This week, we pause our normal coverage of news events to reflect on the tremendous strides bitcoin has made in its ten years of existence. From less than one penny a coin all the way up to nearly $20,000 – then back down a bit – the journey of bitcoin has been nothing less than incredible thus far. To date, bitcoin has been declared “dead” by the press over 350 times, 90 of those alone occurring in 2018. Rumors of its death, as always, remain greatly exaggerated, as bitcoin plunges into a 10th year – perhaps more popular than ever – as the world’s first decentralized, digital currency.
Bitcoin At 10 Years: Still Running Strong
On January 3rd, 2009, 6:15 PM GMT, the Bitcoin Network officially rolled into motion, with the launch of the Genesis Block, otherwise known as Block Zero. In the coinbase data of the first bitcoin transaction to be recorded on the blockchain was this message:
“The Times 03/Jan/2009 Chancellor on brink of second bailout for banks”
The message was in reference to a newspaper article in the London Times that had been published that morning. It was representative of two things:
- It served to draw attention to the fact that federal governments had the ability to print more money at any time they saw fit, thereby devaluing a currency without anybody’s permission, for the benefit of a select few and to the detriment of the masses.
- It served as a timestamp to verify that the blockchain was indeed launched on that particular date.
Ten years in, bitcoin has proven to be a tremendous success, far surpassing expectations that anybody could have possibly had for it at the time of its launch. Satoshi Nakamoto’s original public announcements of the project, first on a cryptography mailing list and then on a P2P Foundation blog, went largely ignored, but many of those who paid attention went on to become very wealthy individuals, at the forefront of a revolution in finance.
At its very beginning, nobody knew exactly what bitcoin was capable of accomplishing. It was a well-thought out experiment that used some pretty cutting-edged computer-driven technology in order to solve a problem: how do you create a digital form of money that can’t be copied? Satoshi’s solution was the blockchain, which is the engine that drives bitcoin. Ten years later, it has proven to be a pretty reliable solution: it hasn’t been hacked, it hasn’t been compromised, and most impressively, it continues to run just fine.
Happy 10th birthday Bitcoin!
— Vitalik Non-giver of Ether (@VitalikButerin) January 3, 2019
The Revolution Will Not Be Centralized
Incredibly, the Bitcoin Network has been up and running an astounding 99.83% of the time since its initial launch, only going offline for a few brief moments in August of 2010. This makes it more dependable than Visa, Mastercard, and PayPal, which all experience significant downtimes for huge swaths of its users on a regular basis. The decentralized nature of bitcoin means that only a few miners and nodes need to be up and running in order for the network to continue operating worldwide. Even if the Bitcoin Network was somehow down in an entire continent at the same time, it would continue operating normally throughout the rest of the world. Bitcoin, by itself, has helped paved the way for several other forms of non-blockchain related decentralized networks, such as Holo (HOT), Byteball (GBYTE), and most recently, Grin (main net not yet launched).
Not to forget of course, bitcoin has spurred a multi-billion dollar industry and an enormous tidal wave of imitators — altcoins seeking to tinker with bitcoin’s version of the blockchain as well as copycats who are simply riding the trend and hoping to make easy money. Even after serious rivals like Ripple (XRP), Ethereum (ETH) and Bitcoin Cash (BCH) have all threatened to usurp BTC from its position as world’s most popular cryptocurrency, none of them (or the hundreds of others that set out with this goal in mind) have even come close to removing bitcoin from its top spot.
Instead of becoming outdated and prone to being replaced by fancier tech (which regard themselves as 2nd or 3rd generation cryptocurrencies), bitcoin has managed to evolve with the times, finding ways to solve problems presented by scaling issues that jeopardize its ability to carry out its primary function of acting as a currency. Some of these include the introduction of SegWit in 2017 and the advancement of the Lightning Network throughout 2018 (and on to the present).
