Bitcoin mining took a big hit in 2018. 

For most of the year, mining activity operated below the threshold for profitability. The biggest name in crypto mining, Bitmain, ended the year by cutting 50% of staff and shelving plans for a stock market launch.

But what will 2019 bring? Will cryptocurrency mining become profitable again? In this article, we present an overview of bitcoin mining for 2019, touching on the biggest trends you need to know if you’re looking to get started.

Is Bitcoin Mining Profitable in a Bear Market? 

The price of bitcoin fell more than 70% in 2018, putting huge pressure on bitcoin miners. Mining profits fell 50% in one month alone (November) with the equivalent of 1.3 million miners going offline.

With cryptocurrency mining currently offering slim or zero economic return, what happens next?

Crypto mining profitability chart
Source: CoinTelegraph

It is definitely more difficult to justify starting a mining operation for most people. However, with fewer miners, there are greater chances to earn mining rewards.

There are a number of tools available that allow you to estimate potential profits or losses (here and here). These can be customized according to factors like crypto prices, electric costs, hardware specs.

Even under poor crypto market conditions, miners could decide to “hodl” any funds earned in hopes of a market turnaround. Clearly, 2019 price trends will go a long way in helping people determine whether or not to mine at all.

Layoffs at Bitmain

Bitmain is the largest cryptocurrency mining company on the planet. It supplies mining hardware and operates various mining pools.

If you’re looking into cryptocurrency mining, you need to know what’s going on at Bitmain.

In December 2018, Bitmain reportedly fired more than 50% of its staff, including its entire Bitcoin Cash (BCH) development team. The combination of huge losses and the major bet on BCH presents big challenges for the company moving forward. US IT firm UnitedCorp sued Bitmain, Kraken, Bitcoin.com, and Roger Ver for allegedly manipulating the BCH network. 

According to numerous reports, Bitmain was unable to liquidate its massive BCH reserves via cryptocurrency exchanges. Moreover, BCH was one of the worst performing cryptocurrencies in 2018. This only exacerbated the struggles of Bitmain. 

The company originally planned to open up a Texas-based data center that would cost $500 million and generate 400 jobs but has decided to put these plans on the backburner. Bitmain has also halted plans for a stock market launch, at least for now. Co-founders Wu Jihan and Zhan Ketuan plan to step down from the CEO position and remain on the board of directors. The likely successor is Wang Haichao, who is currently the product engineering director of Bitmain.

The Rise of Cryptojacking

Cryptojacking is another growing issue in the mining world.

At one point in 2018, cryptojacking replaced ransomware as the most popular form of cyber attack. Essentially, cryptojacking happens whenever person A uses person B’s computing power to mine cryptocurrency without person B knowing about it. In the early days of cryptojacking, it was more difficult to get hacked. This is because doing so required the installation of malicious software on a device.

Now, however, it’s possible to become a victim of cryptojacking just by visiting a website. With options like Coinhive, cryptojacking can be made possible by inserting a snippet of JavaScript code. The rise of cryptojacking presents new challenges for individuals and businesses both involved in the cryptocurrency space and not. Most online threat detection solutions don’t cover cryptojacking protection.

For cybersecurity experts, this has become a new issue to solve moving forward. Some major examples in 2018 included the arrests of 20 individuals in China who allegedly affected over one million computers with cryptojacking software. Additionally, In Japan, 16 individuals were arrested for a Monero (XMR) cryptojacking case.

Lawsuit Against Nvidia

The crypto bear market has weighed heavily on companies that supply chips for cryptocurrency miners. Nvidia, which produces microchips for gaming, AI systems, and crypto mining, had a rocky year in 2018.

In December 2018, Schall Law Firm announced the filing of a lawsuit against Nvidia, for “false and misleading statements to the market”. More specifically, Nvidia allegedly asserted that a decline in demand for GPUs used for cryptocurrency mining would not have a negative impact on the company’s operations or performance due to high demand for GPUs from gamers. 

While the stock market, in general, experienced declines in Q4 2018, Nvidia was hit harder than most. In addition, the timing lines up with its business performance. The day after Nvidia’s Q3 earnings report was released, Nvidia’s stock fell around 19 percent. One commenter said, “Stock went down for external reasons and no stock exchange listed firm can be sued for ‘force majeure’.” Another has said, “Assuming Nvidia made this statement, it could plausibly be grounds for a lawsuit, as it’s clearly in violation of securities rules.” 

No matter whose side you are on in this argument, it’s important to recognize how it could impact the cryptocurrency industry moving forward. What will be the result of this lawsuit? Will Nvidia focus on crypto-specific products moving forward?

Crypto Mining and Gaming: Asus and Quantumcloud 

One emerging trend in the mining community is harnessing the idle power of gaming rigs.

In November 2018, Asus announced a partnership with Quantumcloud. The solution is simple. Currently, there is a major surplus of gamers who use graphics cards only when gaming. For long periods of time, the capabilities of graphics cards are not being utilized. With this partnership, ASUS will allow gamers to be able to make use of idle graphics cards to mine cryptocurrency. There will also be options to cash out earnings through PayPal or WeChat. It’s still unknown which coins will be available as options for cloud mining with Quantumcloud software. We also don’t know if, or how much of the cut from earnings, will go to Asus or Quantumcloud.

