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How, When and Why Cryptocurrency Will Become Mainstream - All Your Questions Answered

For as long as they have existed, cryptocurrencies have faced a barrage of questions about their legitimacy and long-term future. Bitcoin, the world’s biggest cryptocurrency, was launched in 2009 and has had to battle for every inch of public acceptance it has gained. Several other cryptocurrencies have since been introduced and have grown exponentially, albeit from a small base. After undertaking a thorough review of the cryptocurrency landscape, our experts at Arincen can confidently say it is not a question of if, but when crypto will become mainstream.
Anyone involved in cryptocurrencies knows that as a collective payment form, it has been bedeviled by bad press and doubts since inception. From being labeled as a “scam,” to “a bubble that will inevitably burst,” the naysayers seem to be ignoring the advanced security measures and genuine consumer benefits underpinning cryptocurrencies
Electronic crypto payments are stored and transported using powerful encryption techniques to provide control and verification. Still, the technology has had its fair share of doomsayers, which is why Arincen has decided to investigate how cryptocurrencies will become mainstream. Not all the negative reporting has been unfounded. Bitcoin especially has been implicated in many high-profile stories where it has been used for illicit activities. We will give due attention to these red flags
We have identified five important market players that will need to fully adopt the currency if it is to move forward:
Each will play a critical role in cryptos’ move to the mainstream. This article will investigate where each participant is in its journey to acceptance of cryptocurrency, and what is required to move it forward. The article will cover other areas to provide the context needed to support our assertions. 
How and When Cryptocurrency Will Become Mainstream

What is a Cryptocurrency?

A cryptocurrency is nothing more than an electronic medium of exchange. It performs the same function as traditional fiat currencies such as the US Dollar and Pound Sterling, except the exchange takes place electronically. Just like fiat currencies, crypto has no intrinsic value. But what does this really mean? Simply that no money has intrinsic value other than when two people who use it as a medium of exchange agree on its value. Think of paying for goods and services in coconuts, or brightly colored rocks. 
It is acceptable if the parties in the transaction find it acceptable. Currency only has value if economic participants agree on its value.
Cryptocurrency differs from fiat currencies like the US Dollar in that it is not recognized by a government, so it is not legal tender. It is also not regulated by a central bank. Its independence from established systems is what worries some people, but it is also one of cryptos’ biggest selling points for people who are tired of excessive governmental control.
Cryptos do not take physical form, and the cryptocurrency network is decentralized. In practice, cryptocurrencies exist in an electronic system, for use by users of the crypto who perform transactions on the system. As assets, cryptocurrencies can be stored in a digital wallet, which allows users to manage and trade their coins.
Cryptocurrency gets its name from the technology based on public-key cryptography. Cryptography was initially a military invention designed to enable highly secure communication. This means that all communication relating to transactions is locked away and kept secure from outsiders to the system, while still having traceability for players within the system. 
Cryptocurrencies have grown in value, with Bitcoin being the largest. At the time of writing, there are almost 19 million Bitcoins in circulation, up from a few hundred in 2009. Using blockchain technology, thousands of other types of cryptocurrencies have sprung up. Today, it is estimated that there are as many as 4,500 distinct types of cryptos in operation. There were only 1,000 as little as four years ago.
There is a thriving trading market for cryptos, with investors feverishly speculating on the movements of crypto through Contracts for Difference (CFD) trading or buying coins outright.

What are the Strengths of Crypto?

Why bother with crypto if fiat money has served the global economy for centuries? Bitcoin was launched after the global financial crisis in 2008. It was intended to provide an alternative payment system that would operate free of central bank or governmental control and would otherwise be used just like traditional currencies. It was not even the first cryptocurrency, with Digicash and Hashcash being its failed predecessors from the mid-1990s. As a currency, cryptos have several advantages over physical currency. Here are some of them:

It Cannot be Counterfeited

Cryptography is a powerful, military grade technology that facilitates secure communication in an environment where it is assumed that malicious threat actors are at play. Cryptography uses encryption, which is when an algorithm and a key are used to mask a message, making it impossible to counterfeit or double-spend. Cryptography is the bedrock of crypto exchanges, meaning the system is highly secure.

