This is an opinion editorial by Stanislav Kozlovski, a software engineer and macroeconomic researcher.
Many Bitcoiners have heard of Bitcoin’s “lack of scalability” — it is one of the most common critiques waged against the project by both gluttonous cryptocurrency competitors and incumbent establishment actors.
Some oldtimers may remember the heated, bathed-in-controversy Blocksize Wars of 2015 to 2017 which, aided by industry insiders, most shallowly aimed to make Bitcoin scale to more transactions by increasing the maximum block size and by doing so, almost set precedent and changed Bitcoin’s future course forever.
Both of these issues will ultimately prove to be left on the wrong side of history. In this piece, we are going to show how the Lightning Network addresses Bitcoin’s scalability problems and undoubtedly proves that the small-block decision was ultimately the right one.
Base Layer Limitations And Choices
Before we understand what the Lightning Network is solving, we should first understand what the inherent problem is. Simply put: You cannot scale a blockchain to validate the entire world’s transactions in a decentralized way.
Blockchains suffer from an inherent limitation which forces them to trade off between three qualities — one quality of their system has to go for the other two. As pictured above, a blockchain can only reliably have two of these three qualities:
- Decentralized: not controlled by any single party or a small number of elites
- Scalable: scale to a sufficient number of transactions
- Secure: not be easy to attack and break its invariants
It is worth noting that all of these characteristics sit on separate, complex spectrums. For example, you don’t become “secure” over a certain threshold, it is very dependent on the use case and many different characteristics.
Bitcoin is slow for a reason. It explicitly picked to optimize the “security” and “decentralization” sections of the trilemma, leaving “scalability” (transactions per second) on the sideline.
The key realization is that, much like today’s internet and financial system, it is more optimal to comprise the whole system of separate layers, where each layer optimizes for and is used for different things.
Bitcoin, the base layer, is a globally-replicated public ledger — every transaction is broadcast to every participant in the network. It is evident that one cannot practically scale such a ledger to accommodate the entire world’s growing transaction rate. Apart from being impractical and privacy damaging, its drawbacks vastly outweigh its insignificant benefits.
Back in the day, there was a major civil war between the online community in what Bitcoin should do to increase its transaction throughput capacity. There is major, infuriating controversy in this story and is in large part what shaped Bitcoin to remain what it is today — a grassroots, bottom-up movement where the average people (plebs), in aggregate with one another, dictate the rules of the network.
“The Blocksize War” by Jonathan Bier illustrates the battle between the decentralized network supporters wanting what’s best for the long-term viability of the network and the greed and propaganda perpetuated by major players and corporations to further their own power-gaining and profit-seeking agendas.
Long story short, Bitcoin was forked into a failed fork named “Bitcoin Cash.”
The little guy eventually won — Bitcoin did not rush any bad design choices that would come to compromise its decentralization, security or censorship resistance. The decision was effectively made to scale Bitcoin through layers, introducing second layers that work separately from Bitcoin and checkpoint their state to the main, slower-but-more-secure network.
In stark contrast, the evidently-unsuccessful fork Bitcoin Cash sacrificed all hopes of decentralization by increasing its block size to 32 megabytes, 32 times more than Bitcoin, for a mere maximum of 50 payments per second on the base chain.
Each Bitcoin block has a cap on its size and this denotes the upper bound on how many transactions can exist inside of a block. If demand grows to outpace the amount of transactions a block can have, the block becomes full and transactions get left unconfirmed in the mempool. Users begin to outbid each other via the adjustable transaction fee in order to have their transaction be included by the miners, who are incentivized to choose the highest-paying transactions.
A naive solution to this would be to simply increase the block size limit — that is, allow more transactions to be included in a block. The negative side effects of this are subtle enough that even intellectuals like Elon Musk make the mistake of suggesting it.
Increasing the block size has second-order effects which decrease the decentralization of the network. As the block size grows, the cost to run a node in the network increases.
In Bitcoin, each node has to store and validate each transaction. Further, said transaction has to be propagated to the node’s peers, which multiplies the network’s bandwidth requirements for supporting more transactions. The more transactions, the more the network’s processing (CPU) and storage (disk) requirements grow for each node. Because running a node yields no financial benefits, the incentive to run one disproportionately decreases the more costly it is.
To put it into numbers, if Bitcoin is to ever scale to Visa’s purported peak capacity levels (24,000 transactions per second) a node would need 48 megabytes per second just to receive the transactions over the network. The following is a map showing the average internet speed in the world:
As you can see, a massive part of the world’s average speed would exclude them from the ability to run a node under these conditions. Note that average speed implies that many are even lower than said threshold. Additionally, it doesn’t account for the fact that a user would have other uses for their bandwidth — few selfless people would dedicate 50% of their internet bandwidth for a Bitcoin node.
