Digital Currency: Emerging Trend in World Financial Systems


  • Dhirawit Pinyonatthagarn


Digital currency is a money balance recorded electronically on a stored-value card or other device. Another form of electronic money is network money, allowing the transfer of value on computer networks, particularly the Internet. Electronic money is also a claim on a private bank or other financial institution such as bank deposits. Digital money can either be centralized, where there is a central point of control over the money supply, or decentralized, where the control over the money supply can come from various sources. Digital currency is a type of currency available only in digital form, not in physical (such as banknotes and coins). It exhibits properties similar to physical currencies, but allows for instantaneous transactions and borderless transfer-of-ownership. Examples include virtual currencies and cryptocurrencies ("Digital vs. Virtual Currencies". Andrew Wagner. Retrieved 1 December 2014) or even central bank issued "digital base money". Like traditional money, these currencies may be used to buy physical goods and services, but may also be restricted to certain communities such as for use inside an on-line game or social network. Historically, in 1983, a research paper by David Chaum introduced the idea of digital cash (Chaum,1982). In 1990, he founded DigiCash, an electronic cash company, in Amsterdam to commercialize the ideas in his research. It filed for bankruptcy in 1998. In 1999, Chaum left the company. In 1997, Coca-Cola offered buying from vending machines using mobile payments. After that PayPal emerged in 1998. Other system such as e-gold followed suit, but faced issues because it was used by criminals and was raided by US Feds in 2005. In 2008, bitcoin was introduced, which marked the start of Digital currencies. Origins of digital currencies date back to the 1990s Dot-com bubble. One of the first was E-gold, founded in 1996 and backed by gold. Another known digital currency service was Liberty Reserve, founded in 2006; it let users convert dollars or euros to Liberty Reserve Dollars or Euros, and exchange them freely with one another at a 1% fee. Both services were centralized, reputed to be used for money laundering, and inevitably shut down by the US government( Jack Cloherty (28 May 2013). "'Black Market Bank' Accused of Laundering $6B in Criminal Proceeds". ABC News. Retrieved 28 May 2013). Q coins or QQ coins, were used as a type of commodity-based digital currency on Tencent QQ's messaging platform and emerged in early 2005. Q coins were so effective in China that they were said to have had a destabilizing effect on the Chinese Yuan currency due to speculation.[11] Recent interest in cryptocurrencies has prompted renewed interest in digital currencies, with bitcoin, introduced in 2008, becoming the most widely used and accepted digital currency("'China's virtual currency threatens the Yuan'". Asia Times Online. 5 December 2006. Retrieved 14 May 2016).


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According to the European Central Bank's "Virtual currency schemes – a further analysis" report of February 2015, virtual currency is a digital representation of value, not issued by a central bank, credit institution or e-money institution, which, in some circumstances, can be used as an alternative to money. In the previous report of October 2012, the virtual currency was defined as a type of unregulated, digital money, which is issued and usually controlled by its developers, and used and accepted among the members of a specific virtual community. Based on the Bank For International Settlements' "Digital currencies" report of November 2015, digital currency is an asset represented in digital form and having some monetary characteristics. Digital currency can be denominated to a sovereign currency and issued by the issuer responsible to redeem digital money for cash. In that case, digital currency represents electronic money (e-money). Digital currency denominated in its own units of value or with decentralized or automatic issuance will be considered as a virtual currency. As such, bitcoin is a digital currency but also a type of virtual currency. Bitcoin and its alternatives are based on cryptographic algorithms, so these kinds of virtual currencies are also called cryptocurrencies.