How Did the Landscape Change & What Might Emerge in 2020?
2019 is only a few hours away from ending and a new decade is on the horizon. The 2010's have seen the birth and growth of Bitcoin as well as altcoins which followed shortly after. Let's see what changed in 2019.
Bitcoin had a pretty good year in 2019. The world's first cryptocurrency close to doubled its value this year. On the 1st of January 2019, Bitcoin was trading at $3776 and it is currently trading at $7306. It had its yearly high in July, where it peaked at $13k.
Bitcoin dominance has been very high this year against altcoins. Bitcoin maximalism has also grown on social media and elsewhere.
Bitcoin had plenty of other developments other than price, however. The Lightning Network's "Bitcoin Torch" has crossed the globe in February. Blockstream's Liquid network launched along with a Liquid version of Tether. Bakkt launched Bitcoin settled Futures on Wall Street as well as cash settled Futures & options in Singapore.
All things considered; Bitcoin's adoption has seemingly been growing. 2019 has proven that Bitcoin can re-trace previous highs of above $10,000. The asset along with cryptocurrencies as a whole is still notoriously volatile.
Bitcoin Mining Pools & Hash Rates
Bitcoin's hash rate has managed to double in 2019 and has reached an all-time-high. Its hash rate started at 43E in January of 2019 and is currently at 101E. Essentially the hash rate is a good indicator of the health of Bitcoin's blockchain. It makes the network more resistant from 51% attacks.
Along with the hash rate increasing, so did the difficulty algorithm. It started the year at 5.064T and is currently at 12.9486T. This means that mining Bitcoin is more difficult than ever and only farms & pools with the most advanced mining computers can hope to receive block rewards.
Poolin a mining pool launched in 2017, managed to overtake older and more established mining pools and become the leading Bitcoin mining pool. Currently Poolin control 18.8% of Bitcoin's hash rate with F2Pool following at 15.9%. Poolin have recently introduced a new functionality that should greatly benefit miners. This is their BTC/BCH hash rate auto switch functionality which allows miners to switch between BTC & BCH depending on the difficulty algorithm & profitability.
2019 hasn't been the best year for the world's second most popular cryptocurrency. It's price in fiat value remained largely unchanged from January 2019 to the end of December 2019. It started the year at $136 on January 1st and is currently trading at $133. It did enjoy a spike to $346 during June. Ethereum has been down in value against Bitcoin, however. Its price slid in its BTC evaluation from 0.03 to 0.018.
Ethereum went through two separate hard forks this year with an additional planned on January 1st. These forks were meant to improve the blockchain's security and did not include an airdrop of a new currency. Oddly enough an Ethereum developer was arrested following a visit to the hermit nation of North Korea. In a blow to Ethereum, ICO's and token sales are no longer as popular as they were in 2017 and many smart-contract based blockchains have launched their main-net.
XRP had a bit of a rougher year than most top cryptocurrencies. It fell both against the US dollar and against its Bitcoin evaluation. It started the year trading at $0.357 and is currently trading at $0.194. In BTC valuation it went from 0.00009 to 0.00002. Like nearly every other cryptocurrency, XRP had a yearly high in the summer where it reached $0.489 in June.
Ripple and XRP by extension did have plenty of interesting developments in 2019. Ripple have purchased a chunk of MoneyGram's equity. They have cozied up to VC firms linked to banking and have been growing in popularity with Japanese banks.
Bitcoin Cash has fared better than most cryptocurrencies. BCH grew in its USD valuation but fell in BTC valuation. It started trading at $152 on the 1st of January and is currently trading at $210 which is roughly a 30% price increase. BCH lost some ground against BTC with its valuation going from 0.042 to 0.028. Like other cryptocurrencies, Bitcoin Cash spiked in the summer. It reached its peak price of $503 towards the end of June.
As for 2019 developments beyond price, Bitcoin Cash had a prolific year. The SLP tokenization layer was launched, granting users the possibility to create tokens on the BCH blockchain. Bitcoin Cash's privacy feature, Cash Shuffle based on the CoinJoin protocol was released. Last but not least, blockchain oracles were recently integrated, which can open up a plethora of possibilities.
In a similar fashion to Bitcoin Cash, Litecoin grew in slightly in USD valuation but fell in its BTC valuation. It began the year at $30.26 and is currently trading at $42.75 now. It's BTC valuation slid from 0.008 to 0.005. Litecoin peaked on the 23rd of June at the price of $141.
Litecoin went through a halving on the 5th of August. It seems that the event that many anticipated to move Litecoin upwards failed to do so in a meaningful way. Another meaningful event was the implementation of the MimbleWimbe Protocol. The MimbleWimble protocol is a new privacy feature which was first introduced by privacy coins Grin & Beam but has recently been criticized.
Cryptocurrency Exchanges in 2019
Binance has grown quite a bit in 2019. It seems to be the exchange of choice for many traders as they have introduced new features such as a DEX and a launchpad in 2019. They have had a mishap or two during 2019. The best known are their feud with the media outlet The Block and when Binance seemingly plagiarized BitMex'x documentation on Futures.
Bitcoin.com have launched their own exchange towards the end of 2019. The new exchange supports many of the new SLP tokens launched on the Bitcoin Cash ecosystem. In addition to this, Bitcoin.com have also launched their own native exchange token and launch pad.