Nonetheless, it is cool to see that major tech companies are still working on partnerships that involve the expansion of cryptocurrency mining even in the bear market. Additionally, this could create greater decentralization and egalitarianism to mining operations, and crypto supplies in general, by opening a new potential user base of miners.

The Ongoing ASIC Resistance Battle

ASICs (application specific integrated circuits) are designed specifically for mining cryptocurrencies. The rise of powerful ASICs has made it almost impossible to mine cryptocurrency on a PC or laptop; some crypto projects are fighting back and blocking ASIC mining. 

bitcoin miner

Instead of allowing miners to use ASICS, several projects are developing algorithms to block this possibility. Monero was probably the most well-known case of this in 2018.

Throughout the year, ASIC rigs designed for Ethereum mining started to emerge. In September 2018, it appeared that Ethereum was willing to let this go on without the implementation of a new algorithm in its upcoming release of Ethereum v3.5 (known as Constantinople). This is likely due to the fact that Ethereum is planning to switch from Proof of Work to Proof of Stake, which would eventually make all mining operations, (ASIC, GPU, CPU) obsolete. However, in recent weeks ahead of the January 2019 update, Ethereum developers have begun to implement an ASIC resistant algorithm anyway for Constantinople. 

So where does that leave the cryptocurrency mining community in 2019? There are still a few blockchains which allow ASIC mining to take place. Bitcoin (BTC) is a good example. Additionally, Bitcoin Cash (BCH) mining pools have adopted a protocol known as Asicboost which “can speed up the mining process by a factor of approximately 20 percent by reducing the gate count on mining chips.” 

Essentially, the protocol can be applied to all types of ASIC chips. For now, it appears that the ASIC debate will continue to be relevant throughout 2019 as technologies on both sides become more advanced.

Proof of Stake (PoS) Winning over Proof of Work (PoW)?

If the battle between pro and anti-ASIC sides wasn’t enough to change the landscape of crypto, the decision between PoS and PoW as the go-to consensus algorithm definitely is. As mentioned in our recent Ethereum roadmap article, the world’s second largest cryptocurrency by market cap is moving from PoW to PoS. Along the way, the reduced mining reward from 3 ETH to 2 ETH puts pressure on the miners until the switch to Casper (Ethereum’s PoS). 

The good news is that these changes are planned out pretty far in advance. However, it also presents new big picture questions for crypto projects, miners, and entire communities. If Ethereum’s change is successful in reaching greater scalability and making the network more decentralized, it will be interesting to see which projects follow suit. Ethereum isn’t necessarily a definitive trial test for the capabilities of PoS. 

Other projects (i.e. PIVX, NIX, etc.) have already made this switch in the past. However, none have been completed at this scale or with this degree of attention from the industry. It could ultimately lead to less reliance on PoW and mining. However, at the beginning of 2019, that is still yet to be determined. 

Top Mining Tech Trends to Watch in 2019

FPGA (Field-programmable gate array): In 2018, we saw the clear advantages of new types of mining equipment. As detailed above, ASICs demonstrated the capabilities of faster hash rates. However, they lack versatility and can’t be programmed to keep up with algorithm changes. Meanwhile, GPUs are much slower but a bit more versatile for mining various coins.

Now, FPGAs could emerge and offer a solution that is the best of both worlds. For instance, some FPGAs are 10x the speed of GPUs and can quickly change to different algorithms. Additionally, they are designed to use less electricity to run. 

As of the beginning of 2019, FPGAs have yet to gain user adoption despite being around since the early 2010s. This is mostly due to factors like high price points ($4,000 per card, or $25,000 – $30,000 per rig) and highly technical configuration requirements. Still, it would be interesting to see if new tech will emerge to make FPGAs more accessible to the average miner.

Mobile Mining: There are a few different mobile mining solutions available in 2019. DroidMiner BTC/LTC/DOGE Miner and Electroneum are two such examples for Android devices. Free Bitcoin is an option available for both Android and iOS. However, there is a clear lack of options for iOS and viable apps overall. 

The power of mobile devices simply hasn’t been enough to compete with dedicated mining rigs. Moreover, this type of mining would likely cause you to need to constantly replace mobile phone batteries. As a result, any profits are likely to turn to losses in a short amount of time. Still, it will be interesting to see if or how mobile mining can become more innovative moving forward. 

Conclusion

In summary, cryptocurrency mining operations continue to change along with the overall market. The struggle of everyone from small miners to large-scale enterprises in the past year is evident. However, the fact remains that crypto mining plays an important role in the validation of transactions for the vast majority of blockchains. Along with numerous challenges for miners, it’s also possible to find opportunities that could lead to more innovation.

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Ethereum scaling roadmap casper, plasma, sharding

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While the Ethereum roadmap isn’t definitively laid out, there are many important updates planned to take place in 2019. We can also expect to see more of the research that has taken place over the past two to three years begin to enter preliminary testing phases and eventual implementation on mainnet. Without further ado, here’s what you should know about Ethereum’s development efforts in 2019 and beyond.

How Will Ethereum Scale?

