Within a day or so 2019 will be here and promises to be a year packed with no-action.
Starting with bitcoin, its birthday is this Thursday. The big ten. The chancellor in the block, Alistair Darling, is now a Lord.
We could not find any comment by him on bitcoin. We’ll see whether he responds to our requests for comments as it would be a very fit subject for the birthday. Just as it would be interesting to learn what he thinks of the stated aims of bitcoin and of being the subject of the most famous headline that embodies the 2007-2009 banking collapse.
Bitcoiners in particular will commemorate that tenth anniversary with a bank run on crypto exchanges by withdrawing their crypto-assets. How many of them will actually go through it remains to be seen.
Bakkt is another thing to anticipate in bitcoin. That’s the parent company of NYSE offering the buying and selling of bitcoin through a daily settled futures structure, which is not really futures but designed so to allow them to claim they are regulated by the Commodities Futures Trading Commission (CFTC).
The big news there is Starbuck’s involvement. The coffee shop may well see an opportunity to look cool and hip by accepting bitcoin for payments. That would be quite something and may well mark the beginning of mainstream usage.
Or would have done so if bitcoin can actually handle coffees, although how many would pay with it isn’t very clear. BTC isn’t very easily accessible so people wouldn’t easily part with it, but it can be useful as a backup.
If your card for example happened to have expired and you completely forgot, or for whatever reason it doesn’t work, you might remember you do have bitcoin, so you get spared a lot of trouble. You then deal with the card later instead of having to put everything on hold to find a branch.
There are many other likewise backup cases that may make accepting bitcoin quite worthwhile for merchants, especially now that it has grown considerably in popularity, but bitcoin currently can’t accommodate ordinary commerce.
The main bitcoin developers funded a for-profit company called Blockstream, so they’re answerable to VCs who require profits from whatever product they building with bitcoin being very much a secondary concern.
Segwit, for example, was designed for Blockstream’s Liquid. It was then copy pasted to bitcoin with some muttering on how much it cost to develop, how they just giving it away for free, etc.
Beyond segwit, bitcoin hasn’t really seen any code development of relevance to end users. The base protocol has basically frozen in any meaningful sense.
So at that level, we may indeed see no action. The focus is on the Lightning Network, but that too might only see improvements at the edges rather than anything end-users might care about.
Sidechains would be interesting, but they couldn’t figure out how to do them in a trustless manner. There are or were some other interesting developments on bitcoin, like TrueBit which started on bitcoin if we recall well. There’s also some other potential development at the edges, but real innovation might occur in packaged Blockstream products if they launch any.
Where capacity is concerned or where the problems with semi-centralized Proof of Work are concerned, bitcoin is far too conservative so we might not expect much.
They can afford to be. Crypto and bitcoin are used synonymously by the mainstream media and most ordinary individuals. They still have the widest infrastructure and they do still transfer far more funds by fiat value than any other crypto.
More importantly, they can afford to because no other crypto has yet solved the capacity issue in a manner that retains decentralization. Ethereum too, for example, also lacks capacity currently. If and when that changes, whether bitcoin can still afford to offer no real solutions to some real problems, remains to be seen.
In ethereum, 2019 may well be the most challenging year since it was created in 2015 because certain difficult decisions have to be made and certain arguments have to be laid out as the network moves towards world level scalability.
Unlike the blocksize debate, matters should remain civilized. Hopefully that doesn’t mean no polite dissent. We’ll want to see the articulation of the downsides, of which there certainly are some, because we’d rather hear them from eth devs than bitcoiners.
The matters in question are technical in a way, but not fully technical. Rent storage has what appears to be a political choice between simply deleting/restoring unused contracts or asking the used ones to pay the stakers.
Pruning is a more difficult one because that basically just keeps say three years of history, with the rest sent somewhere for storage. The question so being where, how, who sends it, of what use is the stored data and so on.
Rent might be controversial as far as current dapps are concerned. Pruning would be very controversial with bitcoiners. Bitcoiners however have completely failed so far to even address the scalability matter in a usable manner, so it’s doubtful any etherean would care about what they think as long as bitcoin continues to be not only limited in capacity, but also unbounded in history.
Meaning eth devs will probably be given the full ear to explain how they plan to maintain the network trustless while scaling it 10x perhaps by summer.
As the matters are complex and technical, they probably don’t want to have any arguments publicly, but both are significant decisions so they have to lay out clearly the pros and cons.
Just as they have to move a bit fast now and that is what they have promised. One can argue eth devs have been a bit too complacent this year, but next year starts with a fork. Then there might be some Beacon Stake, eth 1.x potential scaling, a fleshing out of sharding, and hopefully some detail on how it all will work.
All of it is work in progress as it stands, but the race is on in 2019. Polkadot will probably launch. How that will work exactly remains to be seen, but it may give eth a run for their money.
Unlike eos or any other chain, Polkadot is from Parity in as far as the devs overlap considerably. Eth, therefore, might see some real competition which might keep them on their toes and speed up things a bit.
Eth of course retains a considerable advantage because it has so many projects, dapps and devs working on it, but the time for complacency, whole months off, Woodstocks on workdays, might be over.
Eth therefore might have a very busy 2019 just on the base protocol front. Then there’s all the dapps that may launch, the continued increase in infrastructure as regulated eth futures probably launch, and so on.
Making 2019 quite a potential year indeed, especially if this sudden suggestion of 10x scalability does go through. Uncles have apparently fallen so, hopefully we get a thank you from miners.
Happy New Year Y’all. May it be the best yet.