10 years later, we still don’t know what Bitcoin is for 

The appeal of both is that information of any kind could be stored and moved without having to rely on any central party or institution. In the case of money, when we make a card payment, a bank or credit card company typically takes a fee. Globally, these fees add up to billions each year.

But with cryptocurrencies, there is no such greedy payments provider. The system is “decentralised”: transactions are signed off and recorded by those who use the network. The people have the power.

The blockchain, the technology that underpins it, has been heralded as a new kind of information system, impervious to fraud and cyber attacks, and one whose potential uses extend well beyond cryptocurrencies.

In the same way that the road system was developed for journeys on horseback, but became many times more useful once cars came along, the blockchain supposedly has applications well beyond money.

Philip Hammond, the chancellor, recently proposed it as the solution to the Irish border problem. Lawyers are wondering if it will make them obsolete, through the introduction of “smart contracts” that run on the technology. You name it, they can blockchain it.

That is the idea, at least. The reality is that 10 years after the idea for Bitcoin and the blockchain came online, it still feels like a solution searching for a problem. Billions of venture capital funding has been put into cryptocurrency and blockchain start-ups, but as of yet, there seems to be little to show for it. Few of us are using cryptocurrencies to make payments.

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