Poloniex was sold from Circle to Polo Digital Assets, which is allegedly owned by TRON's Justin Sun. Following the sale, US clients were restricted from the platform.
Major Cryptocurrency Hacks
There were more than a handful of cases of hacks, and theft of cryptocurrencies in 2019. Most of these hacks focused on exchanges and several closed their operations as a result. This is something that affected both small and large exchanges and caused hundreds of millions in damages in USD.
Cryptopia was a fairly popular exchange based in New Zealand which surprised many when they announced their liquidation. Hackers made off with the equivalent of $16 million USD in January and the exchange struggled to stay operational.
Binance also experienced a hack as well this year. The exchange reported a loss of 7000 BTC in May which was equivalent to roughly $40 million dollars. Luckily trading resumed within a week and funds were covered by the SAFU fund.
The most recent hack was the Korean exchange Upbit. The mysterious hacker or hackers managed to steal 342,000 Ethereum from the exchange, equivalent to roughly $51.3 million.
Luckily there was also a positive story related to cryptocurrency exchange hacks. Two Israeli brothers were apprehended by police in Jerusalem for creating elaborate phishing scams and in relation to the 2016 Bitfinex hack.
2019 Cryptocurrency Scams
There were more than a few scams in the world of cryptocurrencies in 2019. The majority of them tended to be wallet scams that promised high returns on holding various cryptocurrencies. This is includes PlusToken wallet and Cloud Token wallet.
Oddly enough, Bitconnect has resurfaced in 2019 as Bitconnect 2.0. This time Bitconnect was running on Ethereum's blockchain. In an even stranger move Bitconnect's previous top promoters began endorsing HEX which raised some additional questions regarding the legitimacy of the project.
An interesting study was released earlier this year by Zengo wallet CEO Ouriel Ohayoun. He revealed that the wide majority of Bitcoin QR generators on Google searches are scams.
Last but not least, a Bitcoin scammer in India met a grim fate when he was beaten to death by his partners in crime.
Cryptocurrencies and "Big Tech"
Big Tech and cryptocurrencies have had an interesting relationship this year.
Facebook finally have announced their cryptocurrency project Libra, although it might not see the light of day due to regulations. It has been speculated that Facebook Pay was released to cover up the possible failure of Libra.
YouTube and by extension Google have removed many different cryptocurrency videos and channels. Following a relatively short protest, YouTube restored the content.
Twitter's Jack Dorsey seemingly took a different path. He openly praised Bitcoin & decentralization. In a tweet he explored the concept of decentralizing Twitter.
Cryptocurrencies & the Court of Law
There were a handful of high-profile court cases in the world of cryptocurrencies. Most of them related to co-founder of Bitcoin SV and self-declared Satoshi Nakamoto, Craig Wright.
Wright filed court proceedings against a few big names in the world of Bitcoin & cryptocurrencies for libel. This included a case against Bitcoin.com's Executive Chairman Roger Ver which was dismissed. Popular podcaster Peter McCormack and Ethereum creator Vitalik Buterin were also served a libel lawsuits.
The brother of Wright's former business partner Dave Kleiman has sued Wright in the State of Florida. Dave Kleiman passed away in 2013, leaving his estate to his brother. Ira Kleiman is suing Wright for half of the coins Wright claims to have mined with Dave Kleiman. Chances for a settlement between Ira Kleiman and Wright seem slim.
Other notable court cases include the SEC versus Telegram's TON cryptocurrency and the messaging app Kik's Kin currency.
Regulation Changes in 2019
There was quite a bit of regulatory changes in the world of cryptocurrencies in 2019.
The Chinese government has changed their tune and is now praising blockchain technology. They have also removed cryptocurrency mining from a list of "industries to be removed". The Chinese government is also rolling out a digital blockchain based version of the Yuan. Whether they will embrace cryptocurrency projects and exchanges has yet to be seen, however. Reports claim that Binance & TRON's Weibo accounts have been blocked.
In the U.S. the Chairman of the CFTC, Tarbert managed to say a few interesting things about cryptocurrency regulation. He elaborated previous positions on Bitcoin & Libra and seemingly accepts that Bitcoin cannot be stopped.
Blockchain and Banks in 2019
The banking sector has seemingly been experimenting with blockchain technology in one way or another. Many central banks are looking into launching a digital version of their fiat currency. This includes China, Libya and possibly others.
Ripple has also been making waves in the banking world. CypherTrace's CEO was caught saying that 90% of Japanese banks have been experimenting with Ripple or XRP in one way or another.
It is completely within the realm of possibility that the banking sector will replace SWIFT transfers with blockchain solutions.
2019 was also a big year for Chainlink. The Ethereum-based token went from being virtually unknown, to being in the top 15 cryptocurrencies. The blockchain oracle is now at number 18 by market cap. What pushed Chainlink into the mainstream is its unique concept of being a blockchain oracle and an impressive list of partnerships. It was possibly the first project that wanted to take trusted data from the internet & put it onto the blockchain.
The email provider Protonmail probably got a few more fans from cryptocurrency circles this year. Earlier this year they announced that HODL whatever Bitcoin they receive as payments or donations.
Let's hope that 2020 will be even better
Written by Jonathan Ganor
Writer & cryptocurrency aficionado