On January 3, 2009, a decade ago, an American, an Irishman or perhaps a Finn, or a possibly a group of innovative computer programmers and mathematicians created the first 50 bitcoins known as the Genesis Block.
How such an abstract concept without an identified founder became a $100 billion market in just a decade is now common history.
As for the creator, always known as Satoshi Nakamoto, many have subscribed to the idea that a code so impressive must have been written by multiple sources. The creator or creators’ goal was simple; to create a “purely peer-to-peer version of electronic cash that would allow online payments to be sent directly from one party to another without going through a financial institution.”
Although this goal has somewhat lost some of that simple significance over the past decade, it still remains the digital currency’s raison d’etre essentially. Since 2009 it has a come a long way and fortunes have also been won and lost. From its first physical manifestation in a Bitcoin ATM at a Vancouver coffee shop in 2013, it is now viewed by struggling economies from the Middle East to Americas to Central Russia as a way out of financial chaos or international sanctions.
Loved by some, hated by others, how then will the world celebrate Bitcoin’s 10 years of impact on the financial status quo around the globe? Will Bitcoin be viewed as the “mother or father of all scams and bubbles,” or the basic infrastructure for a whole new way of looking at how society pays for what it needs?
As we move into 2019, there are governments around the world who clearly have no desire to see Bitcoin moving into the public domain as Satoshi intended back in 2009. The concept of a “purely peer-to-peer version of electronic cash” as stated in Bitcoin’s initial white paper in these countries is a long way from becoming a reality.
In South East Asia, so often called the Bitcoin’s heartland has South Korea and Japan leading the charge in adoption rates in the region, whereas China, Thailand, and Taiwan have either banned or restricted its use as an alternative currency. Further West, India’s current crypto ban has become common knowledge.
In Europe, where tiny Switzerland has become the region’s blockchain hub and allows Bitcoin payments in a multitude of both practical and innovative situations, there are nonetheless detractors to any idea that public use of Bitcoin may be seen as a future possibility. Both Russian and German legislators have no desire to see Bitcoin used as Satoshi intended, although both countries are integrating digital currency into their banking systems.
Where then is Bitcoin’s heartland on Jan 3, 2019? The site 99Bitcoins lists the world’s most accommodating Bitcoin space as being none other than the tiny UK Isle of Man. An unlikely location perhaps, but one that Satoshi would be proud of. The P2P goal is alive and well on “Mann” as locals call it. On the tiny island, in the Capital of Douglas, for years now, customers have been able to drop into a range of coffee shops, pay in Bitcoin, then on to the pub. Bitcoin accepted?… of course. Hire a car using BTC and see the sights.
Again, without really leaving the UK, another jurisdiction which has been developed as a Bitcoin hub is the British Overseas Territory of Gibraltar on the tip of Spain’s Iberian Peninsula. Like Mann, it has become a hotbed of start-up activity and has developed a positive attitude towards Bitcoin, supported by crypto-friendly legal frameworks.
Malta, Switzerland and neighbouring Liechtenstein will all be celebrating 10 years of Bitcoin with sound regulation supporting thriving crypto communities. Those others developing the Satoshi dream through continued innovation and commitment to pushing cryptocurrency adoption, often under challenging opposition to Bitcoin as a P2P public currency, continue to be leaders such as Slovenia, Canada, Netherlands, the US, South Korea, and Japan.
What then will the internet have to say about the 3rd January 2019, with the market still reeling from the strains of the 2018 downturn in Bitcoin’s fortunes. As usual, the pundits will be making their bets; the latest range gaining popularity, published by UK newspaper the Independent, hedging in the extreme, cites Bitcoin between $0-$33K by year’s end, a prediction clearly lacking imagination and aimed at appeasing its readership.
Wherever one is located on the planet, anniversary memorabilia will abound via the internet, such as Hublot’s Big Bang Blockchain timepiece with the cool price of $25,000 BTC equivalent; only cool if you happened to be on the right side of Bitcoin’s 2018 fortunes. The Meca-10 P2P watch is said to celebrate Satoshi’s “epochal invention including the fact that only 21 million bitcoins will ever exist in this world.”
Another piece of, perhaps more useful, memorabilia, given the subject of the celebration, is Ledger’s Limited Edition Nano. This one offers considerably more general interest, not to mention relevance to the occasion, given it is boxed to include a miniature edition of Satoshi’s whitepaper, with a Sgt. Pepper’s style historical line-up of characters on the cover including cryptography greats such as much misunderstood and acclaimed codebreaker Alan Turing. Retailing for just under $100 this would have been a steal, although, is now probably unattainable.
Of course, there will be anniversary coins such as South Korea’s myGeNomeCoin (GNC) offering coins through a snapshot of Bitcoin UTXO at 2019 0.00 UTC on Jan 3rd. Addresses that contain bitcoins at that point in time can claim the same number of myGeNomeCoin for every bitcoin they hold.
Finally, given that the art world and Bitcoin has forged somewhat of a marriage over recent years, it would seem fitting that a decade of Bitcoin should have some kind of artistic representation to mark the event. Bitcoin Art (r)evolution was held in Paris in October which according to the organizers attempted to create a “unique opportunity to decode the potential upheavals that cryptocurrency and blockchain can cause in the world of art.”
The public attending the event were able to purchase pieces using Bitcoin and three other cryptocurrencies. As a tribute to Bitcoin, artists were asked to hide images of the hallmark cryptocurrency in their submitted pieces.
Bitcoin remains an enigma, if only in the sense that its fortunes have been all but impossible to predict. But it has covered a huge distance from concept to reality in just 10 short years, with governments and private institutions transfixed by where it may be going, hesitant, but at the same time acknowledging its presence as a factor on the financial landscape.