We’re two years post crypto’s astronomical rise, which gave Bitcoin its all-time highest price (so far), and officially put the coin on the map. And while the period that followed may have been bumpy, there’s no question that 2019 was a big year for cryptocurrency—and for BTC in particular. After all, crypto started 2019 in the thick of a Bitcoin Winter, with prices lower than they’d been in almost a year and a half. By June, Bitcoin had officially climbed out of the hole, even giving its 2017 spike a run for its money. And while the price settled down from there, the coin is finishing the year up by more than 100% from where it started.
Of course, when it comes to looking at assets, price is a big thing, but it’s not the only thing. As we wrap up another year of cryptocurrency (its eleventh!), Coinmama is taking a look back at some of the most defining moments in crypto this year.
Bitcoin turns 10
Bitcoin was officially in a slump as the year started. While December 2018 saw slightly lower prices, January was hardly better. And the constant reminder of Bitcoin Winter defined the month. But the month started off with an even more defining moment: the 10-year anniversary of the Bitcoin genesis block. The Bitcoin whitepaper may have been released a few months earlier, but this was the beginning of Bitcoin in the real world, and January 2019 marked a decade of Bitcoin.
The QuadrigaCX debacle
The death of Canadian crypto exchange QuadrigaCX’s CEO was both one of the biggest tragedies of Bitcoin in 2019 and a hugely important lesson in crypto safety. The only holder of the exchange’s private wallet keys, his untimely death meant the irretrievable loss of approximately $190 million belonging to users. The loss highlighted both the extreme security of Bitcoin as well as its pitfalls, which is that without private keys, Bitcoin is impossible to access. It’s a good reminder that you should never share your private keys with someone you wouldn’t also give your bank password to, but that having a backup is imperative.
Bitcoin breaks $5000 (and $13,000) again
In what initially seemed like an April Fool’s prank, the beginning of April gave us the end of Bitcoin Winter. The BTC price suddenly jumped, breaking the $5,000 mark for the first time since November 2018. It was the start of a rally that moved in an upward trajectory through the end of June, when Bitcoin topped above $13,000. The rare users who were lucky enough to buy when the Bitcoin price was at its lowest and sell at the top of the peak, saw an increase of over 300%.
China flip flops on crypto
All eyes were on China (again) this year when it came to cryptocurrency. While the country made major headlines in 2017 when it banned crypto exchanges (forcing companies such as Binance to move abroad), its yes/no attitude towards digital currency kept it in the news in 2019. In April it was announced that the Chinese government was considering banning Bitcoin mining, a move that could have a global impact considering China’s domination in the field. (It’s estimated that 65% of Bitcoin mining takes place in China.) Yet luckily, no ban has been implemented—at least not so far—and by October, Chinese president Xi Jinping was highlighting the benefits of Blockchain and promising to make China a leader of Blockchain innovation.
Facebook announces the launch of Libra
In June, Facebook took the crypto world by storm when it announced that it was launching its own currency, Libra. Nothing is as easy as it seems though, and the pushback the company received was immense, with both the US and Europe calling for Facebook to take an indefinite pause on the project. Outwardly, this was in part because of concerns over Facebook’s size, and in part because of concerns over Facebook’s previous problems with security and privacy. (Remember Cambridge Analytica?) Of course, other factors were likely at play, namely the fact that Facebook has such an enormous global presence—with an estimated 2.8 billion people using one of Facebook’s services each month—that their foray into cryptocurrency could affect the fiat currency market in an unimaginable way. By October, news reports were calling Libra dead in the water, and just this week Swiss president Ueli Maurer gave it a hard pass. So what’s the forecast for the currency in 2020? In a word: unclear.
Craig Wright claims to be Satoshi Nakamoto
One of the biggest mysteries in Bitcoin’s decade-long history is the identity of its creator, Satoshi Nakamoto. Over the years, there has been plenty of speculation, including the late Hal Finney—who played a big role in Bitcoin’s early development—and an unfortunately named bystander, Dorian Satoshi Nakamoto. This year, early Bitcoin investor Craig Wright threw his name into the ring, causing himself a lose-lose situation with a lawsuit that would see him having to fork over billions of dollars if he was proven to be Nakamoto. The saga is far from over, and Wright continues his claim as Bitcoin’s inventor.
The launch of Bakkt
One of the most anticipated events of the year was the launch of Bitcoin futures exchange Bakkt, giving institutions the ability to start investing in Bitcoin. Unlike other Bitcoin futures exchanges, Bakkt is physically backed, meaning by real (virtual) Bitcoin instead of on paper. The result? Potentially a lot more money coming into the BTC market, but more importantly, potentially the emergence of Bitcoin as a mainstream asset. So far, Bitcoin has remained an investment piece for individuals. Bakkt hopes to change that, bringing stability to it and making it a legitimate choice for pension funds and the like. While Bakkt started off more slowly than expected, whether they will achieve their goal remains to be seen.
The IRS cracks down on crypto
In July, the Internal Revenue Service, the US’s tax authority sent a letter to 10,000 people reminding them that Bitcoin taxes are a thing. It was meaningful for two reasons. One, it turned what had largely been seen as an unregulated bit of free money into a legitimate asset. (The IRS classifies Bitcoin in the same way that it classifies stock.) Two, it reminded people that Bitcoin is not as anonymous as it seems. No one is 100% sure where the IRS got its information, though considering some crypto exchanges were ordered to provide information on users who had spent in high amounts, it’s not hard to guess. It was a move that legitimized cryptocurrency on the one hand, and had people lamenting the loss of privacy on the other.
Politics takes on Bitcoin
Bitcoin entered politics on both sides of the US aisle this year. Not only did Congress make a strong push to squash Facebook’s Libra plans, but President Trump came out and declared on Twitter (big surprise there) that he is not a fan of the cryptocurrency, which he called highly volatile and based on thin air. Meanwhile, Democratic presidential hopeful Andrew Yang is a fan, even accepting campaign donations in BTC. One thing is certain though, with such vocal opinions, Bitcoin and cryptocurrency are sure to be a part of the campaign trail in 2020.
The Bitcoin revolution joins the revolution
From Hong Kong to Venezuela, the world was in the midst of a revolution this year, and Bitcoin was right there. Bitcoin proved a useful alternative to fiat currency in turmoil as hyperinflation continued to take over in Venezuela, Chilean ATMs ran dry, and people looked for a stable back up in Hong Kong. In other words, it showed the world that it really could achieve its original intent as a borderless currency of the people.
As we bid farewell to 2019 and to Bitcoin’s first real decade, we can look back at the evolution of cryptocurrency with pride. After all, in the span of ten years, Bitcoin went from a mere idea to a household name. And as we ring in the new year, we’re excited to see what’s in store for the year and decade to come.