We’re back with part two of our four-part year-end roundup (click here for January through March).
For the wider world, April through June was mostly about the initial fallout from the spread of COVID-19—another moment we don’t necessarily want to belabor.
In the crypto sphere, the second quarter of the year saw anticipation running high for the Bitcoin halving, while the Libra foundation was forced to scale back its grandiose plans.
Libra Wimps Out
Libra, the digital currency project from Facebook, has gone through many, many iterations since it was formally announced in 2019. At first, the company promised a system that was both permissioned and permissionless—something that is definitionally impossible, and that Facebook went back on in April of this year, when the Libra Foundation (now renamed Diem) announced a scaled-back plan for the tech. It's going from something world-changingly ambitious to, essentially, a wallet for stablecoins.
Also, wait, that picture of Zuckerberg surfing is from this year? Folks, it’s been a long one.
Every four years, the rate at which new Bitcoins are mined halves. This was part of Satoshi Nakamoto’s original design: in 2009, when Bitcoin was introduced, mining rewards were set at 50 BTC—an amount that halved twice already, before this year. Since the total supply is capped at 21 million, and most of that has already been mined, reducing the rate at which new Bitcoin is minted will ensure that there's a steady supply of new Bitcoin until the year 2140.
The third Bitcoin halving occurred on May 11, 2020, and reduced mining rewards to 6.25 BTC. And though traders were expecting the price to shoot up, as it had in the wake of the two previous halving events, Bitcoin didn’t end up skyrocketing—yet.
*Revenge of the Sith Opening Crawl Voice* Volatility!
With the halving came some volatility—the price of Bitcoin climbed from below $5000 back up to $10,000 in May, and then fluctuated wildly in the wake of the 11th. The ups and downs continued throughout June, as the number moved between the 9000s and the low 10,000s.
This set the stage for MicroStrategy to buy low, in August, jumpstarting what would become Bitcoin’s bull run later in the 2020, and providing traders with their first taste of the more widespread institutional adoption that would come with the fall.
A Muted Response to the Racial Justice Movement
Many crypto companies failed to adequately respond to the racial justice movement that swept the country in the wake of the killing of George Floyd. Speaking with Decrypt, Robert Greenfield IV, the CEO of Emerging Impact, described the overall response on the part of executives as “really weak and almost non-existent.”
Coinbase CEO Brian Armstrong reiterated his support for the Black Lives Matter movement in a (since-deleted) tweet at the time, but a November New York Times article described what some employees described as racist or discriminatory treatment of Black workers at the company. Coinbase categorically denied the allegations.
Hackers targeted the University of California, San Francisco School of Medicine in June, and the university ended up paying a $1 million ransom in Bitcoin. It was one of many high-profile cases this year in which anonymous criminals conducted operations in crypto.