2020 has been an epic year for crypto and blockchain, but some did more than most to help spur adoption.
In future years, it’s possible that 2020 will be seen as a watershed moment for cryptocurrencies. When Black Thursday hit in March, it wiped billions off the markets in a matter of hours. Anyone would have been forgiven for thinking recovery would take years.
But by December, Bitcoin (BTC) has gone on to achieve a new all-time high, breaking the $20,000 resistance and almost reaching $24,000 in the process. This has come at the end of the first year in Bitcoin’s history where it was tested against the backdrop of a global recession.
Indeed, 2020 has also seen active addresses approach 2017 levels, according to data from Glassnode. So, as much as speculation points to institutional investors as the reason for Bitcoin’s meteoric recovery, the data suggests that general adoption is on the rise.
This leads to a question: Which companies, governments and other entities have made the greatest contribution to cryptocurrency adoption in 2020? In no particular order, here are Cointelegraph’s top picks:
When it emerged in late October that the payments industry behemoth was planning to integrate cryptocurrencies into its platform, the markets responded with gusto. PayPal’s news confirmed what many had been suspecting for some time, but the announcement came with a surprising cherry on top: PayPal also announced that from January, users would be able to spend cryptocurrency at any of its 26 million merchants.
It isn’t just Bitcoin that has benefitted from the news, which appears to be creating a positive reinforcement cycle for PayPal’s stock too. Shares in the company have risen by 17% over the months since its announcement. While users in the United States can already take advantage of the service, PayPal will launch crypto trading to all of its 300 million global user base starting from next year.
The Office of the Comptroller of the Currency
The relationship between cryptocurrencies and U.S. regulators has long been a tense one. However, in July, things took a sudden u-turn when the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency issued a memo providing the green light for banks to start offering cryptocurrency custodial services.
The move covers all national banks and federal savings associations, effectively removing a significant regulatory hurdle for cryptocurrency adoption in the country. Not only is this a critical development for retail holders of cryptocurrency, but it also paves the way for institutional adoption. Furthermore, banks no longer have a reason to refuse services to legitimate cryptocurrency service providers, assuming they’re prepared to comply with general Know Your Customer standards.
From a practical perspective, it will take some time for banks to install the necessary security policies and infrastructure for handling digital assets. Nevertheless, the actions of the OCC are a substantial leap in furthering crypto adoption in the United States.
Dow Jones S&P 500
Perhaps as a direct result of the OCC’s actions, and no doubt related to the ongoing bull market, it emerged in December that Wall Street was officially going in on digital assets. S&P Dow Jones Indices issued an announcement confirming it will debut cryptocurrency indices starting in 2021. The news comes thanks to a partnership with Lukka, a U.S.-based blockchain data provider.
It’s not yet clear which assets exactly will feature as part of the indices. However, with 550 cryptocurrencies in scope, it seems to be a fair bet that the vast majority of the top-ranking tokens will be included. The move could help to spur further institutional adoption of cryptocurrency, as more mainstream market infrastructure makes digital assets more accessible to Wall Street investors.
The CEO of Galaxy Digital has perhaps done more than any other individual to advocate the adoption of Bitcoin this year. After his firm’s earnings showed a 75% year-on-year rise, he went on the record to state his belief that Bitcoin would go on to hit $65,000 after it exceeds its 2017 all-time high.
A few days later, he was back to recommend that everyone put 3% of their net worth into the asset and hold onto it until 2025. By early December, he upped the ante again, encouraging investors to put 5% of their portfolio into crypto.
Demonstrating he’s prepared to put his money where his mouth is, he also told CNN that he has 50% of his own net worth tied up in digital assets. A week or so later, Bitcoin soared through its previous all-time high.
The founder of Barstool Sports has had an on-again-off-again relationship with cryptocurrencies for most of 2020. In August, Dave Portnoy, aka “Davey Day Trader,” invited the Winklevoss brothers to his house to teach him about Bitcoin. Following that, he started shilling alt coins, leading some members of crypto Twitter to start calling him out for his lack of experience. A day later, he claimed to be on the road to becoming a crypto millionaire.
After abandoning digital assets entirely, the capricious entrepreneur came back to Bitcoin a whole two weeks later, declaring this time that “my heart is crypto.”
Whether you were laughing or rolling your eyes, Portnoy’s antics undoubtedly helped to draw attention to cryptocurrencies. Therefore, his influence in adoption earns him a place on this list.
The Supreme Court of India
In 2018, the Reserve Bank of India dealt a death blow to cryptocurrency firms operating in the world’s second-most populous nation. As the result of government actions to stop local banks working with crypto companies, Indian citizens could no longer trade cryptocurrencies on exchanges, forcing them onto peer-to-peer networks, and, in the case of those wanting to trade from fiat, to the black market.
