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What is Tether (USDT)?
Tether (USDT) is a cryptocurrency that was designed to have a 1:1 exchange rate with the U.S. dollar (USD) in order to make it easier to liquidate cryptocurrencies like bitcoin or buy cryptocurrencies with fiat currency. Tether Ltd., the company that created and issues Tether, is controlled by the people who founded Bitfinex, with which it shares overlapping officers.
History of Tether
Tether was founded in 2014 by Brock Pierce. It started in the Isle of Man, but later moved to the British Virgin Islands. The company is also incorporated in Hong Kong.
Tether was originally called “Realcoin,” but the name was changed to “Tether” to avoid brand confusion with other altcoin projects of the same name.
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Originally, Tether used bitcoin’s blockchain to record and verify transactions. In June 2017, Tether transitioned to using Litecoin instead. Tether’s founders and executives are the same executives of the cryptocurrency exchange Bitfinex.
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The basic idea behind Tether is simple: create a “stablecoin” or digital asset whose value does not fluctuate relative to a fiat currency. This coin can be used in place of the fiat currency in trading and other transactions. According to the company’s website, each Tether coin in circulation was backed by the same amount of the fiat currency. As of the first quarter of 2018, there was approximately 2.2 billion U.S. dollar Tether (USDT) coins in circulation. The creators of Tether claim that they have at least this much in fiat currency backing the coins came under a great deal of scrutiny since 2017.
Tether is popular, often used by traders to park their dollars between trades on cryptocurrency platforms that have expensive fiat on-ramps or offer no fiat transactions at all. It is also used to aid in transactions between exchanges and to engage in margin trading.
According to cryptocurrency research firms like Coin Metrics – as well as a large number of independent users on Twitter – by Summer 2019 there were only about 318 wallet addresses holding about 80 percent of all USDT in circulation and referred to as the “Tether Mafia” by some Twitter users. Some have speculated that the so-called Tether Mafia can, and has, influenced the price of bitcoin and other digital assets directly in the past. John Griffin, a finance professor at the University of Texas, Austin, told Bloomberg that the “concentration of Tether suggests that control of Tether is in the hands of a few central players who can swing bitcoin prices, and have a vested interest in doing so. It also suggests that many exchange players have a vested interest in keeping the Tether game going.” Market analyst Sid Shekhar, fo-founder of TokenAnalyst, also said that the intensely centralized nature of these holdings creates extreme price volatility whenever large amounts of Tether enter the market.
Despite continuing concerns expressed publicly by many participants in the cryptocurrency industry about Tether’s integrity, on April 26, 2021, the amount of Tether issued into the marketplace exceeded $50 billion.
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