Ethereum Classic (ETC) came into existence during July 2016 as the result of a “hard fork” on the original Ethereum blockchain. The hard fork (a major software change) was introduced as a means to “roll back” a number of transactions made by a malicious attacker on the Ethereum network. For many, the rolling back of these transactions – whether malicious or not – was antithetical to the blockchain movement. These users valued immutability above all else and decided to continue on the original Ethereum chain which became known as Ethereum Classic. The new Ethereum chain, which had widespread community consensus, continued with the name Ethereum.
Ethereum Classic has risen to prominence over the years following the launch ofGrayscale Investment’s ETC tracker and the currency’s listing on the world’s largest cryptoasset exchange, Coinbase.com, in 2018.
Buy Ethereum Classic
The means to purchase Ethereum Classic is similar to buying Ether on the main Ethereum chain. You can buy Ethereum Classic at any of the following exchanges; those wishing to trade Ethereum Classic without having to worry about the security and storage of ETC can do so by trading at eToro.
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Ethereum Classic as an Investment
Ethereum Classic has a lower market cap than Ethereum, however its potential for growth has been very apparent since it was formed in July 2016. On June 11th 2018, Coinbase announced its intentions to list Ethereum Classic on its exchange platform, resulting in a sharp 25% increase in the price of ETC. To understand the possible return on investment for ETC, it is best to first look at the key players behind the cryptocurrency and their role in ensuring its success.
Barry Silbert: Ethereum Classic Investment Trust
Barry Silbert’s Grayscale Investments allows investors to gain exposure to cryptoassets like Bitcoin and Ethereum Classic without having to buy and secure the assets themselves. The ETC Trust purchases and secures Ethereum Classic tokens on its shareholders’ behalf, taking a small premium on each share sold. The trust launched in April 2017 with initial capital of $10M. Grayscale Investments has played a leading role in Ethereum Classic’s increased market cap as well as in its adoption as a smart contract platform and store of value.
Charles Hoskinson: IOHK
Charles Hoskinson is CEO of IOHK – a company which supports the development of Ethereum Classic through their development team, “Team Grothendieck”. IOHK can be seen in the same light as Bitcoin Core, a team of developers who set out the roadmap and contribute code to the underlying software. This includes implementing decisions made over monetary policy as noted below.
Barry Silbert, Charles Hoskinson and their associated companies are committed to the success of Ethereum Classic. They are developing the tools and interest that are required for the successful adoption of any cryptoasset, and Ethereum Classic is a significant beneficiary of their hard work.
Ethereum Classic Supply
One of the key factors to consider when looking to invest in any cryptocurrency is the monetary policy which belies it. In 2017, the ecosystem agreed on a change to the issuance scheme which will reduce miner rewards by 20% every 5,000,000th block – starting from block 5,000,000. Such a scheme is expected to fix the supply of Ethereum Classic at roughly 210M – 230M coins. This is not too dissimilar to Ethereum, where the difficulty bomb and move to a proof of stake algorithm is expected to fix supply at roughly 120M tokens. Many investors have steered clear of Ethereum and Ethereum Classic due to their perceived inflation, however as noted above, the idea that these two blockchains will have a perpetually increasing token supply is a falsehood.
As with any consensus-driven blockchain, these monetary rules can be changed in the future. However, in the case of Ethereum Classic, the team wish to position its token as an investment vehicle and for that reason maintaining consensus around a fixed and deflationary currency supply is key.
Ethereum Classic Demand and Scaling
As we have seen with both Bitcoin and Ethereum, strong demand will ultimately require scaling solutions which increase network throughput by many orders of magnitude. The number of transactions that can be processed on the Ethereum Classic blockchain currently stands at roughly 15 transactions per second. The demand for ETC transactions is relatively low compared to ETH, however Ethereum Classic developers have published their roadmap for the cryptocurrency which aims to include “sharding” in 2019. Sharding is the concept of running software in parallel across multiple databases (shards), something which has been applied to traditional computer science problems in the past. It was not until Ethereum proposed blockchain sharding as a means to increase transaction throughput that it became a highly researched topic. ETH sharding is expected to increase blockchain throughput to 1,000+ transactions per second by breaking the network into fragments (hence “sharding”) and distributing them across nodes. These fragments are much smaller in size than the original blockchain and transactions can be validated much more quickly whilst retaining the security required for a public blockchain to function effectively. The details of how sharding will be applied to the Ethereum Classic blockchain are minimal at this stage, however it is likely to follow similar techniques to those outlined by the Ethereum Foundation.
How does Ethereum Classic differ from Ethereum?
As it may now be clear, despite Ethereum and Ethereum Classic being incompatible with one another, they do provide very similar technology with an aligned roadmap for development. The point at which these two blockchains diverge will be through the introduction of the Casper consensus mechanism expected to launch in 2019 on Ethereum. This consensus mechanism moves Ethereum from Proof of Work to Proof of Stake – the latter ensures transactions are validated by those who make a financial stake (in Ether) as opposed to those who mine new tokens with their GPUs and ASICs (specialized mining chips). Ethereum Classic has so far shown no interest in using a Proof of Stake consensus mechanism and may indeed find that many existing Ethereum miners move to Ethereum Classic when their hash power is made redundant.
Ethereum Classic Wallets
As mentioned, the incompatible nature between Ethereum and Ethereum Classic means that an Ethereum wallet cannot receive Ethereum Classic tokens. It is important that users looking to purchase Ethereum Classic do so through a specified ETC wallet. There are several of these wallets available to users today, including Classic Ether Wallet which runs through open source code and is widely regarded as one of the most secure ways to store ETC. Other Ethereum Classic wallets are available including Jaxx.io.
As with any cryptocurrency, storing tokens on your hard drive can result in loss of funds if the private keys are not backed up and the hard drive fails. Storing coins on an exchange can also result in the loss of funds should the exchange go rogue or become insolvent (as has happened several times throughout history).
The most secure way to store Ethereum Classic (or any other cryptocurrency for that matter) is through a hardware wallet. These hardware wallets store funds offline in a physical USB device. The most trusted of these wallets is the Ledger Nano S which holds a strong reputation as an unhackable ETC storage device. Those who are more familiar with crypto can also use a Trezor hardware wallet, however this requires interfacing with MyEtherWallet – something which will certainly be confusing to new users.
Should I buy Ethereum Classic?
Once you understand the differences between Ethereum and Ethereum Classic it is possible to draw your own conclusion as to whether this asset is under or overvalued. The price of Ethereum Classic does not share any obvious correlation with Ethereum and the fundamental use case of Ethereum Classic must be judged on its own merit. Given the influential companies which back this cryptoasset, it is likely that the currency is here to stay and that its utility for users, developers and businesses will grow in the future. At this point in time, the Ethereum Classic ecosystem is relatively small in comparison to Ethereum, but as these two blockchains diverge and the utility of Ethereum Classic becomes clear, it is possible that the cryptoasset matures into a high growth asset. In summary, Ethereum Classic appears to be a more risky purchase than the more established coins, but at the same time it has the potential for generating higher returns than its counterparts. A diversified crypto portfolio would do well to include Ethereum Classic.