While a holiday lull has fallen upon Bitcoin and crypto, the past year has been filled with a flurry of triumphs and disappointments for the cryptocurrency and blockchain space.
The following is a list (in no specific order) of the top crypto- and blockchain-related stories that this budding industry saw in 2019.
China Embraces Blockchain, Shuns Crypto (Again)
In October, China’s leader, President Xi Jinping, claimed in a meeting with the Chinese Community Party’s Politburo that blockchain should be adopted in the nation as a “core technology” benefiting industries from healthcare and education to commerce and finance.
This immediately led to a blockchain frenzy in China, which has culminated in mass support of blockchain and technologies like it by state media, companies, and individuals.
While supporting blockchain, Chinese authorities have made it clear that they are not supporting Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies, with financial regulators in regions like Beijing and Shanghai doubling-down on their anti-crypto stances first established in late-2017.
Countries Begin Crypto Asset Initiatives
The funny thing is, China is expected to launch a digital asset in the coming months, having done a lot of work on the project in 2019, despite its detestation for Bitcoin. The project is called “Digital Currency Electronic Payment” or “DC/EP” and will simply be “a digital form of the yuan,” meaning that there will be no open market for speculation and that the asset will not need to be backed by a basket of currencies.
China, by far, is the furthest along in terms of its digital currency projects. Though, over the course of 2019, countries like Canada, France, Germany, and Sweden have all proposed launching their own cryptocurrencies.
The U.S., however, has made it clear that it is not interested in having its own digital asset at the moment, though some analysts fear that the leading economy could fall behind should it be slow to adopt digital forms of money.
Musk Shills Bitcoin
In February, Elon Musk — co-founder of PayPal, chief executive of SpaceX and Tesla, founder of the Boring Company, among other titles — took to the “FYI” podcast of ARK Invest, a Wall Street research heavily interested in investments like Bitcoin and Tesla. After discussing Tesla’s most recent advancements, the hosts of the podcast took a brief aside: they asked Musk about his thoughts on Bitcoin.
To the surprise of many, he shared his excitement for the technology, claiming that the cryptocurrency has an underlying structure that is “quite brilliant,” adding that he thinks maybe Ethereum and “maybe some of the others” might have technological merit. The renowned technologist concluded by stating that he thinks “without a doubt” that crypto is a “far better way to transfer value than pieces of paper.”
Bye-Bye Dollars, Hello Libra
Facebook this year unveiled Libra, slated as a “new global payment system,” along with the proposed Libra wallet known as Calibra, after months of internal development by over 100 employees as the social media and internet giant.
The project, now operated by a Switzerland-based group relatively independent of Facebook called the Libra Association, was launched with the support of Visa, Mastercard, Spotify, PayPal, Uber, amongst an array of venture capital companies, blockchain upstarts, and retail firms.
Though, due to regulatory pressure, some of Libra’s most prominent backers — namely Visa, Mastercard, and Paypal — felt it wise to abandon ship, claiming that they couldn’t withstand the pressure from governments though is still open to collaborating with Facebook on digital money and fintech in the future.
Ripple Gains Traction, Though XRP Slips
This was a big year for Ripple, with the company in December securing a $10 billion valuation after seeing large venture capital and investment firms invest $200 million in their company. This makes the fintech upstart one of the most valuable crypto-related companies.
This $10 billion valuation came on the back of mass adoption of Ripple’s fintech technologies such as On-Demand Liquidity, which helps banks and other institutions reduce the cost of international transactions by using cryptocurrency as a bridge.
Despite this trend, XRP, the third-largest cryptocurrency by market capitalization, slipped by 50% on the year, plunging as Bitcoin rallied by 90%.