Ethereum has already accomplished a lot as a blockchain protocol since its initial project development began in 2014. With thousands of decentralized applications (dApps) built on top of Ethereum, it’s the clear leader of ecosystem creation amongst blockchain projects. However, a number of newer blockchain projects are beginning to challenge this. EOS, POA, and Steem are all excellent examples of blockchains that also have a number of native applications.

In early 2019, there are a number of challenges that remain unresolved for Ethereum. The primary focal point of Ethereum in the immediate future is clearly on improving Ethereum’s scalability. 

Ethereum transactions scaling
When Ethereum transactions increase, the network slows down and fees increase. A scaling solution is needed.

Making an exact timeline for when we should expect to see these solutions implemented can be difficult. Nonetheless, it’s good to use estimated time frames based on various sources to show how close (or distant) Ethereum’s upgrades are.

The Ethereum Roadmap at a Glance

UpgradeDateDetails
Raiden Red EyesDecember 2018Off-chain solution for faster and cheaper transactions.
Constantinople hard forkJanuary 16th, 2019Lays the technical groundwork for significant scaling projects in the future.
PlasmaTBDThe introduction of “child” chains off the main Ethereum blockchain for faster and cheaper transactions. Similar to how the Lightning Network works on Bitcoin.
Caspermid-2019Ethereum’s main scaling goal. Casper is the shift from Proof-of-Work to the more efficient Proof-of-Stake.
Sharding2020-2021Partition the existing blockchain into smaller pieces known as shards.
Serenity (aka Ethereum 2.0)2019-2021The culmination of Casper and Sharding will create “Ethereum 2.0.”
Ethereum 3.02022-2025Implementation of a ‘super quadratic sharding’ solution which could facilitate one billion transactions per day.

Before we look at the roadmap in more detail, let’s also give some context to where the project is today.

Ethereum 1.0 (July 30, 2015 to Present)

Classifying the various Ethereum versions can be tricky. This is because the project isn’t the same as it was during its mainnet launch in July 2015. Plus, there are two commonly-accepted classifications. 

First, you’ll find that the Ethereum blockchain in early 2019 is still referred to as ‘Ethereum 1.0’. Ethereum 2.0 is referred to as Serenity. The official Ethereum Wiki page shows that Serenity is technically classified as Ethereum v4, and its release date is to be determined. 

Some major development milestones of Ethereum 1.0 include:

Olympic (v0, released in May 2015)

Frontier (v1, released in July 2015)

Homestead (v2, released in March 2016)

Metropolis (v3 aka vByzantium released in October 2017). 

Metropolis (v3.5 aka vConstantinople) will be released in January 2019. 

Raiden’s Red Eyes Launched on Ethereum Mainnet (December 21, 2018)

Although this technically happened in 2018, it’s still an important and recent achievement on the roadmap to reaching greater scalability for Ethereum. In sum, the Red Eyes protocol allows for quicker transaction completion times through payment channel technology, which takes place off-chain. 

Some innovative features of Red Eyes include single and multi-hop transfers, REST API with endpoints for all functionalities, rewritten and more gas-efficient smart contracts (e.g. only one contract per token network), recoverability in case of an irregular shutdown of the Raiden node, and the integration of the Matrix transport protocol for messaging. 

raiden network
The Raiden network

Still, the current version of Red Eyes has a few known issues to be aware of. For example, third parties are currently unable to monitor channels on behalf of nodes or to pathfinding services. It also isn’t possible to do atomic swaps or upgrade smart contracts with Red Eyes. 

The only way to upgrade the network is to close all channels and redeploy a new smart contract and reopen the channels. Additionally, Raiden’s blog post mentions numerous security notes. Some known issues include a compromised user system, a full disk, blockchain congestion, and chain reorganizations. 

Once fully deployed, Raiden is designed to enable the Ethereum blockchain to process one million transactions per second and make transactions significantly cheaper to complete than before. 

Three 1,000 ETH Grants (December 2018)

In December 2018, Vitalik Buterin sent 1,000 ETH grants to three different blockchain companies: Prysmatic Labs, Sigma Prime, and ChainSafe Systems. Even though this was positive news, it actually led to mixed reactions from members of the blockchain community. 

For example, one VC investor stated that Ethereum is “missing ship dates [and] are lacking basic operational leadership.” A CEO of a crypto project said, “Ethereum has taken its lead for granted for too long (2 years). Needs increased focus and urgency on scalability to reclaim its narrative. Move fast or die slow.”

Whether or not you agree with these criticisms, it’s safe to say that most of Ethereum’s innovations are still listed on the future roadmap, and a lot of work is needed to sustain its position as a leader in blockchain and crypto. With that being said, here are some future events to look forward to.

Metropolis, vConstantinople (January 16, 2019)

Constantinople is the first major Ethereum update of 2019 and quite possibly the most important since the October 2017 update. Constantinople marks a hard fork of the Ethereum blockchain. After this update is released, members of the community will have to decide whether to run the old network or switch to the new one. 

Lane Rettig, an independent developer, has called Constantinople a “maintenance and optimization upgrade.” While these changes aren’t all that big from an end user’s perspective, they do present new opportunities as well as challenges overall in several key areas. For example, upgrades implemented with Constantinople should make it easier for the Ethereum team and projects building on top of Ethereum to continue on tackling scalability issues in the future.

