Bitcoin, blockchain, and cryptocurrencies in general are likely to be even more significant in 2018 and beyond after surging in prominence, value and importance over the past year.
Proponents see blockchain as the future of security. They see bitcoin and its like as a revolution in storing value. Others see a bubble in the making. Either way, WikiTribune is determined to track the subject – several of the most popular stories last year were about cryptocurrencies. Help build this timeline of the major or most intriguing developments in bitcoin, blockchain, and cryptocurrencies.
- 4 – The Japanese city of Tsukuba is the country’s first city to trial online voting using blockchain, according to The Japan Times. The voting system has been used for selecting proposals on “social contribution projects.” The system relies on the Japanese equivalent of social security cards to verify voter identity, or the My Number identification system (thenextweb).
- 14 – Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro announced (ABC, in Spanish) that his government will begin using its oil-backed cryptocurrency on August 20. The petro, which will be the main currency used by state oil firm PdVSA, is part of a broader effort to “end speculation” over Venezuela’s currency, according to Maduro, and put a stop to the bolivar‘s hyperinflation. U.S. President Donald J. Trump imposed sanctions on the petro in March, due to suspicions it would be used to evade sanctions against Maduro’s government.
- 9 – The World Bank, in partnership with the Commonwealth Bank of Australia, has launched the world’s first “blockchain bond.” The Australian multinational will arrange the financial instrument, which the World Bank says will be “created, allocated, transferred and managed through its life cycle using distributed ledger technology.” There is no information yet regarding the value of the bond or when it will be launched. The Financial Times (may be behind paywall) reported that it will be called the Bondi, short for Blockchain Offered New Debt Instrument, and a reference to Sydney’s famous beach.
- 3 – Intercontinental Exchange Inc (ICE.N), which owns the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE), is planning to create a trading platform, called Bakkt, for digital assets, as well as a bitcoin futures product. The new platform will be built using Microsoft’s cloud technology and work alongside companies such as Starbucks. The plan could draw more interest for cryptocurrencies from traditional financial institutions. Further details will be announced in the coming weeks.
- 19 – Malta is slowly asserting itself as “blockchain island” (Bitcoin Magazine) as it sets out to decentralize the MSX, the fintech arm of the Malta Stock Exchange (MSE), by creating a new marketplace for tokenized securities. MSX is partnering with ICO platform Neufund and crypto-exchange Binance to create a regulated and decentralized stock exchange for listing and trading regulated tokens.
- 17 – IBM launches a new research center with Columbia University that aims to boost blockchain application development and education initiatives.
- 16 – Spotlite USA, the company behind the Kodak-branded KashMiner, a Bitcoin mining computer, confirmed that its plan to launch the machines has fallen through. The KashMiner was first displayed in January at a technology show in Las Vegas and critics such as author David Gerard labeled it a “scam.” Spotlite USA said it licensed the Kodak brand to put on its products and its chief executive said in January that 80 devices were already in use. However, Kodak told the BBC in July that the venture was “never officially licensed and that no devices had ever been installed.”
- 5 – India’s central Reserve Bank (RBI) directs all the country’s banks (The Hindu) to stop payments to cryptocurrency exchanges.
- 24 – The U.S. Department of Justice has launched a criminal investigation into whether the price of bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies are being manipulated by traders, according to a report by Bloomberg. Investigators are looking into practices such as spoofing, in which traders flood the market with fake orders that are unlikely to trade, typically with the intent of canceling, to trick others to trade. The report added that the DOJ is working with the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) to carry out the investigation.
- 16 – Bitcoin mining will consume 0.5 percent of the world’s electricity by the end of 2018, a new study by economist and blockchain expert Alex de Vries finds. Mining requires energy to solve complex mathematical calculations in order to generate new bitcoins. The situation will likely get worse as the value of bitcoin rises. “You are generating numbers the whole time and the machines you’re using for that use electricity. But if you want to get a bigger slice of the pie, you need to increase your computing power,” said de Vries (Science Daily). “So there’s a big incentive for people to increase how much they’re spending on electricity and on machines.”
- 12 – Manna Currency, the non-profit-backed cryptocurrency distributed as universal basic income (UBI), has reported strong growth in its registered user base. Since rebranding in February the company says it now has 185,000 registered users, and is growing at a rate of 1,000 to 2,000 new users per day. Manna Currency says 90,000 people have gone through the full signup process to verify their account for UBI distribution. WikiTribune is tracking UBI here: “Money for nothing? Tracking global basic income initiatives.“
- 2 – The New York Times reported that Goldman Sachs is looking into opening a bitcoin trading desk. This may seem like an institutional shift in perception for the crypto-economy but Tech Crunch clarified that Goldman Sachs has just hired one person to look into the possibilities, so there’s no official trading desk as of yet. “The key point is this isn’t some sort of tipping point for real-world acceptance of bitcoin, as much as bitcoin fans would like to paint it as one,” David Gerard, author and expert in cryptocurrencies, told Tech Crunch.
