Just over a decade ago — Jan. 3, 2009 — the bitcoin network went online. It was a curiosity of coding, and it was hardly the first attempt to create a native currency for the internet built around cryptographic proofs. Unlike those previous attempts, however, bitcoin actually worked as a system of exchange.
As the network grew over the next few years, bitcoin became everything from the butt of many an economist’s joke, to the infamous currency for dark web drug dealers, and to a Silicon Valley startup cliche. Its price rocketed towards the moon and crashed back down to earth countless times. Somewhere along the way, it also created a $300 billion cryptocurrency market that is completely reshaping entire industries while also transforming how the world thinks about currency.
Not surprisingly, year ten has been a big one for bitcoin. We’re ten years into the cryptocurrency experiment, and the world is only now starting to realize just how big of a deal blockchain technology truly is. In this post, we’re going to look at five major technological, economic, and cultural milestones bitcoin has seen in 2019.
1. Bitcoin is now the 11th largest money supply in the world. With a current market cap of around $200 billion, bitcoin’s value as a currency is staggering. It has more value than the entire supply of money issued by countries like Canada, Mexico, Australia, and South Korea. Later this year, it may even surge past Russia’s money supply, joining the ranks of the Top 10 stores of value in the world. Only two other non-state currencies are on this list — gold and silver — suggesting that bitcoin is rapidly becoming viewed by investors as a viable store of value. Bitcoin was number 37 on the same list just two years ago.
2. Bitcoin dominance back to 2017 levels. For much of the last decade, many of bitcoin’s biggest struggles were with its own descendants. High-profile cryptocurrency projects like Ethereum, Ripple, and Bitcoin Cash aimed to siphon off huge percentages of bitcoin’s market share, and they often succeeded. By 2018, BTC represented a mere 33% of the overall cryptocurrency market cap. Then, for reasons that are still heavily debated, bitcoin’s market share surged. Today, BTC represents just shy of 70% of the cryptocurrency market cap, a percentage not seen since the spring of 2017. And that “BTC dominance” number is still growing.
3. 85% of BTC now mined as of July 31st, 2019. One of the key features of bitcoin’s design is built-in scarcity. Bitcoin was created during the 2007-2009 financial crisis, and in many ways its design is a response to the many failed, inflationary policies of the world’s central banks. Bitcoin is a somewhat deflationary currency — there will only ever be 21 million BTC, and the supply of new BTC created by mining halves roughly every four years — resulting in a strong incentive for the price to rise over time. As of 2019, less than 15% of the total BTC supply remains to be mined, although the entire supply won’t be mined until somewhere around the year 2140.
4. Bitcoin’s hashrate reached a new high of 78.9 EH/s. The power of the bitcoin network is typically measured in “hashes”, which roughly equates to the number of attempts made each second to find the solution for the current “block” of transactions on the blockchain. This hashpower changes constantly, as new mining hardware is added to (or removed from) the network. The network automatically adjusts the “difficulty” of mining a new block every 2,016 blocks — about two weeks — in an effort to keep the playing field as level as possible. Currently, the bitcoin network collectively attempts 78.9 exahashes — 78,900,000,000,000,000,000 attempts at a solution — every second. The bitcoin network crossed the 1 EH/s threshold in early 2016, meaning that the network’s hashing power has grown nearly 7,800% in just three years.
5. U.S. President tweets his opposition to bitcoin. On July 12, 2019, U.S. President Donald Trump decided to make his views on bitcoin known via a series of Twitter posts. “I am not a fan of Bitcoin and other Cryptocurrencies, which are not money, and whose value is highly volatile and based on thin air,” the President wrote. Trump cited cryptocurrency’s potential for facilitating “unlawful behavior,” including the illegal drug trade. The multi-part “tweetstorm” was only partially aimed at bitcoin, however, and it largely focused on Facebook’s proposed Libra cryptocurrency, which many in the government see as a direct threat to the stability of the U.S dollar. In response to the President’s tweets, Coinbase CEO Brian Armstrong tweeted: “Achievement unlocked! I dreamt about a sitting US President needing to respond to growing cryptocurrency usage years ago. ‘First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win’. We just made it to step 3 y’all.”