Coinbase was founded in June 2012 by Brian Armstrong and Fred Ehrsam. Blockchain.info co-founder Ben Reeves was part of the original founding team but later parted ways with Armstrong due to a difference in how the Coinbase wallet should operate. The remaining founding team enrolled in the Summer 2012 Y Combinator startup incubator program. In October 2012, the company launched the services to buy and sell bitcoin through bank transfers. In May 2013, the company received a US$5 million Series A investment led by Fred Wilson from the venture capital firm Union Square Ventures. In December 2013, the company received a US$25 million investment, from the venture capital firms Andreessen Horowitz, Union Square Ventures (USV), and Ribbit Capital.
Despite the intricate technology associated with and necessary for cryptocurrency investing, speculation and possession, Coinbase has created an apparatus that makes this process remarkably easy and familiar, almost like buying and selling stocks. This screenshot from the Coinbase site shows real-time cryptocurrency prices and doesn't look too different from your ordinary online stock tracker.
Bitcoin (BTC) is a consensus network that enables a new payment system and a completely digital currency. Powered by its users, it is a peer to peer payment network that requires no central authority to operate. On October 31st, 2008, an individual or group of individuals operating under the pseudonym "Satoshi Nakamoto" published the Bitcoin Whitepaper and described it as: "a purely peer-to-peer version of electronic cash, which would allow online payments to be sent directly from one party to another without going through a financial institution."
If you want to trade in digital currencies, you are going to need a platform on which to trade them, and an intermediary to communicate with the network. Coinbase is a global digital asset exchange company (GDAX), providing a venue to buy and sell digital currencies, as well as send information about those transactions out to the blockchain network to verify those transactions. Coinbase serves as a wallet, too, where the digital currencies can be stored. The application operates exchanges of Bitcoin, Ethereum, Bitcoin Cash, and Litecoin, as well as other digital assets with fiat currencies in 32 countries, and Bitcoin transactions in many more countries. According to its website, Coinbase has served over 10 million customers and facilitated the exchange of more than $50 billion worth of digital currency.
Coinbase has lost my money twice now. Once was due to an old account that, thanks to a bug in their verification process, I cannot re-authenticate. I bought 1 bitcoin back when they were only about $50 each with Coinbase. That money is gone forever now. And I acknowledge that it’s my fault that I did not set up a forwarding email with Coinbase, their support just refused to help. The second time was a month ago. I made a trade on Coinbase, and for some reason, the app glitched to think I have 5x more money than I actually… Read more »
Essentially, if you are interested in trading in digital currencies but don't want to get bogged down in the underlying technology, products like Coinbase are a way to begin a foray into a new form of currency speculation and investing. You do, however, lose some of the advantages of trading in a cryptocurrency and through the blockchain. On Coinbase, you have no pseudo anonymity—your name is attached to your Coinbase account and so is your bank account, so transaction history is relatively easy to track down. And if you're not working on the blockchain, there's not much you can do to ensure that the verification of your transaction history or your account is taking place on the blockchain. You are, instead, placing trust in the intermediary, in this case, Coinbase.