Stablecoins by Market Capitalization
What is a stablecoin? Stablecoin is a cryptocurrency that is designed to minimize volatility by pegging to a more stable asset. Fiat currency digital asset is the most popular use case for stablecoins. It typically tracks popular national currencies such as the US Dollar, Euro, and the British Pound. Benefit of this includes being able to take advantage of blockchain technology and peer-to-peer value transfer while not being exposed to high volatility such as bitcoin, ethereum, or other cryptocurrencies. Stablecoins are relatively new kind of technology and each of them comes with different implementations, liquidity, risks, and acceptance.
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What are Stablecoins
Stablecoins are a type of cryptocurrency pegged to a reference asset like fiat money, or other commodities like gold. Stablecoins minimize the volatility of the crypto space by maintaining their pegs. There are four major types of stablecoins: fiat-backed stablecoins, crypto-collateralized stablecoins, commodity-backed stablecoins, and algorithmic stablecoins.
Fiat-backed stablecoins, like USDT and USDC, are issued by a central entity and backed by reserves that are equal or greater than their tokens in circulation. However, the reserve breakdown between USDT and USDC is quite different. In the case of USDT, this includes secured loans, corporate bonds, funds and precious metals in addition to cash and cash equivalents. On the other hand, USDC is only backed by U.S. Treasury Securities and cash deposits. Commodity-collateralized stablecoins are similar to fiat-backed stablecoins, except that they are backed by other physical assets like precious metals, oils, or real estate.
Unlike centralized stablecoins, which are issued by a central entity, decentralized stablecoins run on smart contracts, with governance input from a designated community (the DAO). DAI by MakerDao is an example of a decentralized stablecoin, and it is collateralized by other cryptocurrencies such as ETH. In order for DAI to maintain a stable price, users borrow against their locked collateral. Due to the volatility of cryptocurrencies, users must deposit collateral worth more than the value they intend to borrow, and this collateral can be liquidated by the protocol if the value decreases below a certain threshold.
Finally, there are algorithmic stablecoins. These rely on two tokens – a stablecoin and another cryptocurrency that serves as the backing of the stablecoin – and an algorithm (or smart contract) regulates the supply and demand so that the stablecoin can maintain its peg. This worked in the case of Terra’s UST and LUNA, until UST’s depeg in May 2022 resulted in arbitrageurs exchanging it for LUNA, which was then dumped on the open market, creating a freefall on both fronts.