More importantly, the amount of data this would generate would make it impossible for anybody to practically store it — it would result in 518 gigabytes of data per day, or 190 terabytes of data a year.
Further, spinning up a new node would require one to download all of these petabytes of data and verify each signature — both of which would make it so that a new node would take a long time (years) to spin up.
And to make matters worse, 24,000 transactions per second doesn’t make for a truly unique global payments network in and of itself. Visa isn’t the only payments network in the world, and the world is growing more interconnected every day.
Lightning Network 101
The Lightning Network is a separate, second-layer network that works on top of the main Bitcoin network. Simply said, it batches Bitcoin transactions.
To access it, you need to run your own node or use somebody else’s. The network has two concepts worth understanding for the purposes here:
- A Lightning node: separate software that communicates with each other and constitutes a new peer-to-peer network.
- Channels: a connection opened between two Lightning nodes, allowing for payments to flow between them.
A channel is literally a Bitcoin base layer transaction, anchoring the channel to the secure chain.
Once two nodes open a channel between one another, payments start flowing between them. Each subsequent payment modifies the channel’s state, cryptographically revoking the old one and checkpointing the new one in memory and on disk of both nodes, but critically, not to the base chain.
Channels can and in my opinion ideally should stay open for a long time (e.g., a year or more). If the nodes ever decide to close down their channel, their latest balance after all the off-chain payments is restored to their original wallets. This is cryptographically-secured by hashed timelocked contracts (HTLC) and digital signatures, which we won’t get into detail for the purposes of this article.
This allows one to batch billions of payments into two on-chain transactions — one for opening the channel and one for closing it. Once a payment is complete, it is indisputable what the latest balance is between all parties (assuming nodes redundantly store their channel checkpoints).
Critically, one need not be directly connected to another party in order to pay them — channels can be used by other nodes in the network in order to increase their reachability. In other words, if Alice is connected to Bob and Bob is connected to Caroline, Alice and Caroline can seamlessly pay each other through Bob.
As we will now prove, the Lightning Network already scales to support 16,264 transactions a second today and therefore solves the scalability problem while preserving all the benefits Bitcoin has to offer — permissionlessness, scarcity, user sovereignty, portability, verifiability, decentralization and censorship resistance.
For a payment to make its way through the network, it typically has to go through multiple payment channels. To answer how many payments the network can do in a second, we need to understand how many an average channel supports.
Statistics show that the average payment goes through around three channels.
The benchmark numbers we will use for this analysis have per-node throughput capacity, not per-channel. Therefore, we will inaccurately assume that each node has just one channel. The default LND node is said to be able to do 33 payments per second with a decent machine (8 vCPUs, 32 GB memory) according to the benchmark.
With 16,266 nodes in the network (as of November 2022), assuming each payment has to go through three channels (four nodes), the network should be able to achieve around 134,194 payments per second.
That is, each payment has to go through a group of four nodes, and there are 4,066 such unique groups in the network. Assuming each node can do 33 payments a second, we multiply 4,066 by 33 to reach 134,194.
Now, to be realistic: Not every node is running a machine like the one in the benchmark — many are simply running on a Raspberry Pi. Thankfully, it doesn’t take much to be able to beat the current payment systems.
Lightning Vs. Traditional Payments
Finding authentic numbers about the peak capacity of traditional payment systems is hard, so we will rely on their average payment rate throughout the 2021 financial year. We will compare that to the theoretical capacity of Lightning, because conversely, getting the average rate of payments in Lightning is impossible due to its private nature, and is also not revealing of capability because the demand for Lightning payments is still relatively low. This comparison will give us an idea of how many payments a Lighting node needs to be capable of routing in order to out-compete traditional finance.
Visa saw 165 billion payments in 2021, PayPal saw 19.3 billion payments across its whole platform and FedWire saw 204 million. Respectively, these amount to 7,372, 612 and 6.5 payments per second on average for 2021. To put into perspective, Bitcoin did 2.44 payments per second in 2021 and scales up to a maximum of seven per second.
The numbers are promising — it takes each Lightning node to be capable of doing just four payments a second in order to beat the current payment networks by at least two times. At that rate, 4,066 unique four-node groups can achieve 16,264 payments per second — 2.2 times that of the largest competitor, Visa.
It’s worth remembering that one could always continue to scale the Lightning Network by creating new nodes. Since it is peer to peer, its scalability is theoretically unlimited as long as nodes in the network grow.
