The last year has seen an astonishing boom in the two most popular cryptocurrencies: bitcoin and ether—the latter being the currency of the Ethereum network. The price of bitcoins soared from around $1,000 at the start of the year to nearly $5,000 on September 1. Ether rose from $8 to almost $400 over the same period.
But now both currencies are plunging. Bitcoin has fallen to $3,000—an 18 percent drop in 24 hours, and down by 40 percent from the start of the month. Ether is worth about $200, down more than 20 percent in 24 hours and almost 50 percent since September 1. And this is part of a broader cryptocurrency bloodbath, with dozens of lesser-known currencies posting double-digit losses in the last 24 hours.
Explaining market movements is never an exact science, but one likely factor driving the current crash was an announcement last week that the Chinese government was banning initial coin offerings (ICOs). In recent months, hundreds of projects have introduced new cryptocurrencies that compete with Bitcoin and Ethereum or use the concepts they pioneered to tackle other problems like file storage. Most ICOs were conducted in Bitcoin or ether, and a number have been for coins built directly on the Ethereum platform. Accordingly, the ICO boom pumped up the price of Bitcoin and Ethereum.
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