In March this year, the Supreme Court of India issued a landmark ruling overturning the decision and deeming it “unconstitutional.” The move effectively relegitimized cryptocurrencies to 1.3 billion people.
Although there have been some tentative rumblings that another u-turn may be on the way, the ruling of the SCI has given the Indian crypto scene a considerable boost. By June, a wave of new exchanges had launched in the country, opening up cryptocurrency services to millions of new users.
It was all the way back in February 2019 when banking behemoth JPMorgan announced it was planning to launch its own cryptocurrency to help speed up settlements within its network. In October this year, JPM coin was finally released, effectively a straightforward dollar-backed stablecoin. However, given the size of JPMorgan’s global reach, it’s estimated that the coin will save the global finance industry hundreds of millions of dollars in peripheral costs.
The move is unlikely to have any impact on the crypto markets at large, simply because JPM Coin is only to be used within JPMorgan’s closed network. However, the bank reportedly processes transactions worth around $6 trillion over more than 100 countries every single day. Therefore, it could easily become one of the world’s most adopted cryptocurrencies by transaction volume. In mid-December, Goldman Sachs signed on to use JPM Coin for its repo trades.
Decentralized Finance has had a stellar year in general, but it’s fair to say that the release of Uniswap V2 in May has made 2020 a milestone year in terms of decentralized exchange adoption. By August, the exchange had topped the trading volume of Coinbase Pro, and by December, it had achieved over $50 billion in lifetime volume.
Furthermore, Uniswap inadvertently found itself the victim of its own success when SushiSwap launched in August. The new exchange emerged as a clone of Uniswap’s code but with its own token in the background. Dubbed a “vampire attack,” the move appeared to threaten Uniswap’s dominance by draining liquidity from the exchange. Even worse, SushiSwap’s move spawned a string of similar copycat exchanges, with several setting up home on Binance’s newly launched Smart Chain.
However, Uniswap had the last laugh after it launched its own token in September, distributing UNI to anyone who had ever contributed liquidity to the platform. The move helped Uniswap win the liquidity wars, and it continues to outperform its rivals today.
It was in September 2019 that reports first emerged regarding NBA player Spencer Dinwiddie planning to tokenize his contract extension worth $34 million. His plan was to sell digital tokens linked to the contract, where investors could receive principal and interest.
It’s fair to say that Dinwiddie’s road to a tokenized contract sale was far from smooth. After coming up against opposition from the NBA itself, Dinwiddie went ahead and launched a Gofundme campaign in May, attempting to raise nearly $25 million worth of BTC as a means of allowing participating fans to decide the fate of his next team move. However, he closed the campaign after having raised just $1,160, which he donated to charity. He later managed to sell 10% of the token shares of his NBA contract to eight investors.
Nevertheless, it’s fair to say that Dinwiddie’s support of cryptocurrency has helped to bring it to mainstream attention. Bleacher Report called him the “bitcoin savant of the NBA.”
Launched by eToro in September, GoodDollar is a social impact project aimed at delivering a digital universal basic income at scale. GoodDollar mints its tokens, called G$, based on the yields generated by investing a basket of cryptocurrency reserve assets into DeFi protocols. It then distributes them as a basic daily income.
Since the platform launched in September, the company claims to have signed on more than 40,000 people from 180 countries, and said it distributed over 14 million G$ tokens. Users can’t yet change their tokens for fiat, but they can use them to purchase online services via the Facebook GoodDollar marketplace, which currently has nearly 16,000 members.
The idea of a universal basic income already had broad support, including from former U.S. presidential candidate Andrew Yang. However, the coronavirus pandemic has precipitated further backing for the idea given so many people continue to be affected by the economic fallout. Therefore, GoodDollar is an intriguing experiment in generating a sustainable source of funding for a UBI.
Bear with us here — this last entry is controversial. But it can’t be ignored that the biggest Bitcoin bull run in history has come at a time when the world is fighting the devastating coronavirus pandemic. In November, Cointelegraph already highlighted the fact that the economic fallout of the virus had contributed to shifting perceptions on Bitcoin and digital money.
Even before that, it was becoming apparent that the pandemic was accelerating digital innovation thanks to stay-at-home orders and tracing shifts that followed previous historical disease outbreaks. After all, it was Ben Franklin who first observed that “out of adversity comes opportunity.”
The rise of DeFi and 2020’s epic crypto bull run underscore the true potential of cryptocurrencies to help redistribute wealth and generate new avenues of value. Therefore, if it’s possible to take something positive away from the catastrophic health crisis of 2020, it won’t have been for nothing.
On a more positive note, viewed purely through the lens of cryptocurrency adoption, 2020 has been an extremely promising year. Furthermore, all the signs are there that 2021 won’t repeat the events of 2018 after the last epic bull run. With that in mind, here’s to looking forward to more good news from the crypto space in the year to come. Cheers, and stay safe.