Further, the aforementioned benchmark by Bottlepay makes the case that there are no real technical blockers for Lightning node implementations to eventually reach 1,000 payments per second. At such a number, the network’s current throughput would be closer to four million per second, not to mention what it would be with an increase in the number of nodes.
And lastly, it is worth remembering that the Lightning Network is still very much immature software and has a fair amount of future optimizations to be done, both in the protocol and its implementations. Resources in terms of developers are the only short-term constraint to increasing scalability, which has rightfully come second to more important matters like reliability.
To give a sense of the progress there, River Financial recently shared that its payment success rate is 98.7% at an average size of $46, which is astonishingly better than the earliest publicly-available data it could find from 2018, where $5 transactions were failing 48% of the time.
In this piece, we exposed all of the negative drawbacks of scaling the Bitcoin blockchain through increasing the base layer’s block size, most notably severely compromising its decentralization and ultimately failing to achieve its aim of reaching the immense scalability needed for the demands a global payments network has and will continue to increasingly have in the future.
We showed that the Lightning Network, as a second-layer solution, most elegantly solves the scalability problem by both preserving all of Bitcoin’s benefits while at the same time scaling it way beyond what any base-layer solutions promise.
This is a guest post by Stanislav Kozlovski. Opinions expressed are entirely their own and do not necessarily reflect those of BTC Inc or Bitcoin Magazine.
2022 in Review: the Top 10 Crypto Moments of the Year
- The crypto ecosystem shed $2 trillion in market value and lost several major players in 2022, but it didn’t die.
- Terra, Three Arrows Capital, FTX, and a host of other big entities suffered wipeouts that characterized crypto’s turbulent year.
- Ethereum also completed “the Merge” to Proof-of-Stake after years of anticipation.
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From crypto war relief to multi-million dollar hacks and industry-shaking blowups, 2022 was another eventful year for the digital assets space.
The Crypto Moments of the Year
If you asked the average person on the street to sum up 2022 in crypto, there’s a good chance they’d tell you this was the year the technology died. Thousands of investors who came in drunk on bull market euphoria last year vowed to leave the space forever in 2022 as the hangover kicked in, but there were a few diehards who stuck around.
For those who did, this was hardly a quiet year. Sure, our coins tanked in dollar value this year as the industry suffered a $2 trillion rout, but there were plenty of major events to keep us entertained. Or if not entertained, at least occupied.
As is typical of bear markets, some of the landmark events of the year were also some of the most catastrophic. And few would argue that 2022 was one of crypto’s most catastrophic years yet. We watched in shock as Terra, Three Arrows Capital, and FTX fell like dominoes only a few months apart. People suffered staggering losses and it felt like the industry was set back by years.
Nonetheless, 2022 gave us a few positive developments. Ethereum had a good year despite ETH’s weak price performance as “the Merge” finally shipped. We also saw governments worldwide acknowledge crypto’s potential against a backdrop of war and soaring inflation.
2022 was one of crypto’s rockiest years ever, but the industry survived. During crypto’s last bear market, there was a question of whether the ecosystem would pull through. In 2022, those watching the space closest have no doubts that crypto is here to stay. And not just here to stay, but after the events of this year, the foundations should be stronger than ever in 2023 and beyond.
For now, though, the industry is still reflecting on what was—by all accounts—a memorable, if not entirely positive, year for the crypto ecosystem. Here were the 10 most important moments.
Canada Freezes Freedom Convoy Funds
The first major crypto event of 2022 did not occur on-chain, or even online, but in Ottawa, the capital city of Canada. On January 22, hundreds of Canadian truckers departed from various parts of the country to begin congregating at Parliament Hill to protest against COVID-19 vaccine mandates and restrictions. Since the government refused to negotiate with them, the so-called “Freedom Convoy” took control of the streets. Law enforcement struggled to remove the protestors due to the size of the convoy and vehicles.
On February 14, in response to the protests, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau invoked the Emergencies Act, which temporarily gives the government extraordinary powers to respond to public order emergencies. The Trudeau administration then ordered Canadian financial institutions to freeze the bank accounts of protesters—as well as anyone supporting them through donations—in a bid to cut their funding. Undeterred, the demonstrators switched to crypto, which led Canadian authorities to blacklist at least 34 different crypto wallets connected to the Freedom Convoy. Shortly thereafter, a joint police force forcefully removed the truckers from the streets; by February 20, Ottawa’s downtown area was completely cleared.