Constantinople will include the following five EIPs (Ethereum improvement proposals): 

EIP 145 introduces a more efficient method of information processing known as Bitwise shifting. According to the EIP145 proposal notes, it costs around 35 gas to do a shift using arithmetic. However, this solution introduces an Ethereum Virtual Machine (EVM) native operation that only costs 3 gas. This results in a 91.4% savings in gas costs. 

EIP 1052 provides a solution for optimizing large-scale code execution on Ethereum. More specifically, this functionality returns the keccak256 hash of a contract’s bytecode. It improves upon the design of the EXTCODECOPY opcode. As a result, large contracts that only require the hash will be cheaper to process.

EIP 1283 is based on EIP 1087. This proposal aims to help smart contract developers by reducing gas costs related to changes made to data storage.

EIP 1014 is utilized in state-channel use cases that involve counterfactual interactions with contracts. It allows interactions to (actually or counterfactually in channels) be made with addresses that do not exist yet on-chain.

EIP 1234 is the somewhat controversial proposal that reduces the block mining reward issuance from 3 ETH down to 2 ETH. This will change Ethereum’s underlying economic policy.  It also delays the introduction of the “difficulty bomb” for 12 additional months. The difficulty bomb is a piece of code which will eventually increase the difficulty level of puzzles in the mining algorithm used to reward miners with ETH.

Plasma and Plasma Cash (TBD)

Even though it’s up for debate, most consider Plasma to be an on-chain scaling solution. This is due to the fact that Plasma relies upon the inherent security of the Ethereum blockchain. 

Plasma chains have the ability to be better than ordinary sidechains due to increased security and easier accessibility. For example, if a Plasma sidechain breaks, funds are still secure thanks to the main chain. Meanwhile, users can also withdraw funds from a Plasma sidechain to the main chain at any time with balances from the last valid block. 

Ethereum plasma diagram

Back in September 2018, OmiseGo Director of Engineering Kasima Tharnpipitchai outlined updates about providing a Plasma solution for Ethereum at a meetup event in Warsaw. On October 8, 2018, the OmiseGo team released the fifth Plasma update. Although Plasma hasn’t been added on top of the Ethereum mainnet, there has been a lot of progress towards this goal. For example, the Plasma team arrived at Devcon4 with an internal testnet, a Plasma MVP, and the first dapp built on OmiseGO. 

Plasma Cash is another solution that’s supposed to be even more efficient than Plasma. However, this is still in the research phase as of the beginning of 2019. The OMG team has been working with other researchers to simplify an atomic swap protocol which utilizes Vitalik Buterin’s atomic swaps and defragmentation work. 

Loom Network is another blockchain project that has been working on developing similar Plasma solutions to improve the scalability of the Ethereum blockchain.

Casper (mid-2019)

Casper is Ethereum’s pure Proof of Stake consensus algorithm. Why the change to Casper? Simply put, Proof of Stake blockchains are typically more scalable than Proof of Work blockchains. Additionally, there are growing concerns over the environmental impact of cryptocurrency mining operations. 

As of the beginning of 2019, transactions on the Ethereum blockchain are still reliant upon Proof of Work. This means that cryptocurrency miners play a big role in verifying the accuracy of transactions. When Ethereum switches to Casper, transactions will be validated with staking. 

Originally, the core development team decided to come up with two phases of Casper (FFG and CBC). FFG was supposed to be a hybrid PoW/PoS solution. Meanwhile, Casper CBC was designed to be a pure PoS. In 2018, however, the Ethereum team scrapped this two-phase Casper approach and decided to focus solely on Casper CBC. Here is an excellent article (with diagrams) that demonstrates how Casper CBC should work.

proof of stake vs proof of work
Source: Block Geeks

Sharding Updates (2020 and 2021)

In basic terms, sharding aims to securely partition the existing blockchain into smaller pieces known as shards. This solution, like most others on this list, is something that many non-Ethereum blockchain developers and researchers are also working on. 

When it comes to implementing sharding on a mainnet, Ethereum won’t be the first. This title will likely go to Zilliqa upon the release of its mainnet on January 31, 2019. However, Ethereum’s sharding implementation isn’t too far down the road. According to various estimations from developers, we should expect the Ethereum blockchain to implement phase one of sharding sometime in 2020 and phase two sometime in 2021. 

Serenity a.k.a. Ethereum 2.0 (2019/2020)

Earlier, we mentioned that Ethereum is still in version 1.0 as of the beginning of 2019. So when will Ethereum 2.0 be released? This is still difficult to say exactly. That’s because Ethereum 2.0 is generally considered to be a combination of Casper CBC (full PoS) and sharding. As stated above, Casper will likely be ready mid-2019. 

Meanwhile, sharding for Ethereum won’t be initially implemented until 2020. In that sense, it’s easier to think of the move to Ethereum 2.0 as the culmination of two separate upgrades and not something that will have a single release date.

Ethereum 3.0 (2022 to 2025)

While Serenity (Ethereum 2.0) is still on the horizon, the core Ethereum team is already working towards Ethereum 3.0. This mostly involves research, rather than implementation. As to be expected, objectives that are further along in the roadmap have broader time frame ranges. 

