May 19, 2016 / 9:09 PM / a year ago

Bitcoin exchange Coinbase to add ether currency to trading platform

A Bitcoin (virtual currency) coin is seen in an illustration picture taken at La Maison du Bitcoin in Paris July 11, 2014. REUTERS/Benoit Tessier

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Bitcoin exchange Coinbase said on Thursday it will add digital currency ether on its trading platform next Tuesday.

The addition of ether comes given the surge in interest in the digital asset among major financial institutions such as Barclays [BARCR.UL] and UBS [UBSAG.UL] as well as other enterprises worldwide like IBM, which are trying to explore the Ethereum network.

Ether is the digital currency for the Ethereum platform, a blockchain, or public ledger that can create decentralized applications. Ethereum, which uses ether to execute peer-to-peer contracts automatically without the need for intermediaries, was co-founded and invented by 22-year old Russian Canadian programer Vitalik Buterin.

“We’re very excited about Ethereum. There has been a ton of progress made in the last six to nine months,” said Adam White, vice president of business development at Coinbase in an interview with Reuters. “We have seen hundreds of emerging decentralized apps (applications) launched on Ethereum.”

He added that bitcoin cannot mirror Ethereum’s “scripting language,” so both bitcoin and ether can co-exist and will not necessarily compete with each other.

Coinbase also plans to change the name of its platform to GDAX (Global Digital Asset Exchange), said White. The name Coinbase, however, will be retained for its retail service such as exchanging dollars for bitcoin or ether, he added.

Coinbase, widely believed to be the largest bitcoin-focused company in terms of investment, will offer ether/dollar and ether/bitcoin currency pairs on GDAX. The name change was made because the company will add more digital assets for trading on its exchange, White said.

According to coinmarketcap.com, ether is trading at $14.28 late on Thursday, with a market capitalization of about $1.1 billion, the second largest behind bitcoin. Bitcoin currently has a market cap of $6.9 billion. Daily volume for ether is around $48 million, while average daily volume for bitcoin is $87.2 million.

At the beginning of the year, ether traded at just $1 per token and it is the fastest-rising digital currency.

White said ether will be available on GDAX in most states except New York because Coinbase is still in the process of applying for a license in the state.

Coinbase’s move to add ether trading to its currency exchange platform came after New York approved the application of Gemini Trust Company, founded by investors Tyler and Cameron Winklevoss, to trade ether on its exchange.

“What’s powerful about ethereum is that I can write self-executing contracts and I can run them on Ethereum and it’s not on any central server or computer,” said White.

Reporting by Gertrude Chavez-Dreyfuss; Editing by Bernard Orr

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