2017 was a great year in the blockchain space.
2018 was…less so.
Though the last twelve months had good news, too, many of us are grateful that the Year of Our Lord Two Thousand and Eighteen is finally over. Let’s take a less-than-fond look back at some of the reasons why we should thank Christ, Buddha, the Flying Spaghetti Monster or whatever your preferred deity/deities is/are that we get a fresh start on Jan. 1.
It’s been a blood bath out there.
ICX is currently at USD 0.21713, down 98.35% percent from its all time high of USD 13.165 eleven months ago. And ICON is by no means alone. Of the top 50 cryptocurrencies by market cap, 32 were down over 90 percent from their all time highs. In fact, only four suffered drops of less than 60 percent. Even Bitcoin was down over 80 percent from its high just one year ago.
But hey, it wasn’t all bad. If you bought ICX at the ICO, you’re still making a return on your investment. And as Rachel McIntosh explains in a very good analysis piece at Finance Magnates, 2019 might usher in a “more stable, more dependable” altcoin market for a variety of reasons, including last year’s exodus of speculative traders.
Moreover, as bad as the price action has been, token price is but a small part of the blockchain story. Ultimately, blockchain is about the technology and what it could eventually deliver. “What’s really important to note is we’re talking about the next generation of financial infrastructure. Technological progress takes time,” said Christine Moy, the blockchain program head at JP Morgan Chase, at Fortune’s recent Most Powerful Women Next Gen summit. “To look at a daily price of crypto is kind of a red herring. In reality, the value is what the technology rails can provide over time.”
Hacks and scams
We’ve witnessed a lot of nefarious activity in the crypto space over the last year.
According to one report, eleven of the largest hacks of the last five years took place in the first six months of 2018 alone. CypherTrace says that hackers stole nearly USD 1 billion in the first three quarters of the year. The hack of Japan-based Coincheck in January resulted in the loss of over half a billion dollars in XEM coins, making it the largest hack in the crypto history.
In Korea, hackers hit Bithumb in June, taking the country’s most popular cryptocurrency exchange for a cool USD 31 million in crypto. The same month, hackers took a smaller Korean exchange, Coinrail, for another USD 40 million in altcoins. We also have the North Koreans keeping things interesting.
Then there were the scams. Bitconnect’s Ponzi scheme was the most notorious, but there were plenty just like it. Here in Korea, Pure Bit pulled an exit scam after raising USD 30 million in an ICO, ostensibly to build a cryptocurrency exchange. In an interesting twist, the CEO of that project has begun repaying at least some of the money stolen.
Is there a silver lining to this? Perhaps. If the hacks and scams encourage regulators to get serious about crypto, investors might get a safer, better ordered market, putting their minds a bit more at ease. And speaking of regulators…
Government: a mixed bag
Korean authorities made some progress in getting their heads around blockchain in 2018. Though politicians and officials remain suspicious of cryptocurrencies and trading in crypto assets, they like and support blockchain technology, generally speaking. This is a good thing, of course, but regulators are still very much in the learning stage. Nikola Pavesic writes in the Nikkei:
“It remains to be seen how South Korean regulators reconcile the excitement around blockchain and the fear of cryptocurrencies into a balanced regulatory picture that protects consumers without confusing or scaring entrepreneurs. The South Korean blockchain community, like many others, is ripe for constructive regulation and everyone is calling for it – the government, entrepreneurs, and retail and institutional investors.
However, South Korean regulators are still at the laborious and tedious discovery stage. This is a delicate phase in which major jurisdictions are studying each other, so making too big a leap could backfire. There have been a critical change of heart and major regulatory steps forward. But now what is needed is to create a stable, unambiguous and responsive framework for blockchain and cryptoregulation in South Korea, and the sooner the better.”
Korea still bans ICOs, and the head of the Financial Services Commission isn’t in much of a rush to change that. One Korean blockchain startup recently complained to the Constitutional Court about the ban. You can even argue that the government’s “blockchain good, crypto bad” attitude suggests that regulators lack a fundamental understanding of digital ledger technology.
Still, we should remember that the Korean government is supporting the blockchain space, too, tripling its budget for blockchain projects in 2019 to $35 million. And while the authorities might be a tad tepid in their support for crypto, ordinary Koreans sure aren’t…
Straight from the heart
The ICON family learned a lot over the past 12 months. They also have many reasons to celebrate the start of a new year.
ICON Foundation member Min Kim is looking forward to a reset. “Psychologically, it feels 2018 needs to end in order for the market sentiment to reset,” he says. “The stock market resets on a daily basis with opening and closing times. In addition, it has a kill switch or so called ‘flash freezes.’ Crypto never sleeps, which could be a double-edged sword.”
And as tough as the last year was, it also proved blockchain is here to stay. Min says, “One more year in the books for the crypto industry. Every surviving year proves to regulators and the non-believers that our industry is real and maturing.”
Henry Lee, ICON’s Head of Global Business, says he is “[..] thankful to everyone who’ve worked on this project and the community who supported it. We are planning to deliver a lot in 2019 and I’m excited by the prospect of showcasing it to the world”.
For ICONist spl3en, the last year provided some “invaluable lessons.”
“2018 actually taught me a lot,” he says. “We all know about the bear market. The price plummeting over 90% for most projects. However, from all these red candles, I learnt some invaluable lessons, lessons that I couldn’t have learnt before knowing ICON.”
In particular, he learned to focus his attention on only a few blockchain projects, the ones he really liked, including ICON. Wanting to learn more about the project, he started to hang out in ICON’s Telegram channel in early 2018. After spending some time in the channel, he took on a moderator role. The passion of the people connected to ICON has impressed him. He says, “Whatever the market conditions, they keep listening, working, building, developing and connecting people, because they enjoy and believe in what they’re doing no matter what.”
And he’s looking forward to the future. He says, “From its full transition from a simple Ethereum ERC20 token to a fully blockchain mainnet with a working smart contract system hosting a few DApps already – not to mention the meaningful partnerships established during this year – I can’t wait to see what 2019 will bring us.”