This is because delays or even circumstances that speed up the current projects or the future development of Ethereum 3.0 could take place.

Super quadratic sharding is a major part of Ethereum 3.0. As this site explains it, “So say, Ethereum currently has 16,000 nodes and all of them are currently processing the same transactions. You split that into 160 node groups of 1,000 nodes each. Ethereum’s current capacity is around one million transactions, so in this sharded chain its capacity would be one million x 160.”

Once everyone is confident in the capabilities of the sharded chain, it’s possible that, sometime between 2022 to 2025, Ethereum can split those 1,000 nodes each into 10 groups of 100 nodes each. This would make it possible to process one billion transactions per day with Ethereum. 

Conclusion

Ethereum continues to make progress on its roadmap goals for 2019 and beyond. Much like any project, there will likely be a few speed bumps along the way. However, a large group of core developers and an ecosystem of independent developers and projects building infrastructure for Ethereum is what continues to accelerate innovation.

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Undoubtedly, the cryptocurrency market has not been kind to traders in 2018. All but a few cryptos have gone down in market cap. Still, some have fared better than others. In this article, we’ll look at the strongest cryptocurrencies in 2018. 

Best-Performing Cryptocurrencies, Criteria: 

  • This list only includes coins in top 100 by market capitalization, thereby excluding lower-ranked altcoins. 
  • We exclude all stablecoins pegged to another asset, such as Tether, PAX, and Dai.
  • We exclude any project that hasn’t been around for at least six months.
  • All prices sourced from CoinCodex, tracked from January 1st, and ranked by percentage fall in market capitalization. 
  • All prices correct at time of publishing (11th December, 2018).

Want to see the worst performing cryptocurrencies of 2018? Click here to see the biggest fallers.

10. Global Utility Token (OKB) -55.74%

Global Utility Token (OKB) is the native exchange cryptocurrency for OKEx. This exchange regularly ranks in the top three by 24-hour trading volume. Some applications for OKB include the OKB trading market, new listing vote, designated merchant privileges, and more. The exchange has made a few major moves in 2018 like announcing its operations expansion to Malta in April and adding several new stablecoins in October.

OKB

9. 0x (ZRX) -55.23% 

ZRX is the native cryptocurrency for 0x a project that aims to power decnetralized exchanges for just about anything. The project has even built its own decentralized exchange (DEX) called 0x OTC. One of the biggest supporting factors for the ZRX price this year was the token’s listing on Coinbase in October 2018.

0x

8. Ravencoin (RVN) -54.46%

Ravencoin (RVN) has done a decent job of meeting technical milestones. Ravencoin utilizes a use-specific blockchain that is “designed to efficiently handle one specific function: the transfer of assets from one party to another.” 

In October 2018, RVN began an upward price trend, 118% sustained growth over the course of one week. This was likely due to its listing on Binance and anticipation of the mainnet launch. Still, RVN prices have fallen somewhat since that time.

ravencoin

7. Holo (HOT) -53.56%

Holo (HOT) hasn’t been around all that long, with its ICO only ending in April 2018. This means that this cryptocurrency, unlike many others, didn’t have have to experience the major dip that began in January 2018. The main objective of this project is to create a bridge for greater and greater decentralization and autonomy over time. Essentially, its technology aims to help centralized systems to become 100% decentralized. 

The project has gained some momentum, mainly due to continued discussions about the progress of a partnership with Mozilla. Although there is no info from Mozilla that says this is official, the Holo team has said there probably won’t be an official announcement until after the initial product release of Holo, which should be sometime in Q1 2019.

holo (hot)

6. Loom Network (LOOM) -48.59%

Loom (LOOM) is designed specifically for games and social apps. The blockchain is developer-friendly in a bid to lure the most creative minds to the platform. Loom calls itself a “build your own blockchain” generator allowing developers to easily build dapps on their own sidechain of Ethereum. 

We all know that Ethereum has a scaling problem when it comes to running applications. Loom aims to fix that by providing a fast, scaled-up solution. The LOOM token acts as a membership pass, granting access to the suite of games and dapps.

Loom network

5. Pundi X (NPXS) -46.86%

Pundi X (NPXS) is creating a blockchain-based point-of-sale solution for retail businesses. Since August 2018, the project team has already shipped 5,000 XPOS (Pundi X Point of Sale devices) to various countries throughout the globe. 

In October 2018, the project made a major announcement. The project, together with Dubai’s official government credit bureau and regional distribution partners, is bringing XPOS to hundreds of storefronts across the city. In November 2018, Pundi X partnered with Singapore-based Quantum Energy Asset Management (QEAM) to launch a $100-million blockchain fund, which is expected to officially launch in January 2019.

Pundi x

4. Binance Coin (BNB) -43.65%

Binance Coin (BNB) is the third native exchange cryptocurrency to make this list. Binance’s ability to maintain its status as the world’s largest crypto-to-crypto exchange (by trading volume) has likely supported BNB prices.

The initial use-case for BNB was to pay fees on the Binance exchange, but there are bigger plans ahead. BNB is expanding to allow users to pay for goods and services, such as hotels. Most Binance employees even receive their salary (or parts of it) in BNB.