10 years ago today, the first bitcoin block was mined. 🏗️ It’s been quite a ride since. 🎢
Thank you to Satoshi for your brilliant ideas and code 💡
To the bitcoin community for bringing it to the world 🌍
To the Lightning community for taking us to the next decade and beyond 🥂 pic.twitter.com/6GptFlOW6Y
— Lightning Labs⚡️ (@lightning) January 3, 2019
Cheaper, Faster, Tougher, Leaner
As a result of SegWit and the Lightning Network, bitcoin is presently experiencing low transaction fees (around $0.04 – $0.08) and quick confirmation times (within 1 – 2 blocks for most transactions). Ten years after its sleepy introduction, and a year after its last all-time high, bitcoin stands ready for the next bull run, having solved the main problems that it encountered in late 2017 / early 2018. Will the price of bitcoin continue its deep space trajectory in 2019? We can’t say for certain, but we can say that it is now ready for primetime in ways it hasn’t been before.
Regardless of how the price of BTC fared in 2018, its transformative effect is currently reverberating around the world, with the beginnings of Satoshi’s financial revolution underway. The global economy has significantly improved from its dismal state of affairs in 2009, with the U.S. dollar still being the go-to “safe haven investment” (despite the fact that it is actively being inflated by the Federal Reserve), yet the idea of bitcoin and a decentralized currency – not manipulated by any party or government – is only increasing in popularity, representative of a movement of individuals who no longer want to rely on centralized sources for the management or control of their finances.
Bitcoin is digital gold in the eyes of a growing subset of the population. To some extent this group already operates on a Bitcoin Standard: investments are evaluated on their ability to yield a return in Bitcoin.
— Tuur Demeester (@TuurDemeester) July 27, 2018
Below, we offer some reflections on bitcoin on its 10th anniversary penned by three of cryptocurrency’s most well-known voices. These are people who have been dealing in and with bitcoin since its early stages, who are some of its biggest ambassadors worldwide, and who therefore have a distinct viewpoint on the subject perhaps not enjoyed by most casual users or novice enthusiasts.
Armstrong, billionaire CEO of Coinbase, one of the largest and longest-lasting bitcoin exchanges and outspoken fan of bitcoin, published a series of tweets describing his experience with bitcoin and what had led him to develop a fascination with it:
“Today is a big day for Bitcoin, as it marks 10 years since the Genesis Block. Some people think I don’t like to talk about Bitcoin (😀), but today I have a few words to say… I read the Satoshi Nakamoto white paper for the first time in 2010, after seeing the link on Hacker News while I was home for Christmas https://bitcoin.org/bitcoin.pdf I couldn’t stop thinking about it for the next 6 months and re-read it a number of times.
I got excited by the prospect of another global decentralized protocol (like the internet) that could create a more open financial system for the world. I had a hope that it could create more economic freedom… Most of my friends thought Bitcoin sounded pretty crazy, but something in my gut told me it was important. I wanted to do something to help make this technology easier to use and see if it could get wider adoption…
The project was initially called BitBank (I liked how it alliterated – like Paypal, or CocaCola) but the lawyers told me not to use the word ‘Bank’ in the name. So I started brainstorming new names. I happened to see the word ‘coinbase’ in the Bitcoin Wiki https://en.bitcoin.it/wiki/Coinbase (it is a part of the Bitcoin protocol) and liked it. I purchased the domain http://coinbase.com a few days later for ~$1,800. Millions of customers later here we are.
Bitcoin is one of the most important inventions of all time and has launched a global movement. It’s awesome to see an entire ecosystem spring up around it, but Bitcoin is my first love. Bitcoin remains the most popular asset on Coinbase among new customers and longtime hodlers alike. It’s great to see steady progress continue, including lightning network adoption and more. To the extent I was critical of people working on any part of Bitcoin or crypto in the past, I apologize. My hope is that we see this technology succeed in the world, and my hat is off to anyone working to make that happen.