For the crypto space, the Ottawa protests showed the ease with which even Western democracies could weaponize their financial sectors against their own citizens. In that context, Bitcoin’s mission came to the fore. Crypto enthusiasts pointed out that Bitcoin offers a permissionless, censorship-resistant, worldwide payment system as an alternative to state-controlled banking networks. For all their faults, decentralized cryptocurrencies offer a crucial guarantee: your money really is your own, and no one can stop you from using it. As Arthur Hayes wrote in a March Medium post, if you’re solely relying on the traditional banking sector, “you might think you have a net worth of $100, but if the bank or government for whatever reason decides you can no longer access the digital network, your net worth becomes $0.” Tom Carreras
Ukraine Begins Accepting Crypto Donations
The Russia-Ukraine conflict had a major impact on global markets this year, crypto included. The market plunged as President Vladimir Putin ordered the Russian military to invade Ukraine, but the war became the first that saw crypto take center stage.
Within days of the invasion, the Ukrainian government’s official Twitter account put out a post requesting Bitcoin and Ethereum donations with two wallet addresses included. The tweet immediately sparked confusion, with Vitalik Buterin weighing in to warn people that the account may have been hacked.
But the government’s Ministry of Digital Transformation promptly confirmed that the request was, in fact, legitimate. The Ukrainian government really was asking for crypto to fund its war relief efforts.
Donations flooded in, and within three days the government had raised over $30 million worth of BTC, ETH, DOT, and other digital assets. Someone even sent a CryptoPunk NFT.
The initial fundraising campaign was just one of the government’s historic moves to embrace crypto during a time of crisis. There was also an NFT museum, while UkraineDAO worked with the government to raise additional funds and awareness.
Crypto also came under sharp focus during the war due to the West’s sanctions against Russia, with politicians warning that Russian oligarchs could turn to crypto to hide their wealth. Citizens who fled Russia turned to Bitcoin to preserve their money as the ruble shed its value, while major exchanges like Kraken, Binance, and Coinbase faced calls to block Russian citizens following global sanctions. The three exchanges limited their services following EU sanctions.
Amid the destruction from Russia’s attack on Ukraine, crypto’s role in the war showed the power of borderless money clearer than ever. In a time of crisis, Internet money served as a powerful tool for those in need. Ukraine’s request for crypto donations was a world first, but it’s safe to say we’ll see other nation states adopting crypto in the future. Chris Williams
Biden Signs Executive Order on Crypto Regulation
On top of every other haywire thing that happened this year, authorities the world over—but especially in the U.S.—stepped their regulatory game up to a whole new level. And frankly, it’s about time. If we’re being honest, the U.S. government’s approach to regulating cryptocurrency has been scattershot even on its best days, and you can hardly imagine an industry imploring, just shy of begging, for a clearer set of rules.
Going into 2022, it was pretty clear the executive branch had made no real coordinated progress on even sorting out what digital assets actually are, let alone how to regulate them. Are they securities? Commodities? Something else entirely? Maybe they’re like securities in some ways but not like securities in other ways. Maybe some of them are commodities, and others are securities, and others are currencies… but what are the criteria by which we make those distinctions? Is Congress working on this? Who even makes the rules in this branch of government anyway?
The President, that’s who.
13 years and three administrations after Bitcoin’s genesis block was mined, President Biden issued an executive order directing almost all federal agencies, including the cabinet departments, to finally come up with comprehensive plans for U.S. crypto regulation and enforcement. Biden’s order was anticipated for months before it was finally signed in March, and when it landed it was generally seen as a boon to the industry. Far from the draconian approach that many had feared, Biden’s order was little more than a research directive that required each agency to get a plan together once and for all and submit it to the White House.
While there is little disagreement that a comprehensive crypto rulebook is needed, the government body with the power to write one—i.e., Congress—isn’t signaling that it’s rushing any through. As it currently stands, crypto can only be regulated under the framework of the laws as they are currently written, and that is the president’s job. It’s about time a president at least got the ball rolling.
If we’re being totally fair, an executive order really isn’t much in terms of power and enforceability; it has about the same force of law as an office memorandum. But when the office in question is the Executive Branch of the United States, that memo’s importance can’t be overstated. Jacob Oliver
Attackers Steal $550M From Ronin Network
Crypto suffered a number of high-profile hacks in 2022, but the nine-figure exploit that hit Axie Infinity’s Ronin bridge in March was the biggest by some distance.
A group of attackers later identified by U.S. law enforcement as the North Korean state-sponsored Lazarus Group used phishing emails to gain access to five of nine Ronin chain validators. This allowed the criminal syndicate to loot the bridge that connected the network to Ethereum mainnet of 173,600 Ethereum and 25.5 million USDC with a combined value of around $551.8 million.
The strangest detail of the whole incident is that the hack occurred six days before the news broke. For almost a week, nobody managing the bridge or providing liquidity realized the funds had been drained. While this shows a worrying lack of attention from Axie Infinity creator Sky Mavis and its partners, the slow response can partly be explained by the bridge’s lack of use due to deteriorating market conditions.
