Bitcoin’s share of the $628 billion cryptoasset universe has fallen to its lowest ever. While the price of the original and most popular digital coin has stumbled in recent weeks, the market value of others like ethereum and ripple has appreciated steadily, setting consecutive records, according to Coinmarketcap.com.
The market value for bitcoin slipped to about 36% overall today (Jan. 2), compared with 87% a year ago. Ripple and ethereum now comprise about 14% each. Bitcoin cash, an offshoot of bitcoin, makes up 7%.
Some of the digital assets that have gained in value, like ethereum and ripple, could have more utility and faster processing characteristics than bitcoin, which is sometimes seen as a form of digital gold. Ethereum is used for smart contracts, which are designed to execute on their own. Ripple is touted as a new kind of payment system for banks.
One day, cryptoassets will be used as a form of payment, though there’s not much of that happening right now, said Charlie Lee, a former Google engineer and founder of litecoin, in a recent interview with Coindesk. Litecoin processes transactions more quickly than bitcoin and now makes up about 2% of the market value of the crypto universe. Lee suggested that some people are buying the digital currency he developed because bitcoin is so expensive—about $250 versus more than $13,000—and they don’t realize they can buy a fraction of a cryptoasset.
Another possibility behind the recent rise of other cryptoassets is that people who fear they missed out on the bitcoin boom are trying to replicate that success by buying some newer digital coin. Valuing cryptoassets is an “effort in behavioral finance” because there’s no intrinsic value to something like bitcoin, said Tony Crescenzi, a market strategist at asset manager Pimco, in a Bloomberg Television interview. “I’d rather have a bond any day,” he said.