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November 9, 2017updated 13 Nov 2017 12:25pm

2017: The Year of the Bitcoin

Nearing the end of the year, bitcoin came close to hitting the $8,000 mark, another goal that remains within its sights with the time that remains of 2017.

By Tom Ball

Far away in the future, when we are long forgotten, the inhabitants of the world will carefully brush away the dust of time and find ‘2017’ chiselled into the ruins of vast monuments to the mighty Bitcoin.

Whether this is the case or not, it will surely be long remembered that cryptocurrency found a strong foothold this year, and took a momentous step forward in terms of global importance and value. Bitcoin is not alone, with the Ethereum currency among others also experiencing outstanding progress.

At the beginning of January 2017, Bitcoin was valued at close to $1,140 per unit of currency, and now, nearing the end of the year, it has climbed to a dizzying height of close to $7,900. This almost vertical price spike has sent the Bitcoin market cap soaring beyond $100 billion, sending shockwaves of excitement and trepidation around the globe.

Some organisations are now considering whether the technology can be used to disrupt processes within industries, IBM is now engaged in a project to see whether digital currency could be used to streamline and enhance the international payments process. On the other hand, some governments have reacted to the rise of bitcoin with great concern, emplacing rigid restrictions on digital currency.

Regardless of whether Bitcoin continues on its meteoric journey or not, 2017 has been an important year in its history, and we are going to go back to the start and revisit the most important milestones that it has passed along the way.


Bitcoin strikes gold

In March 2017, the world saw bitcoin beginning to gain momentum as the currency broke new ground. A unit of bitcoin became worth more than an ounce of gold for the first time ever, and attention was drawn by this relatable barometer of value.

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2017: The Year of the BitcoinAt the time bitcoin had ended a strong week at a price of $1,268 per unit, edging past the price of an ounce gold which stood at $1,233 per ounce, annulling past concerns that bitcoin had already reached its zenith in previous years.

Reverberations from global politics appeared to have had an influence on kick-starting the year of progress, with many looking to protect their capital by investing in decentralised bitcoin. The UK’s Brexit decision and the election of President Trump stand out as influential factors.


A fork in the road

While the 2017 bitcoin progress has been tremendous, it has also been highly volatile. As eager as investors have been to jump on the bitcoin bandwagon, they have also made quick exits.

Talk of a split in the blockchain that drive bitcoin also began in March, and this had the effect of driving the currency back out of its hard won territory beyond $1,000. The price of bitcoin fell to around $970.

Aware that a split would create a new, matching currency, investors feared that damage would be done to its overall value. Disruption caused by a ‘hard fork’ could potentially mean that old versions of the currency would no longer be accepted, potentially rendering them valueless.

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The feared fork did arrive, but not until August, and when it did the currency called Bitcoin Cash came into being. While confusion reigned briefly, investors benefitted when they realised their money had been doubled. The fork was initiated by Chinese bitcoin miners, and this ability for the currency to be influenced remains an element of volatility that concerns investors.

As a result, the crippling damage that some had expected did not come to pass and investors were not only unscathed, but they had benefitted. While confidence in the immutable nature of the blockchain was damaged, the situation failed to stop the year of great achievements.


The $3,000 mark

In August the currency stormed into $3,000 territory, and it proceeded to march on to a $3,448 record. Having reached this new price, the value of all bitcoins was estimated to be at $56 billion.

IT spend to smash $1 trillion in 2018 – GartnerWhile passing the $2,000 had also been exciting, this milestone meant more in light of the challenge it has recently overcome. Now bitcoin had more than doubled its standing from when it rivaled and beat the price of gold on the basis of an ounce to a unit, and it was evident that this new achievement was unlike the jumps and brief forays so far made in the currency’s history.

This was also reassuring proof that lingering concerns caused by the recent ‘hard fork’ had been shrugged off. Confirming this, the price of Bitcoin Cash was languishing at just $266.57, having peaked at $727.


New heights and new challenges

In September leaps turned into mighty bounds, with both the $4,000 and the $5,000 marks being surpassed in just a month, but the currency also faced further challenges to its dauntless advance.

Breaking record in true bitcoin style, it actually hit $5,100 instead of just trickling over the line, but investors remained aware of volatile swings and decided to capitalise on this new spike en masse. A colossal $13 billion sell-off was incurred, knocking the overall price of bitcoin back below $4,400.

While investors remained cautious, this new progress only piqued the interest of those looking to join the bitcoin roller coaster.


Governments step in

Major action first came from China, with the government deciding to ban cryptocurrency exchanges. Since China took the lead on this action, restrictions have also been imposed in Russia, South Korea and Vietnam, with impact, although not significant, on the price and progress of bitcoin.

With China playing a crucial role in proceedings, many have remained hopeful that the ban may be revered, but this appears unlikely with the last cryptocurrency exchange being shut down on the 1st of November 2017.

The CEO of JPMorgan, Jamie Dimon, has expressed thoughts on the future of cryptocurrency, and he expects governments across the world will eventually restrict the currency to the point that it becomes obsolete.


$7,000 and nearly $8,000

Now travelling at warp speed, nearing the end of 2017, bitcoin is still cruising into new regions of high value. This latest progress was prompted by the announcement that CME Group would open a new derivatives marketplace for cryptocurrency, leading to widespread excitement and hope for the future of the currency.

Not long after crossing the exciting new $7,000 threshold, bitcoin crashed through toward $8,000 at an almost unstoppable rate, reaching a new high of close to $7,900. This progress was sparked when members of top exchanges signed a document to avert the arrival of another predicted ‘hard fork’.

Investors had been concerned by the proposed “SegWit2x” hard fork that would have created Bitcoin Gold, a version of the currency with blocks of double the size of traditional blockchain. This would have been a massive change, with the members who signed against its arrival fearing that it may cause crippling damage to bitcoin.

With this most recent crisis avoided, bitcoin is powering ahead with the backing of record confidence and excitement.


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