A lot of momentum around BNB is also likely due to more recent announcements. In December 2018, Binance developers released a second demo video for Binance DEX. The exchange is looking to launch its DEX platform sometime in early 2019. The exchange is also developing its own blockchain called “Binance Chain”.

binance coin

3. Decentraland (MANA) -42.53%

Decentraland (MANA) aims to become one of the most interesting and innovative use cases on the market. The Decentraland project team is building a VR world where users can use MANA as well as create their own 3D houses, banks, casinos, resorts, businesses, and more.

Even though the Decentraland platform isn’t yet operational, there has been a good bit of progress in 2018. For example, in November 2018, the project partnered with Ripio Credit Network (RCN) to provide smart contract-based mortgages for purchasing Decentraland LAND. Axie Infinity, another popular blockchain game, also announced a partnership with Decentraland in November 2018.

Decentraland just launched its second “land auction” to sell off 9,000+ parcels of virtual reality land.

Decentraland-Blockchain-VR

2. Huobi Token (HT) -19%

Huobi Token (HT), which launched in January 2018, marks the fourth (and highest-ranked) native exchange cryptocurrency featured in this list. HT was initially created and “distributed to paid Huobi VIP members in response to China’s crypto ban and decreased trading activity”. Compared to BNB, HT is a much newer cryptocurrency. 

In fact, HT was modeled on the success of BNB as a native exchange token and has similar functionalities. For example, like BNB for Binance, the Huobi exchange uses HT as an option for traders wanting to decrease exchange transaction fees. The company also has regular HT buyback/burn events.

huobi token

1. ODEM (ODE) +197%

ODEM (ODE), which launched in April 2018, has done well in recent bear market months. This cryptocurrency is part of a blockchain platform that aims to change the future of education and certifications. According to the project website, the platform will be a place where “students and student representatives can create and request services for education programs. Educators and educational service providers can receive requests for program fulfillment and delivery services.” 

In terms of technical deliverables, the project has made a lot of progress in a short amount of time. For example, smart contracts are already live on the mainnet, and there will be a full launch sometime in Q1 2019.

ODEM token

Conclusion

It’s been a rollercoaster year dominated by negativity and price crashes. However, these projects prove that hard work is going on behind the scenes. Passionate teams are building amazing things in blockchain. When the dust settles, these may be the projects that survive and shape the industry going forward.

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worst-performing cryptocurrencies 2018

It’s been a brutal year for crypto, but which are the worst cryptocurrencies? After the boom of 2017, the whole crypto market is in the red. Some projects are on the verge of bankruptcy while others are taking drastic measures such as cutting staff and re-organizing. 

However, some cryptocurrencies have performed worse than others. Here, we rank the ten worst-performing cryptocurrencies of 2018 and look at some of the reasons for their poor performance.

Worst-Performing Cryptocurrencies, Criteria: 

  • This list only includes coins in top 100 by market capitalization, thereby excluding lower-ranked altcoins. 
  • We exclude all stablecoins pegged to another asset, such as Tether, PAX, and Dai.
  • We exclude any project that hasn’t been around for at least six months.
  • All prices sourced from CoinCodex, tracked from January 1st, and ranked by percentage fall in market capitalization. 
  • All prices correct at time of publishing (10th December, 2018).

10. Bitcoin Cash (BCH) -95.5%

Bitcoin Cash suffered a disastrous end to the year after a contentious hard fork split the community. A vicious war of words broke out between the two sides and miners went to war. The blockchain ultimately split in two, spawning a new cryptocurrency, Bitcoin Cash SV. The controversy had a wholly negative impact on the value of BCH which has dropped 95.5% this year.

Further reading: Everything You Need to Know About the Bitcoin Cash Fork

Bitcoin Cash price chart 2018

9. Elastos (ELA) -95.58%

Elastos (ELA) is a cryptocurrency that aims to be used as part of the first completely safe and decentralized infrastructure for the internet. According to comments on various social media channels, here are some negative things to note about ELA. The inflation rate is too high, not many exchanges list this crypto, and specialized hardware (Elastos server) is needed to run applications. As of late 2018, there also isn’t support for ELA on major hardware wallets like Trezor and Ledger.

Elastos price chart 2018

8. ICON (ICX) -96.08%

ICON (ICX) launched with the goal to “hyperconnect the world” and “enrich our everyday lives through ‘connection’”. This is one of many projects aiming to improve blockchain interoperability. AION, Wanchain, and ARK are considered by many to be ICON’s top competition. 

Thus far, there have been a few relevant criticisms of the project. For example, after the mainnet launch in January 2018, the token swap was a slow process that dragged on all the way into late October 2018. Although the project has been in development for two years, the website still doesn’t have a proper roadmap listed.

ICON price chart 2018

7. Verge (XVG) -96.35%

Verge (XVG) announced a big partnership with PornHub in April 2018; however, this hasn’t had a positive impact on prices long-term. The biggest issue for this project in 2018 has been the constant 51% attacks. Although security issues have affected a number of exchanges and blockchains this year, Verge’s security woes are some of the most reported in crypto, and for good reason. 