The Ronin incident marked the start of a spate of Lazarus Group attacks against the crypto space. In June, Layer 1 network Harmony lost $100 million to a similar phishing scheme, while DeFiance Capital founder Arthur Cheong also fell prey to a targeted attack from the North Korean hackers, costing him a stack of high-value Azuki NFTs.
Although the majority of these funds are still missing, around $36 million has been returned with the help of blockchain analytics firm Chainalysis and crypto exchange Binance. Tim Craig
Yuga Labs Launches Otherside
Yuga Labs won at NFTs in 2021, but the Bored Ape Yacht Club creator didn’t slow down on its winning streak as it entered 2022. A March acquisition of Larva Labs’ CryptoPunks and Meebits collections sealed Yuga’s crown as the world’s top NFT company, helping Bored Apes soar. Bored Ape community members were treated to the biggest airdrop of the year when ApeCoin dropped the following week, with holders of the original tokenized monkey pictures receiving six-figure payouts. The company also landed a mega-raise led by a16z, but its biggest play of the year came in April as it turned its focus toward the Metaverse.
Yuga kicked off its Metaverse chapter with an NFT sale for virtual land plots, offering community members a shot at owning a piece of a mystical world dubbed “Otherside.” True to the Yuga playbook, existing community members were given their own Otherdeeds plots for free as a reward for their loyalty, while others were left to scrap it out for the virtual world’s 55,000 plots in a public mint.
And boy did they scrap.
The Otherside launch was the most anticipated NFT drop of the year and Bored Apes were soaring, so demand for the virtual land was high. As expected, a gas war ensued, and only those who could afford to spend thousands of dollars on their transaction made it through. Yuga blamed the launch on Ethereum’s congestion issues and hinted that it could move away from the network, though those plans never passed. All told, the company banked about $310 million from the sale, making it the biggest NFT drop in history. Prices briefly spiked on the secondary market and have since tumbled due to general market weakness, but it’s safe to say that all eyes will be back on the collection once Metaverse hype picks up. In a year that saw interest in NFTs crash, Yuga proved once again that the technology isn’t going anywhere. And Otherside has as good a shot as any to take it to the next level. Chris Williams
At its height, Terra was one of the world’s biggest cryptocurrencies by market capitalization. Terra saw a staggering rise in late 2021 through early 2022 thanks mainly to the success of its native stablecoin, UST. Contrary to most stablecoins, UST was not fully collateralized: it relied on an algorithmic mechanism to stay on par with the U.S. dollar. The system let users mint new UST tokens by burning an equivalent amount of Terra’s volatile LUNA coin, or redeem UST for new LUNA coins.
Terra’s mechanism helped the blockchain rise at the onset of the bear market as crypto users sought refuge in stablecoins to avoid exposure to plunging crypto assets. UST was a particularly alluring option because of Anchor Protocol, a lending platform on Terra that provided a 20% yield on UST lending. As market participants flocked to UST to take advantage of the yield, they increasingly burned LUNA, sending its price higher. The rise—coupled with Terra frontman Do Kwon’s emphatic endorsements on social media—projected a feeling that Terra was simply invulnerable to the downtrend. In turn, UST seemed even more attractive.
At its peak, the Terra ecosystem was worth more than $40 billion, but the network’s dual token mechanism proved to be its undoing. A series of whale-sized selloffs challenged UST’s peg on May 7, raising alarm bells before UST posted a brief recovery. UST lost its peg again two days later, triggering a full-blown bank run. UST holders rushed to redeem their tokens against LUNA coins, greatly expanding the supply of LUNA and depreciating the coin’s value, which in turn led even more UST holders to redeem. By May 12, UST was trading for $0.36, while LUNA’s price had crashed to fractions of a cent.
Terra’s collapse caused a market wipeout, but the damage did not stop there. The protocol’s implosion sparked an acute liquidity crisis, hitting major players like Celsius, Three Arrows Capital, Genesis Trading, and Alameda Research. Lawmakers from around the world also decried the risks posed by stablecoins, especially algorithmic ones. In many ways, Terra was decentralized finance’s biggest failure, and the consequences of its implosion are still unraveling. Tom Carreras
Celsius, 3AC Fall in Major Crypto Liquidity Crisis
When the Terra ecosystem collapsed, we knew the fallout would be bad, but we didn’t yet know who it would affect and how long it would take. As it happens, it took about a month. Terra imploded in May, erasing tens of billions of dollars in value and drawing the attention of prosecutors on multiple continents. By mid-June, the fruits of Do Kwon’s “labor” had found their way into centralized, retail crypto markets, and that’s when things really went south.
