A brief crypt-overview of 2015

Thursday 31 December 2015

Weren’t paying attention in 2015? Here’s what’s been going on the last year.

Not a good start to the year: back in the first weekend of January, Bitstamp - arguably the foremost bitcoin exchange in the world - was hacked for $5 million in bitcoins. The hackers took advantage of an unknown vulnerability to grab 19,000 coins from Stamp’s hot wallet during a frenzy of panic trading. The resulting shadow probably pushed the bitcoin market to the point of capitulation shortly afterwards, and Bitstamp dealt with the situation a whole lot better than Gox - in fact, aside from a few days’ down time, you wouldn’t have known there was a problem at all. Nice job, boys.

There was a bump in exposure when Libertarian Republican and US presidential hopeful Rand Paul started accepting bitcoin donations for his campaign. Sadly, the current Republic frontrunner Donald Trump does not, probably because they come from ‘that internet’

The BitLicense launched: top regulator Benjamin Lawsky’s far-reaching regulatory framework for bitcoin businesses in New York. Many other US states were holding back on their own stance until they could take their cues from Lawsky. The BitLicense was controversial, and expensive - geared more towards big business than small start-ups. 

Year

TL;DR. Some good, some bad, some guys got arrested, some regulation happened

Greece experienced some serious problems with the IMF and assorted other creditors. These reached a head in June, when it looked like the country would default on its debts and crash out of the Euro. It didn’t happen, thanks to an eleventh thirteenth-hour deal, but the prospect catalysed renewed interest in bitcoin as some Greeks looked for a way to circumvent capital controls. Later in the year, China would provide a much bigger flow of funds into bitcoin, as the government tightened their own capital controls. Also in June, Silk Road mastermind Ross Ulbricht was sentenced to life, a reminder that what goes on in the dark web is not as private as some people like to think. 

In July, the bitcoin network came under attack, as one company decided to make a nuisance of itself and make a political statement in the increasingly bitter block size debate. That’s still rumbling on, though some kind of consensus is slowly being reached.

Former MtGox CEO Mark Karpeles was arrested. As has long been suspected, Gox’s woes were largely a result of mismanagement, not the malleability bug (though that might have contributed too).

A more positive development was that Ethereum finally launched - one of the most hotly-awaited launches in the cryptosphere. Ethereum made some waves and there have been positive noises from the likes of Microsoft, but questions remain about the company’s burn rate, and the viability of the financial token underpinning the platform

There was plenty of interest in blockchain technology from major players, including banks, but bitcoin itself found some significant new applications too, in the legal/medical marijuana industry (it’s hard to escape your past). 

Gemini, the first properly regulated exchange, launched, courtesy of the Winklevii twins. It was a major step forward for bitcoin infrastructure, and a sign of things to come for anyone who wants to play in bitcoinland from now on - at least, in the US.

The final Silk Road auction sold off the bitcoins recovered from Ulbricht’s computer, and hopefully closed the door on an uncomfortable chapter in bitcoin’s early history.

In the last few weeks, Satoshi was unveiled - again, and very briefly, before reality set in. 

And that was 2015. Next up, five predictions for 2016...


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