- 27 – John Pfeffer, a partner at London-based Pfeffer Capital, said that bitcoin could hit $700,000 and replace gold (The Independent), and that the entire network could one day be worth more than $6 trillion. His remark was made at Sohn investment conference in New York City, a place for investors to recommend the best stocks to invest in. Pfeffer’s comment was the first time an investor recommended a cryptocurrency at Sohn, though he added “most [other] crypto assets out there are bad bets.”
- 17 – The New York Times reported that political data firm Cambridge Analytica had a cryptocurrency in the works before it was revealed that it misused up to 87 million Facebook profiles. The plan, which included launching an ICO and promoting its virtual token, was designed to enable people to sell their personal data and profit from doing so. The revelation came from former Cambridge Analytica employee Brittany Kaiser who was in charge of the coin offerings business. The company’s cryptocurrency team also worked with Dragon Coin, a cryptocurrency used by gamblers in Macau which is believed to be partly sponsored by “Broken Tooth,” a leader of the 14k criminal triad (South China Morning Post) in Hong Kong, as shown by documents obtained by the New York Times.
- 9 – Carrefour SA, a France-based grocery chain, is using blockchain technology to give buyers insight into the life of its chickens. According to Bloomberg, all you need to do is scan the label of a chicken with your smartphone to learn where the bird came from or whether it ate healthy grain. The initiative is part of a broader industry trend in improving food safety by making it more transparent.
- 26 – The Verge reported that Twitter will start banning cryptocurrency-related ads starting from tomorrow (March 27). This follows bans by Google and Facebook. Twitter says the ban is to “ensure the safety of [its] community” by discouraging opportunities for fraud and deception.
- 22 – The Financial Times reported some of the world’s best-known economists – including Nobel Prize-winning Myron Scholes and Chairman of JPMorgan Chase International, Jacob Frenkel – are planning to create the academic’s cryptocurrency. Known as Saga, it aims to position itself as a more acceptable cryptocurrency for the financial and political establishment.
- 21 – Google is working on its own blockchain-related technology to support its cloud business. It wants to offer a distinct service from its cloud rivals, according to Bloomberg , which interviewed sources familiar with the situation. There is no official announcement yet. Google’s parent company, Alphabet Inc., has invested in various blockchain start-ups.
- 19 – President Donald J. Trump imposed fresh sanctions on Venezuela by restricting the use of its cryptocurrency, the petro, in U.S financial transactions. The petro was launched to aid Venezuela’s troubled economy, which has been crippled by international sanctions and hyperinflation.
- 14 – Google announced in a blog post it will be banning all cryptocurrency-related adverts – including for bitcoin, trading advice, and initial coin offerings (ICOs) – starting from June. It did not give an explanation why. According to the BBC, the value of bitcoin, ethereum, and ripple all dipped after the news was received at around 04:00 GMT.
- 12 – The coalition agreement of the new German government provides to “develop a comprehensive blockchain strategy and to advance an appropriate regulatory framework for trading with cryptocurrencies and tokens at the European and international level”.
- 28 – The Marshall Islands is taking steps to launch the world’s first legal tender cryptocurrency, which will have equal status as the U.S. dollar. The nation partnered with Israeli company Neema to launch the new Sovereign (SOV) cryptocurrency, capped at 24 million.
- 18 – The New York Times reported how the risk of physical attacks on cryptocurrency holders has increased since prices shot up last year. From Thailand to Ukraine to New York City, thieves are now threatening real violence – such as holding people captive – in exchange for cryptocurrencies. One man in New York City was held captive until a friend transferred over $1.8 million in the virtual currency ether for his release. And because cryptocurrency transactions are anonymous, police find it hard to track and verify accounts.
- 9 – Gibraltar will be the first place in the world to regulate initial coin offerings – the method by which crypto startups raise funds by selling tokens. Gibraltar’s government and Gibraltar Financial Services Commission said that in coming weeks lawmakers will discuss how tokens connected to the UK overseas territory are regulated and promoted.
- 6 – The value of Bitcoin dropped even lower to below $6000 and CNBC reported that $550 billion of the cryptocurrency market has been wiped out in just under a month.
- 5 – Bitcoin is at its lowest value since it peaked in November, crashing 40 percent (Financial Times) and dropping below $6000. Over $60 billion of the cryptocurrency market was wiped out in 24 hours on 4-5 February (CNBC). In recent weeks, the market has seen tougher regulations worldwide from China, India, and the UK.
- 5 – Lloyds Banking Group, a UK commercial and retail bank, has banned Lloyds Bank, Halifax, Bank of Scotland, and MBNA customers from buying cryptocurrencies on their credit cards. However, the ban does not apply to debit cards. Lloyds’ decision comes after falling prices in the value of cryptocurrencies, which prompted concerns over unpaid debts.
- 1 – As Sweden’s Central Bank, the Riksbank, is planning to launch its national cryptocurrency called the E-Krona, it has launched a project which “aims to investigate the legal and technical conditions for the Riksbank to be able to issue an E-krona.” The decision on whether the bank will issue an E-krona will be taken after the end of the project, probably in 2019.