On the evening of June 12, Celsius alerted its customers that it was temporarily, but indefinitely, placing withdrawals on hold. Everyone instantly knew that this was very bad. Celsius had invested in Terra, and when the bottom fell out of that project, it fanned a flame that had already been lit by CEO Alex Mashinsky’s unauthorized trading on the company’s books, as was later revealed. As its investments became insolvent, it sparked a chain reaction among a familiar cast of characters, all of whom saw better days before June 2022.
What’s worse, most of this borrowing and lending took place within a closed network of a handful of companies. Celsius loaned money on decentralized platforms like Maker, Compound, and Aave but also loaned heavily to centralized entities like Genesis, Galaxy Digital, and Three Arrows Capital. Those guys (except Galaxy, to its credit) were turning around and loaning it back out again, and so on. It will likely be years before we see the full chains of custody surrounding all of the assets that were passed around, but signs suggest that for all their multi-billion dollar valuations, these firms might have just been passing the same pile of money around over and over again.
The next major implosion was Three Arrows; within a few days of Celsius’s announcement, rumors of 3AC’s insolvency began to circulate and its co-founders, Su Zhu and Kyle Davies, went silent. They’re now believed to be on the run owing about $3.5 billion after defaulting on a series of loans. Others like Babel Finance, Voyager Digital, and BlockFi were also hit by the contagion that would eventually reach the Sam Bankman-Fried’s FTX empire (even if it took a few months).
The June liquidity crisis served as a dreadful reminder of the dangers of centralized exchanges and the degree to which these so-called “custodians” actually custody customer funds. Granted, some of these companies did not hide what they were doing, even if they weren’t drawing particular attention to it, either. But hey, that was the central value proposition of CeDeFi—if you wanted attractive DeFi yields but didn’t have the time, knowledge, or patience to do it yourself, you might have a custodian do it for you. But you have to be able to trust them to some degree, and even if you are giving them permission to play with your money, they need to be upfront about what—and I mean exactly what—they’re doing with it.
It also tests the boundaries of “terms and conditions,” which have always been a thorn in the side of any user trying to interact with any given product. Celsius, to its credit, made it pretty plain that it was going to do whatever it wanted with customer deposits: its terms of service clearly state that it is not a legal custodian of customer funds and instead considers customer deposits a “loan” to the company, which it is then free to trade, stake, lend, transfer, and more with the money, all while clarifying that “in the event that Celsius becomes bankrupt… you may not be able to recover or regain ownership of such Digital Assets, and other than your rights as a creditor of Celsius under any applicable laws, you may not have any legal remedies or rights in connection with Celsius’ obligations to you.”
That’s some pretty weaselly language for a brand that promoted itself as a more “trustworthy” alternative to banks, but it would seem they’re going to ride it all the way to the bankruptcy courts. Jacob Oliver
U.S. Treasury Sanctions Tornado Cash
Tornado Cash is a privacy-preserving protocol that helps users obfuscate their on-chain transaction history. On August 8, the U.S. Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control announced it had placed the protocol on its sanctions list. In a statement, the agency claimed that cyber criminals (including North Korean state-sponsored hackers) used Tornado Cash as a vehicle for money laundering.
The ban outraged the crypto industry. Crypto companies like Circle and Infura immediately moved to comply with the sanctions by blacklisting Ethereum addresses that had interacted with Tornado Cash. Some DeFi protocols followed suit by blocking wallets from their frontends.
Following OFAC’s announcement, Netherlands’ Fiscal Information and Investigation Service arrested Tornado Cash core developer Alexey Pertsev on suspicion of facilitating money laundering. He’s still in custody with no formal charges leveled against him at press time.
The Tornado Cash ban was unprecedented as it marked the first time a government agency sanctioned open-source code rather than a specific entity. It also flagged concern about Ethereum’s ability to remain censorship resistant.
Commendably, the crypto community has taken various initiatives to fight back against the decision, the most notable of which is Coin Center’s lawsuit against OFAC. The outcome of the case could have a huge impact on crypto’s future as it will determine whether the U.S. government has the power to sanction other decentralized projects. Tom Carreras
Ethereum Ships “the Merge”
There was little to distract us from bad news in 2022, but Ethereum brought some relief to the space over the summer as it started to look like “the Merge” could finally ship. Ethereum’s long-awaited Proof-of-Stake upgrade has been in discussion for as long as the blockchain’s existed, so anticipation was high once the September launch was finalized.
