A metacoin platform is an information technology infrastructure that enables a digital currency and its digital asset transactions. It involves a distributed ledger technology known as blockchain. Popular metacoin platforms include Bitcoin, Ethereum, Peercoin, Primecoin, Dash and Ripple.
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Metacoin platforms are expected to move beyond Bitcoin and other cybercurrency exchanges to power digital transactions such as the exchanges of stocks and contracts and play an important part in the programmable economy, enabling diverse scenarios of value exchange. Such platforms are expected to facilitate transactions at lower costs; guarantee data integrity, provide a high degree of transparency, immutability and increase security and reliability. Analysts note that the metacoin platform is still evolving and questions remain about how it will be regulated, how and when organizations will adopt it and for what uses, and what controls and security measures will be needed.
Although Gartner first promoted the use of metacoin platform, the term builds on language commonly used in the Bitcoin and blockchain technology domains. To understand metacoin platform, it is important to understand Bitcoin and blockchain. Bitcoin is a digital currency, or cryptocurrency, not backed by any country’s central bank or government. Rather, it is a digital payment system where transactions happen by electronically exchanging anonymous, heavily encrypted hash codes across a peer-to-peer (P2P) network. The P2P network monitors and verifies the transfer of Bitcoins between users. This happens via distributed ledger technology known as blockchain, in which blocks of data are chained together and shared. Cryptography allows each participant to securely record transactions in the ledger in the P2P network.
As the potential uses of blockchain has expanded, the technology itself has also evolved. This evolution led to additional layers on top of the foundational blockchain technology; these additional layers are often broadly referred to as "meta" layers, or metacoins. These layers are also sometimes called by other names, including altcoins and meta chains.