I believe we’re still at the beginning. The white paper signaled the start of a movement and the full promise of Bitcoin is still yet to be realized. Every day, I see more talented people coming in to the space, and I’ve never had more conviction about crypto and what it holds for the future. Happy 10th anniversary Bitcoin!”
In an interview with Bitcoin Magazine, long-time bitcoin evangelist and renowned public speaker Andreas Antonopoulos described how cryptocurrency, even 10 years after its invention, is still a slowly-brewing revolution that has yet to come full force.
“Back in the day, when I first got involved, this was a very small community, a very tight-knit community, a very focused community. There was a lot of commonality of purpose, and it felt very tight-knit. And I remember at the time, the main thing I wanted to explain and persuade people about was that this was bigger than payments. This isn’t just PayPal; this is bigger than that. It’s not just a payment network…
Ironically, to the outsiders, we’re all one bunch of weirdos. They don’t differentiate between the more business-friendly weirdos or the less business-friendly weirdos. We’re all weirdos. Because the system exists, it’s been running for hundreds of years and you’re not going to come and change it.
Of course, that’s what every system that got changed says. There is a simple way out of this: At some point, there is going to be a massive backlash. At some point, “the system” that we’re disrupting is going to fight back hard, but it hasn’t happened yet.
The funny thing is that, the day the system starts fighting back, those people will not differentiate between bitcoin cash and bitcoin, bitcoin and ethereum, ethereum and ripple, monero and zcash — as far as they’re concerned, we’re all a bunch of weirdo anarchists who are trying to help terrorists and drug lords defeat the financial order. They’re not going to differentiate. They’re going to backlash against all of us, and that’s going to be the great uniting moment.”
Theymos, administrator of the r/bitcoin subreddit and Bitcointalk.org (the original bitcoin forum founded by Satoshi Nakamoto), delivered an extremely eloquent and insightful missive about some potentially forgotten lessons to be learned from Satoshi’s masterwork:
“The foundations of Bitcoin were set in stone 10 years ago today with the creation of the genesis block, and Bitcoin version 0.1 was officially released a week later. Version 0.1 was amazingly complete, and even more impressively, it had very few bugs. It also had great forward-compatibility… Before anyone knew how a decentralized cryptocurrency would even work, Satoshi was figuring out how to add to Bitcoin things like smart contracts and payment channels. This is incredible, and a lot of people look at Satoshi’s amazing accomplishments with Bitcoin and say stuff like, “Satoshi must be a crypto super-genius, the next Einstein.” This, I think, is very much missing the point…
Satoshi is not awesome because he was watching the crypto world and had a brilliant idea. He’s awesome because upon having this idea, he carried it out. You know what I would’ve done if this idea had come to me? I probably would’ve mentioned it to a few people, maybe written some very basic code if I was feeling especially ambitious. You know what Satoshi did? He spent 2+ years contemplating every possible aspect of the system he could think of, and wrote code that worked brilliantly in the real world… The task of creating Bitcoin required a small flash of brilliance, moderate skill, and an unbelievably huge amount of dedication to thinking about, coding, and testing the system until it worked exactly as envisioned.
Satoshi’s lesson is that you don’t need to be the next Einstein in order to change the world. Nor do you need to have much money, or influence with the world’s “movers & shakers”. You just need to put in the effort. Satoshi, probably just an ordinary hobbyist like anyone here, saw that something was lacking in the Universe, and he fought tooth-and-nail for 2+ years until this imperfection was corrected. This is what makes Satoshi and his work my greatest inspiration.
Bitcoin has come a long way in 10 years, but it still has much more room to grow, with both major challenges and major opportunities ahead. How Bitcoin moves forward – how Satoshi’s work continues – is for as many people as possible to take personal responsbility for improving the Bitcoin ecosystem, creating interesting things, and changing the world for the better. Since we’ve long passed the moon, I hope you’ll join me in aiming for the stars.”