Obi Nwosu is the CEO and co-founder of Coinfloor, the UK's longest-running Bitcoin exchange. He has over 20 years’ experience building online marketplaces and bringing virtual currencies to tens of millions of people. Obi writes The Road to Bitcoin Hegemony, a weekly recap of some of the most impactful developments in Bitcoin.
The young lion will overcome the older one, With blazoned orange standard comes; When fools trust gold and glistering things: One coin alone will make men kings.
OK, I’m no Nostradamus. When I talk about the future, I don’t cloak my meaning in flowery, opaque phrases designed to obscure and give me a get-out if my predictions miss the mark.
So, I think I can be allowed a little glow of satisfaction at getting the most important thing right in 2020. And that was to back Bitcoin above all other forms of crypto. It was almost exactly a year ago that Coinfloor decided to go Bitcoin-only. We took a fair bit of flak at the time: we were an outlier when many people were extolling the virtues of altcoins. What seemed bold in 2019 now seems merely sensible.
As the sands run out on this unlamented year, let me indulge my Prophet Motive and make my predictions for 2021.
As Bitcoin's market cap surpasses $0.5 trillion for the first time, it's easy to predict the price will reach record highs, yes, but there are many other places you can go to for price predictions. What excites me beyond Bitcoin’s continuing climb in value are its upcoming technical, political, industry and social developments. So that’s where I’ll turn my attention in my last column of this crazy, tumultuous year.
On the technical side, we will see significant new functionality go live on the Bitcoin blockchain in the form of Schnorr Signatures and Taproot. (This is less a prediction than the logical conclusion of moves already well-advanced.) But I also predict much progress to be made in the form of enhanced scripting options (for example, op_CheckTemplateVerify, Sighash_NoInput or Sighash_AnyPrevOut). Also, expect advances in the Lightning Nework and various sidechain technologies, building on top of the Bitcoin base, to pick up steam.
These will prompt a plethora of new applications, obsolete many others, and enhance the remainder. They will also raise a number of significant political questions for traditional financial actors and other thought followers to ponder over.
And so onto the politics. As the ability to decentralize, self-custody, anonymize, and otherwise empower holders of bitcoin increases, I predict this will be accompanied by the rise of new regulations that seek to limit many of the features that make it brilliant. We’ve already seen the would-be assassins circling, but one reason why we shouldn’t fear a modern-day Ides of March is that Caesar will gain some significant political allies in the coming months.As Bitcoin’s socioeconomic benefits become ever more apparent, I think it's no stretch to say that we will find some powerful defenders emerge from the unlikeliest places, even including those who have traditionally positioned themselves as the staunchest enemies of capitalism. I fully expect the political and regulatory arena to be the most turbulent - and indeed, the most fascinating dimension of the Bitcoin story in 2021.
My predictions for the industry itself are the easiest to make. There will be a tale of two ecosystems. On the one hand, we will see the traditional financial sector attempt to accept Bitcoin and a few other Chosen Cryptos into the Legitimate League. They will keep adding more and more lipstick on their porcine proposition as they try to package it as a "proper" financial instrument.
On the other side will be decentralization-focused developers. They will believe in the unique, foundational values of Bitcoin (self custody, privacy, decentralization) and will make great advances in providing and enhancing tools and services that will make attaining and maintaining these benefits easier than ever. In the short run, these two industries and ideologies won't be in direct conflict; as their paths diverge, however, the difference will become stark in the extreme.
Then we have the social side of the coin. The Southern Hemisphere (Africa, South America, Southern Asia), will adopt self-custodied, anonymous/pseudonymous, and decentralized usage of Bitcoin at a rate far faster than the wealthier Northern Hemisphere, not least because of a lack of good centralized options.
This is where things get interesting - and, on first look, counter-intuitive. It may seem like the global South is falling behind the centralized North in the Bitcoin Revolution, however, the technical and industry developments will ultimately turn this situation on its head. You see, it doesn’t really matter what motivates the people who want to control Bitcoin and make it fit into the established financial system. Whether it’s a conscious desire to emasculate it or merely a misguided attempt to make Bitcoin “better,” anything that erodes its central pillars will penalize the purification proponents. By contrast, countries that lack the “Bitcoin killer” instinct towards over-regulation will find themselves thrust to the forefront of the revolution.
This is my “slow burn” prediction: don’t expect this to become apparent overnight, but rather over the course of many months. It will perhaps only be at the end of 2021 that we will start to see the beginning of the biggest change in value of wealth - between the global haves to the have-nots, the world has ever seen.
My final prognostication remains the same as it has been since I first came to this space: Bitcoin will change the world. The ride will be extremely bumpy, but it is the most exciting rollercoaster in town. Whatever the next 12 months have in store, there’s one thing we can be sure of: Bitcoin will continue its relentless, wild and utterly exhilarating pursuit of hegemony.
If December is for looking to the future, it’s also the fitting time to look back and recognize all those who helped make Bitcoin brilliant in 2020.
It was a year full of heroes, with some unexpected names competing to be named the biggest contributor to Bitcoin: from the institutional investors who finally decided to back Bitcoin, to Bank of England deputy governor Jon Cunliffe who finally added a dose of (official) realism about banks’ future business models. So if my glamorous assistant would just hand me the envelope...
The award for Best Bitcoiner 2020 is... You.
You are Bitcoin. Let’s never forget that Bitcoin is powered by the spirit of the HODLer. Without your unshakeable faith in Bitcoin and your passion to bring about money’s long-awaited revolution, all this would remain nothing more than a glint in Satoshi Nakamoto’s eyes. Never forget the power of the first followers, the people who give wings to an idea and turn theory into action.
I've had the pleasure to meet some incredibly inspiring people this year and continue to be grateful to be part of this space.
Thank you and I wish you all a wonderful 2021.