths of a penny doesn't exactly sound like a lot -- but it actually is if your starting basis is $0.000000044. The move higher in the XP coin over this 53-week stretch was a remarkable 13,706,718%.
You might be wondering what on earth would send a virtual currency described as a rewards incentive for gamers, students, and athletes higher by 13,700,000% in just over a year? The answer to that question is a bit vague.
In recent weeks, there's been excitement over the listing, or potential listing, of the XP coin on new exchanges. A New Year's Day tweet announced the listing of XP on New Zealand's Cryptopia exchange by the end of January 2018. The Experience Points Twitter page has also been strongly encouraging its followers to vote for XP's inclusion on the Binance cryptocurrency exchange. Presumably, more exposure from being listed on new exchanges could drum up interest in the XP story.
This story may not add up
Beyond prospective new exchange listings, it's tough to find much in the way of news and proprietary blockchain aspects that allow XP to stand out from nearly 1,400 other cryptocurrencies and, more importantly, merit a 13.7 million percent increase in value.
One aspect that is worth noting is that XP implemented an upgrade in its blockchain in the third quarter of 2017 that favored smaller stakeholders of its coin. Running on the proof-of-stake (PoS) model, which is far less energy-intensive than the traditional proof-of-work model that has miners with high-powered computers competing to solve complex math equations and validate transactions, Experience Points modified its PoS algorithm to favor smaller stakeholders over large ones. That is indeed unique, and it might encourage crypto enthusiasts to buy in.
However, beyond this intriguing approach to stakeholder rewards, XP hasn't exactly done much as of yet. The XP Reward system is described as being the backbone of this project. Rewarding gamers for unlocking achievements, students for their attendance and good grades, and athletes for completing events sounds fine and dandy until we get into its actual application. During the fourth quarter, Experience Points' road map had this to say: "[W]e delayed development in this area [XP Reward System] because there are going to be a lot of programmatical obstacles to overcome since this will not be a regular faucet. Further conceptualization is in progress."
Though the team expects to launch an XP Reward System beta version "at some point in the first quarter of 2018," it's not exactly encouraging that the core component of XP is so challenging to the development team and seemingly being pushed farther behind schedule.
#XP #Cryptocurrency #community Let's get the #Voting @binance_2017 to #LevelUp ➡️https://t.co/okqfgpX7Hl ⬅️At the end of #voting we will $XP #Rain at $XP #Discord https://t.co/oSZjCVaqRZ: Every vote 2500XP + 50% more if #XP is listed at #Binance https://t.co/Fu7WHE5iF2 pic.twitter.com/D5KQzaMKZP— XP eXperience Points (@TheBigXP) January 1, 2018
I also can't say I'm a big fan of the way the Experience Points Twitter account, supposedly managed by a member of the team, is trying to buy the votes of its followers. As you can see above, Experience Points is offering 2,500 XP for a vote on Binance and a 50% bonus if it's the coin that's chosen to be listed. Personally, bribing your followers to take action doesn't sit well with this investor.
With an interesting story but little substance thus far to back it up, Experience Points' incredible run higher may prove fleeting over time.
Sean Williams has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Apple and Twitter. The Motley Fool has the following options: long January 2020 $150 calls on Apple and short January 2020 $155 calls on Apple. The Motley Fool recommends American Express. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.