You Cannot “Double-Spend” 

You cannot spend money you do not have through forgery or by counterfeiting crypto. Most cryptocurrencies are decentralized networks based on blockchain technology — a distributed ledger enforced by a vast network of computers that is spread everywhere. A key feature of cryptocurrencies is that they are not issued by a central authority with controlling interests. This prevents cryptos from interference and manipulation.

The Fractional Supply

Divisibility into smaller fractions is one of the key properties of any currency. In the same way that one dollar can be divided into 100 cents, cryptocurrencies can be divided into smaller units. With Bitcoin, these units are called Satoshi. As Bitcoin is on a continued run of growth and its value has increased, it has become normal to buy a fraction of a Bitcoin, rather than a whole Bitcoin. The same goes for rival cryptocurrencies.

The Instantaneous and Irreversible Transmission of Value

When transmitting crypto, the data is formed into blocks, each of which contains a transaction or bundle of transactions. Each new block connects to all the blocks before it in a cryptographic chain in such a way that it is impossible to tamper with. This allows for instantaneous transfer of value that cannot be reversed. Through decentralization, the exchange involves only two parties, the sender, and the receiver. Blockchain transactions are immutable and irreversible. They cannot be altered or have their records tampered with by a third party.

Incentives to Contribute Computing Resources to the Network

Cryptocurrencies must rely on their communities to take care of the heavy administration related to blockchain maintenance. In the case of Bitcoin, any person who adds a block to the blockchain can reward themselves with Bitcoin. This is called mining, and it is how new Bitcoins are introduced to the system.
Participants in this process are called miners, and they compete for new mining deployments by solving mathematical problems before they can qualify to do the work. Miners can also gain rewards when parties to a transaction attach a small transaction fee to a payment in exchange for it being processed quickly.

The Digital Record of Transactions

Adapted from the old system of recording the details of commodities like fresh produce and precious metals, public ledgers are just a more advanced record-keeping and public verification mechanism. The ledger keeps the identities of all users anonymous, but their cryptocurrency balances, and a record of previous transactions are maintained for scrutiny.
Bitcoin transactions are pseudo-anonymous. This means they are not completely anonymous, as the transactions can be identified by using a blockchain address. An individual can have multiple addresses, just as they can have multiple usernames and passwords for a single account. Internet Protocol (IP) addresses or other identifying information are not required to conduct the transaction.

Crypto Has User Autonomy

Conventional currencies like the USD, GBP, and others are regulated by governments and central banks. As global consumers, we are all users of legal tender, yet we remain outside the monetary system because we have no say in how the fiat currency is run or handled. This is different with cryptocurrencies, as no one controls a crypto. This allows individuals to feel like they oversee their own money. 

Transactions are Peer to Peer

Imagine operating in a system free of the guiding hand of a government? That is how cryptocurrencies operate. They facilitate peer-to-peer payments, meaning users can easily send or receive payments from anyone on the network around the world. None of this requires approval from another party. 
Users will immediately think of exchange control payments around the world that are subject to microscopic scrutiny and regulatory approval before they can go ahead. How often are foreign exchange transactions denied by faceless government operatives because of legislation? Cryptos eliminate this.

Far Fewer Banking Fees

It is almost impossible to imagine carrying out payments free of banking fees. We have come to accept this as a non-negotiable fact of traditional banking. We are told that banks have overheads to settle, meaning we need to part with fees for the benefit of using the banking system.
With cryptocurrencies, users are not subject to the litany of traditional banking fees associated with fiat currencies. This means no account maintenance or minimum balance fees, no overdraft charges, and no returned deposit fees, among many others. It also means no punitive payments for zero or negative balances.
This does not mean crypto is completely free. One of the inevitable outcomes of crypto becoming mainstream will be the insertion of small fees to cover the cost of increased safety and reporting.

Crypto Payments are Mobile

To buy cryptocurrencies, users only require Internet access. Unlike traditional systems, they do not need to deal with a bank to lodge their identifying information. In normal banking systems, consumers need to produce vast amounts of personal information to open bank accounts or credit cards. Crypto users only need a mobile phone or a computer. This opens endless possibilities for people who are outside of the traditional banking system. Think of informal traders who deal in cash. These people are typically unbanked, yet they are present in every economy in the world.