In May 2018, one attack alone affected over 35 million coins in around five hours. The hacker stole around $1.8 million in XVG. While other projects that have suffered from 51% attacks, XVG has clearly been the most impacted this year. 

Verge price chart 2018

6. Populous (PPT) -96.69%

Populous Platform Token (PPT) is a cryptocurrency for Populous’ smart contract invoice finance platform, which runs on the Ethereum & RSK blockchains. There appears to have been a number of issues with the project’s technical features throughout 2018. For example, users of the beta version of the platform received error 502 and faced other problems. Therefore, many found it difficult to test the platform’s functionality. 

Another common criticism is a lack of responsiveness from the project team to questions from the community. As this article points out, this issue was also prevalent in 2017. The Telegram channel account owner has been inactive since July 2017, and this platform only had around 1,300 members.

PPT price chart 2018

5. Ardor (ARDR) -96.86%

Ardor (ARDR) is a cryptocurrency designed specifically for business applications. Looking at the project website, the Ardor platform itself is being developed for blockchain-as-a-service purposes. This project evolved from the Nxt blockchain, the first Proof-of-Stake consensus network. Ardor also features a unique parent-child chain architecture. 

Compared to others on this list, there doesn’t seem to be too many negatives regarding this project in 2018. Despite some wallet and network issues earlier in the year, it’s tough to pinpoint the exact cause of ARDR price declines. Perhaps the biggest issue (as with many blockchain projects) is that the tech is still underdeveloped.

Ardor price chart 2018

4. Bitcoin Diamond (BCD) -97.11%

Bitcoin Diamond (BCD) raises a few potential red flags for some people. For instance, its two main developers go by the pseudonyms “007″ and “Evey”, and source code isn’t available. Regardless, BCD aims to reduce transaction fees and completion times. Compared to BTC, BCD has larger block sizes, a higher total supply, and simplified mining processes. 

According to the first Weiss Cryptocurrency Ratings released in April 2018, BCD and a few other Bitcoin hard forks are merely copycats. While this report does highlight some of the positives of these new cryptocurrencies, it notes that BTC being the first-mover does take away some momentum from projects like BCD.

Further reading: 5 Failed Bitcoin Forks that Never Made It

Bitcoin diamond price chart 2018

3. Bitcoin Private (BTCP) -97.26%

Bitcoin Private (BTCP), as the name suggests, provides the possibility of private transactions. If you’re well-versed on cryptocurrencies, you know that BTC isn’t really anonymous. That’s why BTCP was created as a merge fork of Bitcoin and ZClassic. BTCP aims to compete with Verge, Monero, and other privacy coins. 

Earlier in 2018, a big discussion on the BTCP subreddit surrounded the lack of listings from top exchanges. Since then, low liquidity trading and conflicts within the team and community have all continued to be major issues. Still, it’s important to note that BTCP is one of the newer projects (launched in March 2018), in the top 100 market cap rankings.

Bitcoin Private price chart 2018

2. Qtum (QTUM) -97.36%

Qtum (QTUM) is another project that aims to become a leader in the smart contract market. The project made significant progress after its ICO ended in March 2017. The testnet launched only three months later. 

The mainnet launched three months after the testnet release, very quick when compared to the vast majority of blockchain projects. The issue seems to be that Qtum’s competition has implemented better technology, at least as of late 2018. According to one article, Aion and ICON are both ahead of Qtum. There are also other competitors to consider like Ethereum, NEO, Zilliqa, and many more.

Qtum price chart 2018

1. Aion (AION) -97.57%

Aion (AION) is a third generation blockchain project that (as mentioned above) competes with ICX and others by focusing on increasing interoperability between various chains. Some potential use cases listed on the project website include supply chain logistics, Internet-of-Things, online media marketplace, fundraising, and digital identities. 

As with Ardor, Aion doesn’t seem to have faced too many major issues in 2018. Nonetheless, some people have said that the project is too ambitious and it finds itself with the biggest percentage drop in market cap of 2018.

Aion price chart 2018

Conclusion

After the euphoria of 2017 and the rapid growth of altcoins, this year has been tough for cryptocurrency projects. It has been predicted that most altcoins will “go to zero,” but can the projects on this list turn it around next year? Join us tomorrow for our run-down of the best performing cryptocurrencies of 2018.

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Zilliqa, IOSToken, Filecoin mainnet launch

To round out the year, we asked our Block Explorer writers to tell us what they’re most excited about for blockchain and crypto in 2019. In this piece, Delton Rhodes explains the potentially ground-breaking mainnet launches of Zilliqa, IOSToken, and Filecoin.

For both the worst performing and best performing cryptocurrencies in 2018, the market has been bear and bleak. Despite these results, there has been a lot of technical progress from several of the top projects in this space throughout the past year. 

Several mainnet launches are planned for Q1 and Q2. Here are three notable mainnets that I’m looking forward to seeing launch in 2019, listed in order of anticipated/scheduled launch dates.

Zilliqa Mainnet, Scheduled for January 31, 2019

Zilliqa logo

Zilliqa’s mainnet is highly anticipated because it marks one of the first projects to put its attention towards sharding technology – an experimental method of increasing blockchain scalability.