Hype for the Merge was enough to lift the market out of despair following the June liquidity crisis, and talk of a Proof-of-Work fork of the network helped the narrative gain steam. ETH soared over 100% from its June bottom, raising hopes that the benefits of the Merge—99.95% improved energy efficiency and a 90% slash in ETH emissions—could help crypto flip bullish.
In the end, the upgrade shipped without a hitch on September 15. As some savvy traders predicted, the Merge was a “sell the news” event and EthereumPOW failed, but the Ethereum community was unfazed by weak price action. Frequently compared to an airplane changing engine mid-flight, the Merge was hailed as crypto’s biggest technological update since Bitcoin’s launch, and Ethereum developers were widely applauded for its success.
Interestingly, the mainstream press picked up on Ethereum’s improved carbon efficiency once the Merge shipped, but it’s likely that the real impact of the update will only become apparent over the coming years.
The Merge has vastly improved Ethereum’s monetary policy to the point where ETH has briefly turned deflationary, and it may have set the stage for yield-hungry institutions to adopt ETH. So if crypto is to enter a new bull market in a post-Merge world, Ethereum has as good a shot as any at leading the race. Chris Williams
By the autumn of 2022, the feeling of disaster in the crypto world had become almost normalized. Terra had imploded, a dozen or so prominent companies folded over the summer, the Treasury outlawed an open-source protocol, and so on. But while we were almost numb from the sheer scale of catastrophes the year hit us with, 2022 saved its most shocking cataclysm for last.
Just a month ago, FTX was on top of the world. The Bahamas-based exchange was known for spending a lot of money on promoting its image, and in doing so made itself as close to a household name as there is in crypto. Clearly targeting the American retail consumer, FTX went especially big on associating itself with sports, striking sponsorship deals with the likes of Tom Brady and Steph Curry, slapping its name on Miami Heat’s arena, and splashing out on advertising at the Super Bowl. When other centralized custodians began to fail, FTX stepped to offer emergency credit and investments to stave off the worst.
Its scruffy CEO, Sam Bankman-Fried, would make the special effort to trade in his cargo shorts for a shirt and tie when he visited D.C. to hold court with politicians and regulators, assuring them of FTX’s trustworthiness and commitment to level-headed cooperation between government and industry to institute reasonable rules and regulation for the space. He graced magazine covers, hosted former heads of state at FTX events, and made grand shows of his charitable inclinations, insisting his ultimate goal was to make as much money as he could so that he could give it all away to good causes.
So it came as a bombshell in early November when rumors of illiquidity at FTX’s officially-unofficial sister company, Alameda Research (also founded by SBF and, according to court filings, entirely under his control) could put a squeeze on FTX. That sparked a bank run on the platform, which subsequently revealed that most of the exchange’s assets were already gone. By most accounts, the story is that FTX “lent” those deposits to Alameda, which had lost billions on poorly-managed, high-risk positions. Then Alameda lost those too, leaving a $10 billion hole in FTX’s books.
As more details come to light through witness interviews and court documents, it’s become painfully clear that not only was FTX not a good company, it was an exceptionally bad one. Everything—and I mean everything—about the FTX blowout was extraordinary, with each revelation of malfeasance, deception, duplicity, incompetence, and fraud outmatched only by the next one. Obviously details are still murky and no one has yet been proven guilty of any crimes. But we know at least two things for sure: there is substantial evidence that FTX took $10 billion from its customer deposits to cover Alameda’s bad trades, and they were hardly even bothering to keep track of the money.
It’s one thing to cook the books; it’s another thing entirely not to keep the books at all. Even granting the most generous benefit of the doubt still suggests utter incompetence at best. It now seems likely that when FTX paused withdrawals during the bank run it experienced on November 8, it may very well have been in part because the firm didn’t even know where the money was.
Three days later, FTX filed for bankruptcy and SBF “resigned” from his position as CEO of FTX. He was immediately replaced by John J. Ray III, a man who has made a career out of overseeing the dissolution of failing companies, some of which tanked as a result of fraud or other malfeasance. In language that is nothing short of legendary, Ray testified in writing to the court:
“Never in my career have I seen such a complete failure of corporate controls and such a complete absence of trustworthy financial information as occurred here. From compromised systems integrity and faulty regulatory oversight abroad, to the concentration of control in the hands of a very small group of inexperienced, unsophisticated and potentially compromised individuals, this situation is unprecedented.”
And this is the man who oversaw the dissolution of fucking Enron.