Disadvantages 

There is a dark side to cryptocurrencies that needs to be mentioned. There is no doubt that illicit activities can be funded through cryptocurrencies, free of the involvement of big government.
Money laundering and tax evasion are the two common crimes that come to mind. Yet, it is not that simple. Bitcoin, for example, is not a viable choice for conducting illegal business online, since the forensic record-keeping of the Bitcoin blockchain has helped authorities arrest and prosecute criminals in the past. The pseudo-anonymous nature of transactions means there is enough information for law enforcement authorities to trace payment flows.
For all these disadvantages, cryptocurrency advocates swear by the system, countering concerns by listing yet more unconsidered benefits such as providing protection for whistleblowers or activists living under repressive regimes
Part of crypto becoming mainstream will involve closing the loopholes that admittedly come with the secrecy of the system. Already, countries like the UK are starting to define financial crimes related to crypto and are debating ways to close these gaps.

Cryptos’ Emerging Acceptance

With all crypto’s advantages and comparatively few disadvantages, people can be forgiven for wondering when crypto will be fully accepted. What started as a niche product is now gathering traction. What is required for it to become mainstream?

Critical Mass

Many investors, technology developers, regulators, merchants, entrepreneurs, and consumers now recognize the value of cryptocurrency as an acceptable way of storing and transmitting funds. Indeed, there has been enough recognition of cryptos’ emergence for several regulators to take it seriously enough to pass preemptive legislation.
More commercial entities are now accepting payment in cryptocurrency. Microsoft became an early adopter of Bitcoin as early as 2014 when it began accepting the cryptocurrency as payment for games, apps, and other digital content for platforms like Windows Phone and Xbox. Starbucks, Home Depot, and Whole Foods are just a few major brands that have followed suit.
As a result, it has become clear that cryptocurrency is not just a passing fad. It is the view of Arincen that cryptocurrency offers all market players a powerful new era of safe payment technology. It has the potential to shake up established market strategies and business practices. In the end, it will be consumers who benefit the most, as will the economies in which they operate.
Cryptocurrencies will play a significant role in upending the established order of things. The global payment system is set to change. Some would say it is not a moment too soon. Large parts of the global financial system have not had to innovate for many years. They are ripe for change. 
The technology will also allow access to players who have been outside the traditional financial system. People who do not have a credit history or conventional earning methods now need only have access to an Internet connection to take part in a global payment system.
Many commentators say it is not a question of if, but when cryptocurrencies will reach maturity. Crypto was once driven by technical enthusiasts and venture capitalists. It will soon be driven by actual usage by customers participating in the economy
Yes, it still has uncertainties, and the full potential of cryptocurrency may be realized only when the market makes the leap from the hands of early investors and technology enthusiasts into the hands of consumers.

Fragile Market

Despite the vast potential of this innovative technology and its ability to navigate some early challenges to its suitability, the crypto ecosystem remains fragile. This is true of many challenger technologies that wait in the wings until external events allow them to take up their place in the mainstream.
Cryptocurrency can be a complex product at first look, and only those consumers who take time to understand how it works develop a sense of comfort with the checks and balances. 
Until it reaches full acceptance, the harsh truth is that any crypto scandal that reaches the public eye will be overblown. This is not to say all crypto scandals are small fry. Admittedly, serious instances have become known in recent times, such as the Liberty Reserve and Silk Road money laundering schemes. Also, Bitcoin exchange Mt. Gox went under after instances of cybertheft.
As traditional monetary systems are locked in with regulation such as Anti-Money Laundering (AML), Know Your Customer (KYC), and more, criminals will naturally examine crypto for openings. We can expect crypto to be implicated in black market payments and terrorist funding. We can also expect it to not be far away from organized crime.
Some of crypto’s best features – its speed, security, and pseudo-anonymity open it up to abuse. In Arincen’s view, the crypto market is set to develop as long as key participants make incremental advancements in trust and understanding. Crypto will not be legitimized overnight, but each of these market players needs to fulfill a role along the way:
In the next section, we will attempt to understand what each of these sectors needs to do to help legitimize crypto and make it mainstream.

Key Players in Potential Market Development

Each of the five market players we will discuss is different. Some are individual consumers acting out of their own interest; others are organizations like banks and regulators that must operate within an established template of risk. Still more, like investors, have more risk appetite than other market players as they must seize the opportunity that innovative technologies present. 
In the end, this collection of differing interests and approaches must arrive at the same destination: an acceptance of cryptocurrency as a serious option. Naturally, they will progress at different speeds, governed by their self-interest, but once they get there, it is the expectation of many analysts that cryptocurrency will become mainstream.

