2020 was unforgettable, especially for Bitcoin. To help memorialize this year for our readers, we asked our network of contributors to reflect on Bitcoin’s price action, technological development, community growth and more in 2020, and to reflect on what all of this might mean for 2021. These writers responded with a collection of thoughtful and thought-provoking articles. Click here to read all of the stories from our End Of Year 2020 Series.
In 2020, Bitcoin benefited strongly from the incredible media-driven fear and government overreaction around COVID-19. Over decades, fiat money and debt culture has degenerated our ability to think and plan long term. But while society’s fiat savings were being inflated away, many were able to insulate themselves from the impact.
So what changed this year? It was a tipping point of understanding. The macroeconomic winds had finally changed enough that people were realizing that something was wrong.
There used to be some semblance of an interest rate and return for savers. But as those have been driven to almost zero in nominal terms, and negative in real terms, well-known investors have now openly acknowledged the value of bitcoin as a store of value. We saw billionaire investors, money managers and public company CEOs speak out with bullish points of view on Bitcoin: Paul Tudor Jones, Stanley Druckenmiller, Bill Miller, Larry Fink and Rick Rieder of BlackRock, Michael Saylor of MicroStrategy and Jack Dorsey of Square.
Many in the traditional investing world remain confused. Consider this exchange between Melissa Lee and Saylor. Saylor understands the game here is to earn (whether in fiat or bitcoin), and then store that value in bitcoin, while Lee seems stuck on the idea that this is some “bet” on bitcoin. As though remaining in fiat was not itself a risk given these underlying conditions.
In other interviews, Saylor has aptly characterized sitting in fiat as sitting on a melting ice cube. It’s hard enough to turn a buck and make an honest living these days. There’s rightly a sense that a person should not also have to be an equity analyst, property mogul or a bond king to hold on to their savings.
More broadly, we’ve seen a rise in the savings rate. In the U.S., the savings rate has gone from the 5 percent range to the 15 percent range in 2020. Australian household saving has jumped from 5 percent to around 20 percent in 2020. What happens as more people around the world realize that bitcoin is the “fastest horse,” as Jones put it?
The Impact Of The Bitcoin Halving
As anticipated, bitcoin’s third subsidy halving occurred in May 2020. The four-yearly event that is like New Year’s Eve for bitcoiners went over in a festive way, with many live streams and events taking place.
Also relevant in terms of Bitcoin memes, the NgU (Number Go Up) technology meme became much more prominent in 2020. While “Number Go Up” was initially intended as an insult to bitcoiners for their apparent simplicity, bitcoin’s strict supply schedule and monetary qualities do make it a loosely-considered Number Go Up technology.
As to whether S2F (stock-to-flow) modelling works, debate continues to rage on. The pro-S2F model side asserts that the model has not yet been broken, while the anti-S2F model side argues that it is not statistically valid, that the goal posts keep shifting, etc. We will see what happens next year.
Bitcoin’s Technical Development
There’s been more focus on making Bitcoin development more distributed, and sustainable over the long term. We’ve seen more focus on the importance of reviewing and testing important code in Bitcoin Core and in related software. Contributions continue to be made by existing development organizations like Blockstream, Chaincode Labs, MIT DCI, Crypto Garage and Square Crypto.
Research and development organizations are being created and built to support in this area, such as Brink, Judica and the Human Rights Foundation’s (HRF) development funding effort.
Another welcomed trend has been Bitcoin exchanges and companies increasingly making contributions either directly to individual contributors, or to Bitcoin development organizations.
Development Of Bitcoin Privacy
While it’s not the focus of every bitcoiner, privacy remains an important consideration and there were some welcome advancements in the space this year.
Soroban by the Samourai Wallet team enables much faster and easier collaborative private transactions that break the heuristics that surveillance firms rely on. Samourai Wallet’s growing user numbers and rising Whirlpool unspent capacity (both in BTC terms and in fiat terms) represent a growing recognition of its leading toolset in the Bitcoin privacy game.
Ronin Dojo as a node project is also maturing and becoming an easy go-to choice for the user who wants to use Samourai Wallet in a more sovereign fashion.
CoinSwaps being developed by Chris Belcher (with grants from Square Crypto and HRF) are an interesting non-custodial tool for additional privacy also.
Multisig And Hardware Wallets
Interesting highlights here were the advancing conversation around using multisignature and making it easy to use, as well as community discussion calling out common pitfalls. Some of the relevant pieces and considerations (such as Michael Flaxman’s wishlist from 2019) came together or were more widely supported, such as PSBT (partially-signed bitcoin transactions), HWI (hardware wallet integration), animated QR scanning libraries and backup files for multisig.
Guided multisignature providers like Unchained Capital and Casa both made great progress in terms of offering new features such as OTC and/or directly stacking bitcoin into multisig cold storage. Unchained Capital’s Caravan project provides easy user-independent recovery for users on the commercial Vaults product, and another DIY multisig option for those not comfortable with the commercial product. Casa’s Casa Wallet application enables a new level of ease in terms of the “seedless” onboarding for newcoiners with cloud backup.
Specter Desktop is a clear stand out in the DIY multisignature space (and also for single signature users) recently, given the application is a simple Windows or Mac install that easily calls out to the local Bitcoin Core instance. This represents a new level of ease of use that was not previously available to the user who wanted to use their own hardware wallet with their own full node.
Bitcoin’s Lightning Network advanced in 2020 with more widespread adoption of MPP (multi-part payments) across the network, the activation of wumbo (large channels) and the growing maturity of beginner/consumer-level easy Lightning wallets such as Breez, Phoenix and Strike.
The Lightning ecosystem grew in different areas, such as its use for mining pool payouts, sats-back rewards, Lightning-powered gaming and interestingly, use as part of a brave new push into “Podcasting 2.0” led by Adam Curry (Podcast Index) and the Sphinx app team.
Some of the other tooling around Lightning Network also advanced with Lightning Pool, a marketplace built to help Lightning Network users deal with managing their channel liquidity, along with other tools like Autoloop. Dashboards like RTL (Ride The Lightning) and ThunderHub emerged as popular Lightning node management tools also.
With that said, there were also attacks on the Lightning Network disclosed by researchers, and some mitigations and protections also proposed against these attacks. As the Lightning Network grows up, it will surely have to face more malicious adversarial actors, but nevertheless it is a very exciting space that I remain very bullish on.
Savings Technology Goes Large
As my friend Pierre Rochard says, Bitcoin is savings technology. This way of thinking about bitcoin will become popular in a world where people have no good alternatives.
Popular messaging in the past was more associated with lump-sum buying or selling and attempting to time the market. Going forward, I believe the common method will be to start with a lump-sum buy, and then regularly accumulate, aka DCA (dollar-cost averaging). 2020 saw the rise of bitcoin-only DCA businesses and 2021 should be even bigger.
We’ve seen impressive growth and development in tooling that enables Bitcoin use in more self-sovereign ways, from node packages, to wallet software, hardware wallets, Lightning Network and continuing advancement at Bitcoin’s protocol level.
Many who only took a cursory look in past years will take a deeper dive, and others who invested a small amount will increase the size of their investment after being validated in their thesis.
Globally speaking, Bitcoin has been fringe up until recently, but it is about to go through the next big leg up in adoption and use.
This is a guest post by Stephan Livera. Opinions expressed are entirely their own and do not necessarily reflect those of BTC Inc or Bitcoin Magazine.