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In our article, “7 Things Crypto Ought to Be Thankful for in 2020,” Decrypt called crypto traders ungrateful because they forever demand more profits with even greater immediacy. And we dismissed them.
No longer. In this article, we join in with the frustration and fuel the anger. Here are seven things that will send traders into spirals of rage.
Ah! Of course: COVID-19, the novel strain of coronavirus which has thus far infected 59.8 million worldwide and killed 1.41 million, was bad for Bitcoin, just like it sucked for almost everything and everyone else.
Markets collapsed in March as the virus spread out of China, unable to grapple with the uncertainty that the pandemic posed. Bitcoin’s price crashed, too, from about $10,000 in February to brief lows of about $4,500 on “Black Thursday,” a day of global economic collapse. The pandemic also scuppered major investments into the cryptocurrency sector.
In April, disclosed VC funding for crypto projects dropped by more than 50%, and just $200 million was raised in the second quarter of this year, according to crypto VC fund Outlier Ventures.
Things later picked back up, however, thanks to the decentralized finance boom. Research from Outlier shows that crypto projects raised $759 million in Q3, almost quadruple the amount raised in the previous quarter.
Things were good for Bitcoin casino Fortunejack, whose CMO, Natela Janelidze, told Decrypt that average bet activity increased by approximately 30%, which it believes was the result of the uncertainty; customers forwent HODLing “for high-risk tactics, such as gambling.” Which is...good?
2. Decentralized Finance Scams and Hacks
Okay, okay. Having just sung DeFi’s praises—the industry, which comprises non-custodial exchanges and lending protocols, today holds about $14 billion worth of investors funds, up from $1 billion in June—it may seem hypocritical to instantly bash it. But bash it we will.
Hackers and tricksters managed to steal tens of millions of dollars worth of cryptocurrency from major protocols using vulnerabilities left unaddressed by developers rushing to get something to market. In the past two months alone, Harvest Finance lost $34 million, Cheese Bank lost $3.3 million, Akropolis suffered a $2 million loss, Value DeFi lost $6 million, and Pickle Finance lost $20 million.
All of these, save for Pickle Finance, lost money through “flash loan” exploits, a popular way to take down hardy DeFi protocols. Attackers took out instant loans on money markets like Aave or Compound and then used the money to manipulate the price of crypto locked up in the smart contracts, allowing them to buy it on the cheap.
Sergey Nazarov, co-founder of Chainlink, a decentralized oracle network that claims to solve this problem, told Decrypt, “One of the key lessons of 2020 is that the oracles a DeFi smart contract relies on to interact with the off-chain data sources that effectively control that contract, is as critical a consideration as the security of the smart contract code itself.”
Hacks and unsavory developers caused other protocols to collapse. Stani Kulechov, co-founder of Aave, told Decrypt, “Building safe DeFi takes quite a lot of effort and is not a trivial task.” He said that DeFi protocols will improve over time, “the same way as Bitcoin and Ethereum.”
3. John McAfee Goes to Prison—a Black Mark for Crypto
This year, one of crypto’s most prominent evangelists, John McAfee, went to prison. McAfee used to run an anti-virus software company, then got into drugs and the playboy lifestyle. He fled the US after refusing to pay taxes, and later fled Belize after suspicions that he had murdered his neighbor (McAfee claims it was a failed assassination plot by the Belizian government, of which he was the target). McAfee is a prominent Bitcoin advocate, hyping up token sales for crypto projects that somehow never took off.
But this year, McAfee was arrested in Spain on allegations that he secretly profited over $23 million from promoting seven ICOs and then didn’t pay taxes on the earnings. He sits in a Spanish jail awaiting extradition to the US.
McAfee, however, enjoys his time in prison. “Prison is an adventure to say the least. Gang fights, threats, men muttering to themselves, theft, guards with advanced degrees in sadism, men pacing back and forth and a general sense of danger. Just my type of place,” he tweeted, somehow, from his cell last month.
4. The Twitter Hack
In mid-July, hackers assumed control of two dozen high-profile Twitter accounts as far ranging as Barack Obama and Elon Musk. They used the accounts to tweet a simple trick: Send some money and the supposed author of the account, a president or a billionaire, would send back double. The hackers only managed to scrape together $120,000 from all of the tricks, but it was a sad day for crypto, whose reputation was once more besmirched online, only this time for all the world to see.
5. Telegram’s Collapsed Blockchain Project
Chat app Telegram’s blockchain network, the Telegram Open Network, came to an ignominious end this spring after the US Securities and Exchange Commission sued it for raising $1.7 billion in a token sale, which it argued was an illegal securities sale.
Telegram vehemently argued against the SEC, but the judge presiding over the case appeared to side with the SEC. Further, perhaps due to the coronavirus, an important judicial decision was delayed and Telegram had to return the $1.7 billion to investors.
Telegram abandoned the project a short while later. The case rang out through the crypto universe. The message? Don’t mess with the SEC, which has little patience for complicated token sales designed to skirt securities regulation.
6. OKEx’s Mysterious Suspension
In mid-October, Chinese police detained Mingxing “Star” Xu, the founder of OKEx, one of the largest cryptocurrency exchanges in the world. But the consequences were huge: OKEx paused withdrawals on the platform, stagnating its business and leaving its 20 million customers in the lurch.
Authorities released Xu last week and OKEx announced it will resume withdrawals; Xu said he had been detained due to his $60 million purchase of LEAP Holdings Group, which he wanted to list on Hong Kong’s stock exchange. This quelled rumors that he was detained over money laundering. But the damage to OKEx, and by extension crypto, had been done: a high-profile crypto entrepreneur was once again wanted by the police.
7. Justin Sun’s Sunny Antics
TRON CEO Justin Sun didn’t come out of 2020 looking great, either. Sure, he spent an awful lot of money courting billionaire investor Warren Buffett over lunch to try to persuade the Bitcoin hater to reconsider cryptocurrency. Yet a couple of glitches to his moral compass soured the mood.
First, there was the lawsuit that alleged that Sun had physically abused his employees and forced them to work ungodly hours. Later, Sun caused a rift in the Steem blockchain network when he used his power and money to screw over the community-elected guardians of the blockchain, who had voted to temporarily block Sun’s access to his coin. When Sun called them hackers, large portions of the community defected to HIVE, a blockchain that ran a copy of the social network site, Steemit, which Sun had recently purchased.
Hopefully, 2021 won't be a turkey of a year.