USD Coin (known by its ticker USDC) is a stablecoin that is pegged to the U.S. dollar on a 1:1 basis. Every unit of this cryptocurrency in circulation is backed up by $1 that is held in reserve, in a mix of cash and short-term U.S. Treasury bonds. The Centre consortium, which is behind this asset, says USDC is issued by regulated financial institutions.
The stablecoin originally launched on a limited basis in September 2018. Put simply, USD Coin’s mantra is “digital money for the digital age” — and the stablecoin is designed for a world where cashless transactions are becoming more common.
Several use cases have been unveiled for the USD Coin. As well as providing a safe haven for crypto traders in times of volatility, those behind the stablecoin say it can also allow businesses to accept payments in digital assets, and shake up an array of sectors including decentralized finance and gaming.
Overall, the goal is to create an ecosystem where USDC is accepted by as many wallets, exchanges, service providers and dApps as possible.
The Centre Consortium has two founding members. One of them is the peer-to-peer payment services company Circle, while the other is the Coinbase cryptocurrency exchange. Other crypto ventures are open to join this consortium.
Explaining the rationale behind USDC, Circle co-founders Jeremy Allaire and Sean Neville wrote: “We believe that an open internet of value exchange can transform and integrate the world more deeply, eventually eliminating artificial economic borders and enabling a more efficient and inclusive global marketplace that connects every person on the planet.”
In 2020, Circle and Coinbase collectively announced a major upgrade to USDC’s protocol and smart contract. The goal of these enhancements is to make it easier for USD Coin to be used for everyday payments, commerce and peer-to-peer transactions.
The stablecoin market has become exceedingly crowded over recent years — but USD Coin has aimed to stand head and shoulders over competitors in several ways.
One of them concerns transparency — and giving users the assurance that they will be able to withdraw 1 USDC and receive $1 in return without any issues. To this end, it says a major accounting firm is tasked with verifying the levels of cash that are held in reserve, and ensuring this matches up with the number of tokens in circulation.
Unlike some crypto ventures, Circle and Coinbase have also achieved regulatory compliance — and this has helped pave the way for international expansion. Both projects are also well-funded, giving the stablecoin certainty.
It’s a bit difficult to give an exact number here — as in theory, the number of USDC that can exist is limitless. New coins are created in line with demand, whenever someone wants to purchase one with their humble dollar.
That said, there have been factors that have helped USD Coin enjoy an explosion in popularity over the years — especially in 2020. One of them is the sudden, sharp rise in the popularity of decentralized finance. USDC is a common sight on many DeFi protocols given how it serves as an onramp to the wider ecosystem.
All of the USDCs in circulation are actually ERC-20 tokens, which can be found on the Ethereum blockchain. One of the biggest advantages here is how it can then be integrated with Ethereum-based applications. As we mentioned earlier, security and confidence in this stablecoin is delivered by proving that U.S. dollars are being held safely in reserve.