1. Traders and Consumers 

For the man on the street, crypto offers cheaper and faster payment opportunities. Traditional banks are heavily regulated and act as a closed shop to the unbanked. 
There are sections of consumers who will not hesitate to switch their allegiance to crypto once it passes the tests required to achieve widespread acceptance.
While crypto is gaining traction, it does not yet have the stability as a payment option to be seriously considered. As mentioned, it remains subject to abuse by dark elements, and it is best suited as a commodity to be traded on financial markets as a CFD than it is a viable payment alternative to fiat currencies.
Consumers are likely to accept cryptocurrency when it achieves a critical mass of visibility, trustworthy exchange, and consumer protection. With every modern technology, there are early adopters who take the plunge before the remainder of the population follows suit. These early adopters will need to evangelize the benefits of crypto, and they already have been active in doing so.
One of cryptos’ major weaknesses is that it is not a well understood payment form. Even today, the average new investor still cannot understand the technology without conducting considerable research. Several misconceptions about cryptos prevail. A common one is that transactions are completely anonymous. Of course, this is not true. From a policing point of view, every single crypto transaction can be traced with a high degree of accuracy. Only once the workings of crypto enter common consumer language will the technology be rid of the consumer hesitancy it now faces.
For businesses, cryptocurrencies come with low transfer fees and the lack of exchange volatility due to the near instantaneous settlement. Crypto payments also do not come with the dreaded chargeback, which is when a credit card provider or a retailer settles a disputed transaction. 
Oncoming regulations might make these benefits less pronounced, as consumers will need to be protected and insurance fees will invariably creep into the value chain. Businesses are mostly interested in crypto because it presents an opportunity to embrace an entirely new system and roll out appropriate products while remaining on trend
Businesses can create innovative and disruptive products, services, and business models driven by global consumer needs, especially those that target modern consumers. To be effective, new products will need to meet consumer demand but also reduce merchant exposure around payment settlement, security, and regulations.
One major obstacle for businesses and merchants to hurdle is the high volatility associated with cryptocurrencies. Even dominant cryptos like Bitcoin and Ethereum face a highly volatile, illiquid, and dispersed near-term future. Experienced traders will notice that cryptos are as volatile as an exotic and rarely-traded commodity, rather than a mainstream new payment method ready to take on the fiat currencies.
This is why, at present, cryptocurrencies are a much-traded CFD commodity. Investors prefer to speculate on the movement of the commodity rather than buy the underlying currency. There is no small amount of volatility risk, which means that market participants will not hold on to the currency for any extended period.
Despite this, the cryptocurrency market shows evidence of continued growth before our very eyes as dealing desks mature and large companies accept selected cryptos as forms of payment. With greater maturity, we will see increased liquidity and tighter bid/ask spreads, which will also contribute to reduced handling fees as more predictability comes into the marketplace.
Increased liquidity is a significant step in the growth of crypto as it would see the payment form develop into a more widely accepted currency, on par with the fiat currencies, as opposed to a fickle recent technology it is often portrayed.

2. Technology Product Developers

As a virtual currency, cryptocurrencies will rely heavily on technology to advance to a point of maturity. Crypto is a decentralized exercise, with no central authority or funding source able to attract talent in a formalized way, like other business ventures.
Crypto will need all the skilled and motivated technology product developers it can get. These talented developers will have to come to the fore with an entrepreneurial spirit and the acceptance that their efforts may not be realized as soon as they like.
Already, talented technology product developers have concentrated on cryptocurrency mining, which is necessary for the payment form to progress and thrive. Some technology product developers are following the more entrepreneurial angle that includes developing exchanges, wallet services, and alternative cryptocurrencies, called Altcoins
Cybersecurity protocols are essential to the success of the payment form. For this reason, there cannot be enough investment into attracting the best talent to shore up cryptos’ operations. As we predict, there will be a time when the critical mass of advancement pushes crypto into mainstream acceptance. Until then, the payment form will continue to play a secondary role to more predictable industries in the war for talent.
Of course, like any market on the cusp of large-scale adoption, where there is risk of failure, there is also incredible potential. The best developers will be able to create new applications based on the underlying technology. As key players like governments, financial services, and retailers jockey to make use of cryptocurrencies, technology entrepreneurs will have an open field to pitch cheaper and more convenient supporting technologies for cryptocurrency payments.

