If you're a Canadian who's traded your hard-earned Actual Money for made-up internet coins amid the recent rush on ethereum, you're in luck! LocalCoinATM, an Ontario company that operates ATM-like kiosks for digital currencies, has added support for ethereum at several locations across Toronto.
This city is a longtime hub for ethereum. Inventor Vitalik Buterin lived in Canada and spent time in the Toronto bitcoin scene prior to creating his cryptocurrency in 2013. Bitcoin ATMs have been here for a while now, in convenience stores and small businesses. According to a LocalCoinATM press release, the company added ethereum support to six existing bitcoin ATMs in the Toronto area on Thursday.
While ethereum came along several years after bitcoin, and adopted many of its best ideas, ethereum boosters believe it has the potential to accomplish much more in the real world than bitcoin ever could. For example, ethereum makes so-called "smart contracts" a core part of its system, which allows people to easily code apps using the technology. Ethereum support for these ATMs, in a sense, is a long time coming.
But both bitcoin and ethereum are still struggling to find uses beyond being playthings for speculators, and in Canada's most populous city, there's only a handful of locations that accept cryptocurrency as payment. Which brings us to an important point: Why in the world do we need cryptocurrency ATMs? To be completely honest, I'm not sure.
The ethereum network is still too slow for people the world over to use it like cash. Bitcoin, until recently, had a similar problem: It might take 30 seconds to "pay" for your beers with bitcoin at a restaurant (if the restaurant accepted them in the first place), but in reality the transaction could take hours to be confirmed by the bitcoin network. In the meantime, the restaurant just has to trust that you're not going to screw it, or it can make you wait until your transaction is confirmed. This is not ideal.
Buterin has proposed a solution to ethereum's scaling problem, called Plasma, which aims to ease congestion in the ethereum network as more people use it to pay for things. Plasma is controversial, however, which could portend a painfully protracted debate about the best way to move forward like bitcoin experienced, and may continue to.
Until all that is settled, though, ethereum holders can pretend to live in the future as they trade away perfectly good money that could be used to buy a bagel for something that is not that, whatever else it is.
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