It has been a big year for cryptocurrency. Bitcoin is worth six times what it was 12 months ago, and the joke currency dogecoin has seen a hundredfold increase in price. A boom in “non-fungible tokens”, or NFTs – tradable tokens based on the same technology as cryptocurrency – is transforming the art market.

With this growth has come renewed scrutiny, with critics attacking Bitcoin BTCUSD, -0.80% in particular as a speculative bubble that uses vast amounts of electricity and produces no real value.

A new cryptocurrency called chia, which has just begun trading, sets out to remedy these flaws while upholding cryptocurrency’s promise of a secure, decentralized form of payment.

Chia is the brainchild of Bram Cohen, who invented the BitTorrent peer-to-peer filesharing system. He claims it will be more reliable than other cryptocurrencies, and more environmentally friendly too.

What is cryptocurrency?

Unlike traditional currencies such as the dollar or euro, which are issued by central banks and rely on trust in governments, cryptocurrencies rely on a decentralized database called a blockchain, secured by sophisticated cryptographic tools.

The first cryptocurrency was bitcoin, released in 2009, and today there are
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