3. Investors 

Investors understand that an enhanced risk appetite is essential to their survival. It is the place of venture capitalists to place bets on the next big thing, however uncertain its future may seem in the present. Of all the market participants, investors are most ready to cash in on the inevitable mainstream arrival of crypto.
In the normal course of product development, investors educate themselves about the prospects of a given technology. Venture capitalists are confident about the opportunities presented by cryptocurrencies. As they have seen the trial, development, and adoption cycles of other technologies, they understand that there is enough momentum with cryptocurrencies to render it simply a matter of time until they soar.
Therefore, cryptocurrency companies have attracted institutional investors and Wall Street attention. As a cultural reference point, wealthy and influential investors like Elon Musk to Warren Buffet have made predictions about cryptocurrencies, which can only be a good thing.
Indeed, venture capitalists, leveraging their vast experience in the technology sector, have been behind much of the early propulsion in the cryptocurrency market. They have been expecting consumer demand to drive future growth. 
Venture capital has been behind such advancements as developing and mining cryptocurrency, and creating cryptocurrency exchanges, transaction processors, and cryptocurrency storage and backup.
At some point, cryptocurrency players will cease to be mere technology startups. There is some distance to travel yet as money is one of the most regulated areas in the world. That is why cryptocurrency will not reach its true market potential unless and until it develops in step with regulations.

4. Financial Institutions 

Even though the banking landscape has recently been shaken up by the arrival of fintechs and neobanks, these agile new market entrants still rely on the international banking system to process transactions. These companies have found a way to provide more convenience to mobile, tech-savvy customers by eliminating some of the bureaucratic processes that have developed within traditional banking spaces.
In a similar vein, many people predict that it is only a matter of time before large tech companies like Apple and Google stake their claim in the banking landscape through integrated payment products like Apple Pay and Google Wallet. Yet again, they still rely on the traditional financial system to underpin their products.
So, it is fair to say that despite recent innovations and advancements that have been chipping away at old banking power, the banking system has not been meaningfully disrupted, until now. Cryptocurrencies will bring that disruption as they do not rely on the banking system to operate. They offer a swift, safe, low-cost opportunity for consumers to store and transmit money over the Internet. Crypto clears and settles transactions within minutes, at zero or nominal cost.
Traditional banks should rightly be concerned. Crypto has the potential to heavily dilute the role of old-style financial institutions. One of these scenarios involves the clearing and settling of payments. These essential services are required at the point of exchange for fiat currency. They operate in the background to ensure that buyers and sellers honor their contractual obligations, but they add time and cost to financial flows
When crypto takes up its rightful place, it will render many of the cogs of the traditional financial system redundant, just like clearing and settlement services.
However, before we become too damning of the banking system, we should note that cryptocurrency will never replace banks entirely. Crypto still carries enormous potential to transform them. 
Banks have until now been unwilling to engage to any meaningful degree with the upstart payment system. It is thought they are playing a waiting game to see if crypto achieves full legitimacy. 
While waiting, banks can point to the fact that they are heavily regulated and have done the demanding work of achieving and maintaining legitimacy. Yet, it is only a matter of time until cryptocurrency gains mainstream acceptance. At that point, we will see financial institutions finally interested in meaningful partnerships with crypto players.