SBF’s defense, if one could really call it that, has been an ill-advised series of public comments, interviews, and tweets that have accomplished nothing except to enrage everyone watching and add to the prosecutors’ list of evidence. He’s still in the Bahamas, reportedly “under supervision” but living life in his multi-million dollar Nassau penthouse; most onlookers, though, are wondering why he’s not currently “under supervision” at a federal holding facility without bail. Bernie Madoff was arrested within 24 hours of the authorities learning of the evidence of his improprieties; it leaves us wondering what’s taking them so long this time. Jacob Oliver
Disclosure: At the time of writing, some authors of this piece owned BTC, ETH, some Otherside NFTs, and several other crypto assets. An author had also filed a claim in Bragar, Eagle, & Squire’s class-action suit against Celsius Network.
The latest proposal from MakerDAO could have this impact on DAI
- MakerDAO voted to implement the DSR that would see DAI holders get 1% of their investments
- DAI, currently the fourth largest stablecoin, witnessed a decline in volume over the last 24 hours
MakerDAO, the governance division of Maker, the company that issues DAI, recently voted on the addition of interest rates in a proposal on 28 November. The proposed interest rate was between 0.01% and 1%.
Most voters chose a DAI Savings Rate (DSR) of 1% after voting. This meant that once the DSR feature launched, investors would have 1% added to their investment each time they used it.
DAI holders and investors, in particular, would benefit more from owning the stablecoin.
MakerDAO votes for a 1% interest rate
With this vote, investors could earn a 1% annualized return on their DAI holdings, as incentivized by the DAI Savings Rate (DSR). Implementation plans would get underway after the voting phase to facilitate eventual deployment.
The community would still require future executive votes to confirm the decision. Holders of the MKR token will also vote for the activation of the DSR in the protocol.
DAI active addresses increase
In terms of market capitalization, DAI was the fourth-largest stablecoin at the time of this writing. It was also the 12th-largest cryptocurrency overall, according to data from CoinMarketCap.
Over the previous 24 hours, the stablecoin’s total volume had decreased by over 10%. Its popularity and user base might expand due to the recent DSR. The number of addresses had increased, according to the active address measure for the previous 30 days. The growth, as per the chart, might reach the level last seen in July.
The Maker community approved a $500 million investment in bonds and treasuries in a vote on 6 October. This action was just one of many that the community took to diversify its resources and lower risk exposure. Additionally, a motion to give Coin Base Prime custody of more than $1 billion in USDC for a 1.5% profit was made to benefit the community.
These developments indicate that the current DSR feature can be maintained, and the incentives suggest that the ecosystem would have plenty of liquidity.
Bitcoin At $500K No Longer Possible, Galaxy Digital CEO Says, As He Backtracks
Bitcoin seems to have reached a point when even its biggest and most bullish admirers and investors are slowly losing hope in the crypto asset altogether.
In fact, no less than well-known crypto advocate and Galaxy Digital CEO Mike Novogratz, who, back in March 2022, said the maiden cryptocurrency will hit $500,000 by 2027, dialed down his predictions owing to the subpar performance of BTC.
During his recent interview, Novogratz seemingly blamed the interest rate hikes that were implemented by the U.S. Federal Reserve in a desperate but aggressive attempt to contain the rate of inflation in the country.
The CEO also mentioned the collapse of the FTX exchange platform, lenders Celsius Network and BlockFi and Three Arrows Capital hedge fund as major contributory factors to the downhill trajectory of the broader market as it hurt people’s confidence on the digital asset class.
A Tall Order For Bitcoin
Many analysts and experts were skeptical about the Galaxy Digital top honcho’s forecast for Bitcoin as it meant the asset will have to grow in meteoric proportions for it to reach the $500K level.
During the time Novogratz made his statement, BTC needed to increase its value by a dozen times in order to trade at half a billion dollars.
In doing so, the cryptocurrency will then push its market capitalization to $9.2 trillion – 10 times the current overall valuation of the entire crypto market.
Galaxy Digital CEO Mike Novogratz. Image: Forbes.
The closest Bitcoin has even been was when it registered its prevailing all-time high of a little over $69,000 back in November 2021.
During that time, its market cap surpassed the $1 trillion marker. Still, BTC is still several steps away from the level Novogratz was so sure it would be five years from now.
With all things considered, the crypto advocate maintained Bitcoin will still hit $500,000 but no longer within five years.
A Quick Look At Bitcoin’s Current Performance
According to tracking from Coingecko, at the time of this writing, BTC is changing hands at $17,017, having lost more than 70% of its value in the same time last year.
It still remains as the largest cryptocurrency by market capitalization but its overall valuation is currently at $327.04 billion.
It will most likely end 2023 with a value that is significantly lower than what it started this year with. Some analysts say Bitcoin’s surge will come between next year and 2024, although the uptick will probably peak at $24K.
Crypto total market cap at $810 billion on the daily chart | Featured image from Common Cents Mom, Chart: TradingView.com
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