Stablecoins try to tackle price fluctuations by tying the value of cryptocurrencies to other more stable assets – usually fiat currencies. Fiat is the government-issued currency we’re all used to using on a day-to-day basis, such as dollars or euros.
Usually, the entity behind a stablecoin will set up a “reserve” where it securely stores the asset or basket of assets backing the stablecoin – for example, $1 million in an old-fashioned bank (the kind with branches and tellers and ATMs in the lobby) to back up one million units of a stablecoin.
This is one way digital stablecoins are pegged to real-world assets. The money in the reserve serves as collateral for the stablecoin – meaning whenever a stablecoin holder wishes to cash out their tokens, an equal amount of whichever asset backs it is taken from the reserve.
There is a more complex type of stablecoin that is collateralized by other cryptocurrencies rather than fiat yet still is engineered to track a mainstream asset like the dollar.
Maker perhaps the most famous stablecoin issuer that uses this mechanism, accomplishes this through a service called “Vault” (formerly known as a Collateralized Debt Position), which locks up a user’s cryptocurrency collateral. Then, once the smart contract knows the collateral is secured, a user can use it to borrow freshly minted dai, the stablecoin.
A third variety of stablecoin, known as an algorithmic stablecoin, isn’t collateralized at all; instead, coins are either burned or created to keep the coin’s value in line with the target price. Let’s say the stablecoin drops from the target price of $1 to $0.75. The algorithm will automatically burn a tranche of coins to introduce more scarcity, pushing up the price of the stablecoin. This type of stablecoin protocol is difficult to get right and has been tried and has failed several times over recent years. Yet, entrepreneurs keep trying