5. Regulators 

Before we discuss regulators, it is worth looking at governmental attitudes around the world toward cryptocurrencies.
A word on Governmental Attitudes
Global government attitudes are inconsistent when it comes to the classification, treatment, and legality of this technology. There are vastly different rates of change and adoption across different regions. For example, early movers Australia, the US, Canada, and Singapore have already released tax guidelines for the treatment of cryptocurrencies. 
On the other hand, important global economies like China and Russia have all but banned cryptos like Bitcoin from their financial systems. The UK, meanwhile, has devoted its attention to creating a financial crime regulations list for digital currency companies. More globally, the inter-governmental Financial Action Task Force (FATF) is regularly proceeding with discussions about how to formalize financial crime standards related to cryptos.
Regulators
In the US, the government has let this marketplace evolve, in stark contrast to some countries that have chosen to keep hawk-like scrutiny on this emerging marketplace. As a result, the US is the most advanced industrial nation when it comes to crypto regulation. It is instructive to understand the work the country has done to date to appreciate how far the remainder of the world’s regulators must travel. The US has put forward five key regulatory frameworks that cryptocurrency will have to navigate in the US:
Crafting a solution to prevent financial crime will be a big job. Key action items include creating software and a raft of policies, procedures, and internal controls that achieve the level of reliance produced by financial crime programs at traditional financial institutions. 
Any monitoring technology must be able to interpret and analyze new forms of data thrown up by the blockchain technology used by many cryptos. After financial crime compliance, another important hurdle to get over relates to asset classification. Cryptocurrency must fall into one of four competing asset classifications: 
Only once there is definitive guidance on this, will market participants begin to form business models based on crypto that do not violate any of the regulations mentioned.
To demonstrate how tricky this is, in 2014 the IRS provided tax-related guidance to the effect that virtual currency such as Bitcoins should be treated as property, rather than currency. What was meant to be a clarifying note simply threw up more questions for debate as many crypto participants envision crypto as nothing but a currency.
Yet, as a “borderless” payment form, tax questions abound. There is genuine concern that the pseudo-anonymity and mobility of cryptocurrencies could enable tax evasion. If cryptocurrencies are to continue to grow, the IRS and equivalent lawmakers around the world will face growing pressure to address these and other complex tax and accounting issues. The good news is that with the right levels of government guidance and oversight, the industry could thrive. Without it, the industry could be stuck in its current phase of development.

Future Growth Opportunities

Acceptance and Potential Growth

Market commentators expect crypto growth in the coming years to be steady but not spectacular. The technology is established enough to be taken seriously, but not on the cusp of taking off. Often, challenger technologies can languish on the sidelines until a major outside event like a global financial crisis or a pandemic pushes them into the limelight. In simple terms, the moment for crypto to step out from the shadows is not yet apparent
In the near term, crypto will find itself steadily growing while waiting for regulatory changes to tick into place. This would be a suitable time for the most adventurous financial institutions to seek out exploratory partnerships with crypto providers by creating crypto “wallets” and payment processes before the wave of acceptance arrives.
This is already being done by the likes of Coinbase and BitPay, which have created products that allow merchants to accept cryptocurrency payments without taking on the risks of holding the underlying bitcoins on their ledgers. These types of strategic partnerships and solutions will move the market forward. As regulation comes in, more robust and involved products can come to play a greater role in moving the product along.

Emerging Markets

Developing countries have cause to be excited by the adoption of cryptocurrencies. Rapid advancements in technology often allow laggard economies to skip phases of development. One example of this is the emerging drone delivery market that could soon see commerce take to the sky in countries that have severely underdeveloped road and air networks.
In the same vein, crypto could allow developing economies to progress before they have developed robust financial sectors with trustworthy, well-capitalized banks and agile intermediaries.
There is already evidence that fintech products such as M-Pesa in East African countries can take root and provide real value while the underlying banking infrastructure is still developing. These technologies can come to grow in parallel with established industries and provide a viable alternative. It is the cryptocurrency's strong benefits, such as low costs and fast and secure systems, that could swing market share from disadvantaged populations its way.

Conclusion

Cryptocurrencies can revolutionize the transfer of funds directly between two parties, without the need for a regulated third party like a bank or credit card company. These transfers can be done safely and quickly, without the need for many of the qualifying hurdles like proof of income.
The technology is still in its infancy, but it is expected that robust growth is on the horizon as regulation comes into play. One of the main advantages of cryptocurrencies is the market’s expressed need for a new payment method. Consumers themselves are intrigued by the payment form because it has clear advantages over the extensively regulated financial system.
There are challenges for cryptocurrency in the near term. With so many of its characteristics falling among a currency, an investment asset, and a technology product, the pace of growth and adoption is unclear, as it depends on disparate market players. 
However, there is broad acceptance from market participants, endorsed by Arincen, that once regulatory standards are adopted and refined, and usable, robust products enter the market, cryptocurrencies will finally be able to disrupt old-world systems in a meaningful way.
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