ICE’s announcement about building a new ecosystem for digital assets is a double-edged sword for cryptocurrencies. Photo credit: Shutterstock Intercontinental Exchange (NYSE: ICE), parent of the New York Stock Exchange, today announced it is building Bakkt, a new ecosystem for cryptocurrencies, along with several partners.

This is a major step in the mainstreaming of bitcoin and cryptocurrencies. But it’s also a double-edged sword, because it’s likely the beginning of Wall Street creating financial claims to bitcoin out of thin air (and not backed by actual bitcoins), which could offset some of Bitcoin’s algorithmically-enforced scarcity. Perhaps that’s why bitcoin’s price declined slightly after today’s announcement by ICE.

Bakkt is yet more evidence that incumbent institutions are increasingly taking the “join ‘em” approach to cryptocurrencies, as explored in Part 1 of my 3-part series about the building rivalry between cryptocurrencies and Wall Street. Bakkt could bring many positives to cryptocurrencies: I doubt it will be very long before major corporate issuers join Telegram and Eastman Kodak in raising capital via these markets.

This is the good type of financialization—attracting new investors to the networks, each of whom (in proof-of-work blockchains) makes the networks more secure by bringing new computer resources to the networks, directly or indirectly on their behalf—and that, in turn, makes the networks more decentralized, resilient and immune to attack. But ICE’s news also has downsides.

As explored in Part 2 of the 3-part series just two days ago, Wall Street’s only shot at controlling cryptocurrencies is to financialize them via leverage—by creating more financial claims to the coins than there are underlying coins and thereby influencing the underlying coin prices via derivatives markets. It’s pretty much impossible at this point for anyone to gain control of the Bitcoin network (and likely the other big cryptocurrency networks too), so Wall Street’s only major avenue for controlling them is to financialize them via leverage. Read more from…

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