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USD Coin, or USDC, is a stablecoin. Whereas some digital assets are volatile and fluctuate in value, a single unit of USDC is designed to always be worth $1. This has been achieved by pegging USDC's price to the U.S. dollar.
For every USDC that's in existence, $1 is held in reserve. This means that the stablecoin is fully backed by fiat currency, and investors can redeem their coins for dollars whenever they please.
USD Coin initially made its debut on the Ethereum blockchain, but it has branched out in recent years to other networks, such as Algorand, Stellar and Solana.
This stablecoin is designed to ensure that money can be rapidly transferred around the world at lower costs — sidestepping financial institutions that often charge sky-high fees when funds are being sent globally. The organization behind USD Coin has said that this asset is specifically designed to facilitate medium and large transactions. USDC can also serve as a "safe haven" asset for crypto investors during times of uncertainty.
Digital assets such as USD Coin often appear in trading pairs for altcoins with smaller market capitalizations. Additionally, USDC has come into its own as decentralized finance protocols gained popularity, with countless protocols popping up from 2020 onward. A number of projects accept this stablecoin as a collateral asset, enabling users to access loans.
The USD Coin was created by the Centre Consortium, which is a collaboration between Circle and Coinbase — and the stablecoin is issued by regulated financial institutions.
Together with other stablecoins, USD Coin helps to bring transparency to the world of crypto — giving people without bank accounts the ability to move funds worldwide using their mobile phone. Grant Thornton LLP, one of the world's biggest accounting firms, releases independent reports once a month to confirm that funds held in reserve are enough to fully back the USDC that's in circulation.
USDC is increasingly being used to form a bridge between the traditional financial sector and the world of crypto. In December 2020, it was announced that Circle had formed a partnership with Visa to "bring the benefits of stablecoins to businesses worldwide."
As USDC's price is pegged to the U.S. dollar, the coin always remains "stable" on a 1:1 basis. This helps create peace of mind among investors who are concerned about the value of their capital decreasing. Whenever you buy or sell USDC, it should always be worth $1.
Whereas some cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin have a fixed supply, there is no upper limit to the number of USDC in circulation. Likewise, it's also possible for its supply to decrease.
In May 2021, Circle revealed that more than $15 billion in USDC was now in circulation across the four blockchain platforms it supports. This milestone came less than two months after the total market cap of USD Coin surpassed $10 billion.
USDC is divisible in the same way as the dollar. That means that, if you wanted to send the equivalent of $115.23 to a friend, you wouldn't have any issue completing a transfer of 115.23 USDC.
There are a number of dollar-backed cryptocurrencies in circulation, and USDC is among the biggest. However, Tether is miles ahead as the most popular stablecoin and has a much larger market cap.
USDC uses an open-source framework and membership scheme developed by тче Centre Consortium. The two founding members of Centre are the global fintech firm Circle and the cryptocurrency exchange Coinbase.
Centre's framework has been designed so that multiple companies can leverage it and apply to be issuers of USDC.
Coinbase decided to participate in building USD Coin as it believes in "an open financial system for the world." The creation of this stablecoin was designed to enable any individual to access a U.S. dollar-backed asset on demand.
Circle shares this vision for seamless, border-free payments, and deems the USDC "a major breakthrough in how we use money." It also favors digital dollars for their speed, security and low transfer costs.
Jeremy Allaire is Circle's CEO, and he was also a co-founder.