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Digital money can either be centralized, where there is a central point of control over the money supply, or decentralized, where the control over the money supply can come from various sources. In 1983, a research paper by David Chaum introduced the idea of digital cash. It filed for bankruptcy in 1998. In 1997, Coca-Cola offered buying from vending machines using mobile payments. Other systems followed suit, such as e-gold, but it faced issues because it was used by criminals and was closed by U.

S Department of Justice in 2005. Origins of digital currencies date back to the 1990s Dot-com bubble. One of the first was E-gold, founded in 1996 and backed by gold. According to the Bank for International Settlements’ November 2015 “Digital currencies” report, it is an asset represented in digital form and having some monetary characteristics. Digital currency can be denominated to a sovereign currency and issued by the issuer responsible to redeem digital money for cash. As such, bitcoin is a digital currency but also a type of virtual currency. Bitcoin and its alternatives are based on cryptographic algorithms, so these kinds of virtual currencies are also called cryptocurrencies.

Most of the traditional money supply is bank money held on computers. This is also considered digital currency. One could argue that our increasingly cashless society means that all currencies are becoming digital, but they are not presented to us as such. Currency can be exchanged electronically using debit cards and credit cards using electronic funds transfer at point of sale. A number of electronic money systems use contactless payment transfer in order to facilitate easy payment and give the payee more confidence in not letting go of their electronic wallet during the transaction.

In January 2010, Venmo launched as a mobile payment system through SMS, which transformed into a social app where friends can pay each other for minor expenses like a cup of coffee, rent and paying your share of the restaurant bill when you forget your wallet. It is popular with college students, but has some security issues. Easytrip to pay road tolls which were charged to the mobile phone account or prepay credit. The UK’s O2 invented O2 Wallet at about the same time. The wallet can be charged with regular bank accounts or cards and discharged by participating retailers using a technique known as ‘money messages’. It is very similar to Google Wallet, but for Apple devices only.