For the most part, sharding was still in the research and development phase before Zilliqa began to push implementation forward. Sure, this technology still needs vast improvements. However, people also want to see what sharding is capable of achieving now.

Zilliqa had originally scheduled its mainnet for Q3 2018, but decided to push it back until the end of January 31, 2019. There are two sides on whether this was the correct move. For some, a delay should be avoided at all costs as “something is better than nothing”. For others, though, it’s better to have a high-quality release over one that is ridden with errors. 

However you view such a delay, it’s important to ask why it happened. According to a statement from co-founder Amrit Kumar via the project’s official Telegram group, the team still needed to conduct security audits, get ready for the token swap, integrate with wallets, develop toolchains, and add more dapps to the ecosystem. 

Ultimately, the main thing to examine is what the project accomplishes once the tech is live and ready for the public to use.

Zilliqa sharding
Zilliqa is one of the first to implement experimental sharding technology to achieve huge throughput

According to the project website, the Zilliqa blockchain is already able to handle 2,828 transactions per second (tps). This would be a significant improvement over Bitcoin (7 tps) and Ethereum 15-25 tps). If Zilliqa’s mainnet is successful, it could mean more dapps and technologies built on the Zilliqa blockchain vs. others. 

If it’s unsuccessful, though, this might impact how both this project and others in the industry try to implement sharding solutions.

IOStoken Mainnet Scheduled for February 25, 2019

iostoken-twitter

The ultimate goal of IOSToken is to create a blockchain platform with enough scalability to build a “decentralized economy.”

IOSToken aims to create a foundation for the future of the ‘internet of services’. This could include things like decentralized virtual goods and services markets, cloud computing, file storage, e-commerce, online gaming, gambling, prediction markets, virtual assistant service, online advertising and more.

On December 20, 2018, IOStoken launched its testnet called ‘Everest’. On February 25, 2019, the project plans to release the full mainnet. 

IOSToken roadmap
The IOSToken roadmap for 2019

What makes this project’s mainnet something to look forward to in 2019? First, like Zilliqa, IOStoken will be implementing a sharding solution. With the two mainnets launching so close together, it will be interesting to compare the results. One tweet from March 2018 stated that IOStoken’s consensus protocol had already achieved 8,000 tps in a test environment. 

The tweet also stated that the testnet would launch in Q2 2018, so there was a pretty significant delay (similar to Zilliqa). Have there been any significant updates in IOStoken scalability since then? What’s possible on the mainnet? These are just two of the main questions that need to be answered.

IOStoken also introduces a lot of new scalability solutions that modify existing theories and concepts, putting them all into a real-world blockchain. For example, TransEpoch serves as the node-to-shard transition assignment protocol. Proof-of-Believability is a consensus protocol that aims to improve upon Proof-of-Work by assigning nodes a believability score as well as grouping nodes into two categories: believable and normal. Micro State Blocks (MSBs) ensure the accuracy of validation without having to check the whole blockchain. 

Filecoin Mainnet, Anticipated Launch in Mid-2019

filecoin

Back in September 2017, fundraising for Filecoin broke the all-time record for blockchain projects. With $257 million raised, mostly within the span of one month, the project has big ambitions. Even some of the world’s largest investment groups backed Filecoin. The project collected $52 million in a presale that included Sequoia Capital, Andreessen Horowitz and Union Square Ventures, among others. 

The concept of a blockchain-based data storage and data processing network isn’t exclusive to Filecoin. Similar projects like Storj (STORJ) Siacoin (SC), iExec (RLC), Golem (GNT), and MaidSafe (MAID) are also competing in this space. 

Filecoin has made progress, as seen with three demo videos published in August 2018. The first shows the go-filecoin command-line tool and live filecoin nodes running on a testnet. The second displays a network visualization and block explorer tool. The final one is an overview of the storage market and provides info on the roles of miners and clients. As of the end of Q2 2018, the project had completed the majority of its private codebase goals and planned to launch a public codebase as well as community forums.

The Filecoin roadmap

It’s the end of 2018, and Filecoin hasn’t delivered too many technical breakthroughs that are accessible to the public. This, however, could change with the release of its mainnet scheduled tentatively for sometime in mid-2019. 

Also, this mainnet poses important questions both for Filecoin specifically as well as other projects with similar amounts of available capital. Should we expect more results in a shorter amount of time from a project that raised so much? If so, how should it compare to other projects with fewer funds and resources? 

This isn’t an exact science, especially due to the fact that a lot of infrastructure is just now being developed. In addition, like most other infrastructure projects, many theoretical concepts are finally being tested thoroughly and applied for the first time. Still, most people who follow blockchain are probably also pondering these questions.

Conclusion

This list certainly doesn’t serve as a be-all and end-all for mainnets launching in 2019. There are likely to be several other game-changing mainnet releases as well as significant updates from blockchain projects that already have mainnets. From a blockchain infrastructure perspective, though, the three projects mentioned above are definitely ones to watch out for throughout this coming year. 

Can they change the current hierarchy of blockchain and crypto? Will they bring innovative solutions that people will actually want to use? Although technical capabilities are an essential component to success of any project, it’ll also be interesting to keep up with if (and to what extent) user adoption follows.

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