- 30 – Social media giant Facebook announced a new policy banning ads involving initial coin offerings and cryptocurrencies. Rob Leathern, its product management director, wrote in a blog post that the “policy is part of an ongoing effort to improve the integrity and security of our ads, and to make it harder for scammers to profit from a presence on Facebook.”
- 29 – Coincheck, one of Japan’s biggest cryptocurrency exchanges, has lost $534m in the largest cyber heist ever. The exchange stopped trading all cryptocurrencies except bitcoin on Friday after $534m NEM coins, a lesser-known currency, were stolen. CNN reported that Coincheck promised to partially fund some of the investors affected by the loss, though it’s unclear when and how. Japan’s Financial Services Agency plans to take administrative actions against the hack. The second largest hack was in 2014, when Tokyo-based exchange Mt.Gox, which once handled 80 percent of the world’s bitcoin trade, had $400m stolen from its network.
- 25 – Johann Schneider-Ammann, Switzerland’s economics minister, said that the rich Alpine country wants “to be the crypto-nation,” the Financial Times reported. According to PwC, four of the ten companies with the biggest initial coin offerings – when crypto startups raise funds by selling tokens – are based in Switzerland.
- 15 – Maurice Obstfeld, Chief Economist of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), said in Davos that the IMF considered that the concept of blockchain ledgers may have value. Answering a question about the potential impact of bitcoin turbulence on IMF forecasts, Obstfeld said: “We don’t like to comment on specific cryptocurrencies (but) on blockchain technology in general we see possible advantages in terms of efficiency of payment systems and inclusion … We also see cryptocurrencies could also offer risks and it’s important for regulators to be watching carefully.”
- 17 – Bitcoin’s value dropped 50 percent to below $10,000, a massive blow to the crypto-community after touching almost $20,000 at the end of 2017 (The Verge). Following the plunge, Reddit’s cryptocurrency page posted a link to the U.S. national suicide hotline, saying that: “The hardest hit people are one of the following: Newcomers, Margin Traders, or Day-Traders (and those in Bitconnect [exchange platform]).”
- 16 – Bitconnect, the bitcoin lending and exchange platform which has long been accused of running a Ponzi scheme, announced that it is shutting down. It said in a statement that the shutdown was in part due to continuous “bad press,” and that while it will close for lending and exchange, it will continue to operate for “wallet service, news and educational purposes.”
- 16 – France’s finance minister Bruno Le Maire said that the country is creating a group to study cryptocurrencies while proposing guidelines for regulations, as reported by Bitcoin.com. Le Maire has appointed Jean-Pierre Landau, a former deputy governor of the Banque de France, to lead the group.
- 15 – Bloomberg reported that China is “escalating” a crackdown of cryptocurrencies by targeting “exchange-like services” including online platforms and mobile apps. Despite banning cryptocurrency exchanges last year, Chinese authorities have noticed a rise in activity on alternative platforms. China was one of the most active markets for bitcoin, but since Beijing’s crackdown the cryptocurrency has seen a large drop in value.
- 15 – Joachim Wuermeling, a member of the board of Germany’s Bundesbank, said that attempts to regulate bitcoin must be through international cooperation as it’s hard to enforce national or regional regulations on a currency that exists through a borderless, virtual community.
- 11 – The price of bitcoin plummeted after South Korea’s government said it plans to ban cryptocurrency trading. Seoul’s justice minister said that bitcoin was causing the government “great concern.” Its law enforcement agencies are also raiding local cryptocurrency exchanges to look into tax evasion, including two of the nation’s largest: Bithumb and Coinone.
- 9 – Photo company Eastman Kodak is launching its own cryptocurrency called KodakCoin, resulting in its shares soaring to nearly 120 percent. KodakCoin is part of a blockchain-based plan to help photographers own image rights and receive payments.
- 9 – JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon told Fox Business he “regrets” calling bitcoin a “fraud”. Last September he branded it a fraud adding that “the currency isn’t going to work.” Larry Fink, another high-profile executive, at BlackRock, likened the demand for bitcoin to the “demand for money laundering.” (Financial Times)
- 8 – The popular messaging app Telegram plans to launch its own blockchain platform and cryptocurrency, according to Tech Crunch. Anton Rozenberg, a former employee of Telegram’s publishing division, Telegraph, posted a video on Facebook promoting Telegram’s new blockchain platform, called “Telegram Open Network.” (TON)
- Telegram recently came under fire during protests in Iran. (Read more: our analysis)
- 2 – Egypt’s Grand Mufti Shawki Allam – the highest official of religious law – declared trading on bitcoin as “forbidden” in Islam. In a strongly worded fatwa (religious edict), Allam said the cryptocurrency risks “fraudulence, lack of knowledge, and cheating”.
- 2 – The Wall Street Journal reported that Peter Thiel’s Founders Fund bought around $15-to-$20 million of dollars in Bitcoin. The report did not confirm whether the fund sold any of its holdings.
- Thiel is known for co-founding PayPal and being an early investor in Facebook.
- Read more: Why digital money is here to stay by WikiTribune community member Miguel A. Torres.