Looking back at the year in blockchain and cryptocurrency, the numbers being most talked about are negative, and it’s no wonder: As of this writing, bitcoin’s price is down 81 percent from this time last year. ICO funding has fallen to early to the mid-2017 levels And hundreds of developers and supporting staff are out of jobs, even at well-established companies like ConsenSys.
But these numbers don’t tell the whole story. This year was difficult for crypto in many ways, but things keep moving forward. We see evolutions in blockchain technology every day, with researchers or entrepreneurs finding new solutions to problems that expand the frontiers of cryptography. There’s also an argument that less fast money is a good thing: We’re seeing fewer dubious or fraudulent ICOs, and less opportunity for scammers to dupe investors out of money by overpromising and under-delivering, or worse, disappearing entirely.
That’s why we’ve put together this 2018 year-in-numbers, to cast the net beyond price as the single metric worth caring about:
$8 billion: The valuation of Coinbase, according to its $300 million fundraising deal in October, making it one of the highest-valued startups in the U.S. It’s proof that although prices are down in the short term, there are many institutional players prepared to bet long on the success of cryptocurrency overall.
#1: The rank of cryptojacking among consumer cyberthreats in 2018, according to cybersecurity companies like Kaspersky and Symantec. Following the price spike in 2017, there was an explosion of cryptojacking malware, i.e. viruses which compromise a computer system and use the CPU or graphics card to mine cryptocurrency. Since the market slide, other companies like Malwarebytes have deprecated their assessment of the cryptojacking threat for 2019, which is a silver lining of sorts.
44: The number of steps necessary to “buy into the future of journalism” by purchasing tokens in the Civil crowdsale. Thanks in part to this tortuous process, the sale fell well short of its $8 million target, leaving parent company ConsenSys to step in with an offer to fund the next year of operations. This is less a story about ICO returns, though, and more a demonstration of why reducing friction is crucial when you’re selling anything online.
10,000: Megawatts of power requested from Hydro-Québec, the French-Canadian province’s public power utility, by cryptocurrency mining companies looking to move to Canada at the start of the year. Of course, with lower prices, mining has become less profitable, leading a large number of miners elsewhere to shut down. But that hasn’t stopped a surge of interest in Canada’s west coast too, with Vancouver’s BC Hydro also receiving requests for up to 5000 MW.
12 out of 22: The number of cryptocurrency news outlets that were willing to publish paid content without disclosing it was sponsored, as a BREAKER investigation found in October. From a low of $240 to a high of $4500, positive coverage was up for sale, for a price—a disappointing finding, though some offenders improved their disclosure policy as a result.
498: The number of words in the Crypto Anarchist Manifesto, the prophetic document that encapsulated the thinking of Timothy C. May, who died in December. The manifesto was sent by May to the legendary cypherpunks mailing list in 1992, and is often referred to as a foundational text by those who believe in the centrality of encryption and privacy to building a free, open internet.
$150,000-$175,000: The salary range for a blockchain engineer, according to tech recruitment firm Hired. This makes blockchain one of the most lucrative areas of software engineering, on a par with artificial intelligence research, according to hiring stats.
21: The number of European member states that signed a declaration to create a European Blockchain Partnership in April. The 21 nations—plus non-E.U. state Norway—agreed to collaborate in the provision of service infrastructure to deliver cross-border public services, an example of blockchain innovation that will thrive regardless of price movements. Since the initial signing, five more countries have joined the partnership, most recently Italy in September.
~8,500: Number of attendees at CoinDesk’s Consensus conference in New York this year, according to Digital Currency Group founder Barry Silbert—more than triple the number of the previous year. The three-day event was the centerpiece of Blockchain Week NYC, a series of events that showcased an industry in full flight. (It remains to be seen whether similar numbers of people will be willing to fork over the $2000 required for a ticket in 2019.)
37: The number of pages in Nouriel Roubini’s written testimony to the Senate, in which he described blockchain as the “least useful technology in human history.” Roubini, famous for predicting the 2008 financial crisis and now notorious for his vehement criticisms of cryptocurrency, claimed in the same session that bitcoin’s only real use was to facilitate drug deals, and that the term “shitcoin” was an insult to the productive benefits of manure.
21,716: The number of forks made of the bitcoin core repository on GitHub. The price may only be around 20 percent of the giddy highs of 2017, but regardless, tens of thousands of developers are learning from or working on the bitcoin code or its many variants. Ultimately, the strength of any open-source tech project derives from community, and by that metric cryptocurrency is thriving.
64: The size in megabytes of the largest block ever mined on a public blockchain, constructed by CoinGeek, the primary miner on the Bitcoin SV chain. SV project head Craig S. Wright has even talked about processing a 1TB block within the next few years, although practical details of how that would be achieved are scarce.
$999: The retail price for Sirin Labs’ Finney blockchain smartphone, which launched at the end of November. The phone includes a secondary pop-up screen with which to verify transactions to and from the cold storage wallet. Not only that, but Sirin—which reportedly shipped 160,000 units to distributors—managed to sign Barcelona star Lionel Messi as a brand ambassador, which probably cost them roughly the same as most of the engineering involved.
320 and counting: The number of articles published by BREAKER since our mid-2018 launch. Well, we could hardly leave ourselves out of a year in review piece, could we? It’s been an exciting few months for our team of writers, editors, and freelance contributors, and we look forward to bringing you more news and analysis of all things crypto, blockchain, and web 3.0 in 2019. Here’s to the new year!