Crypto is the slang term for everything related to cryptocurrency, including blockchains, which are the distributed ledgers that power digital currencies like Bitcoin and serve as the basis for things like NFTs (non-fungible assets) and Web3 applications. But it’s also become a catchall for the broader phenomenon of decentralized digital finance, which is often described as being beyond the control of central banks or any other government.
The most well-known example of a decentralized digital finance project is Bitcoin, which allows people to send and receive payments without having to go through a third party. But there are countless other examples. Some of them are based on the Ethereum blockchain, which is designed to let developers create automated apps; others are stablecoins that are tied to the value of the U.S. dollar; still others are used for a wide range of purposes, from dissidents living under authoritarian regimes to people who want to earn passive income through methods such as staking.
Another thing to know about crypto is that it’s highly volatile, which means that its price can go up or down significantly in a very short period of time. That volatility is one of the reasons that it’s important for anyone considering investing in it to diversify their portfolio by buying and selling a variety of different coins, rather than putting all their money into just one.
Finally, it’s worth remembering that crypto is largely unregulated, and in many cases the rules that govern how it works are being written as the technology develops. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it can make the space rife for fraud and other types of misbehavior.
For example, some cryptocurrency scams involve selling for cash before a project’s development team shuts down. Or users may be encouraged to take big risks in order to maximise their profits, even though such strategies are likely to lead to losses if prices tumble. And, of course, the fact that cryptocurrencies are often sold for fiat currency can mean that any gains are subject to capital-gains taxes in the countries where they’re being traded.
Overall, though, most experts agree that there are plenty of reasons to believe that the future of crypto is bright. The technology is attracting tons of developers, and its use cases are growing by the day. It might not replace the dollar any time soon, but it could end up being a vital part of the global financial system in years to come. That’s probably why it’s so attractive to people who are tired of the way that traditional finance is run, or who want to live in a world where they’re not subject to the kind of economic and political control that the U.S. federal government exercises over most of the rest of the world.