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People love to compare the bitcoin crash to the dot-com bubble.

I get it. It makes a good headline. At the end of 2018, Bloomberg, CNBC, and Fortune were quick to print stories like this:

The Crypto Crash of 2018 Is Now Worse Than the Dotcom Bust

Crypto’s 80% Plunge Is Now Worse Than the Dot-Com Crash

Bitcoin is unfolding like the dot-com crash, just 15 times faster

If you look at bitcoin’s run-up in 2017, it does look worse than the dot-com bubble.

bitcoin vs dot com bubble chart
Source: WSJ

But these charts ignore one crucial thing:

The dot-com bubble was EIGHT times bigger than crypto

We’ll start with market capitalization.

The market cap of the NASDAQ Composite Index (which tracks tech stocks) during the peak of the dot-com boom was $6.7 trillion.

The crypto market cap at its peak was $828 billion.

In other words, the dot-com bubble was eight times bigger than crypto.

crypto market cap vs nasdaq market cap

The absence of Wall Street

The second big difference between the dot-com bubble and the crypto bubble is a complete absence of institutional traders.

Almost no-one on Wall Street was trading bitcoin in 2017. Most family investment offices and hedge funds didn’t hold crypto either.

Whether it’s a good thing or a bad thing, the “big money” hasn’t come to crypto yet. The two bubbles are completely incomparable when the investor base is so widely different.

Bitcoin was a bubble…

Don’t get me wrong. The bitcoin spike in 2017 was a bubble. A big one.

It had all the hallmarks of a big financial bubble: mania, greed, delusion, and capitulation. And the 80% drop is painful.

But if we’re going to put this in context with historic bubbles, let’s use a relative scale, not percentage drops. 

Bitcoin’s “dot-com moment” may yet be still to come

Bitcoin’s “dot-com moment” won’t happen until we see much bigger volumes of money flowing into it.

This infrastructure is building… Nasdaq and NYSE are launching on-ramps for crypto. A bitcoin ETF may be on the horizon. Institutional-grade custody is coming.

Only when these things are in place will we see the kind of money required for a “dot-com” level run-up.

And if that happens, the fall will be truly enormous when it bursts.

A version of this article appeared in our exclusive newsletter. If you’d like Block Explorer’s cutting-edge analysis in your inbox every Tuesday, sign up now.

bitcoin blockchain future trends 2019

There’s no other way to say it: 2018 was a true rollercoaster for the blockchain world.

While it started with a historic surge to an unbelievable crypto market capitalization of $900 billion at its peak, the market disastrously retraced by nearly 90% since those glory days.

Despite countless financial analysts and crypto experts predicting heights of up to $60,000 per bitcoin in 2018, the year, unfortunately, turned out to be one of the worst for the crypto market.

However, now it’s time to focus on the future. In order to effectively prepare yourself for the following year, you definitely want to take a look at the following sectors of the blockchain world.

1. Bitcoin Exchange-Traded Funds (ETFs)

bitcoin etf approval date

Date to Watch: 27th of February, 2019 – VanEck and Solid X Bitcoin ETF Decision Date

Bitcoin ETFs have undoubtedly been one of the hottest topics during the past 12 months, especially since they are regarded as a potential catalyst for rapid price increases of bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies. 

One ETF application, in particular, has been declared as a possible game-changer. The collaboration between investment firm VanEck, the blockchain company SolidX and the Chicago Board Options Exchange (CBOE). It is one of the few physical ETF proposals that is actually seen as promising by several financial experts. 

If a trading vehicle of this kind was approved, the ETF issuer would need to actually buy real bitcoins from an exchange or, more likely, the over the counter (OTC). A potential ETF of this size requires tens of thousands of bitcoins, and the ensemble would need to acquire them, which could lead to a rapid increase in price. 

Furthermore, an ETF would enable investors and traders to eventually trade bitcoin on a traditional stock exchange, which would also help the digital currency to gain popularity and availability. 

Unfortunately, the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has not yet decided on the ETF submitted by VanEck and SolidX. The final decision has been postponed several times, however, the SEC announced an ultimatum on December 7, 2018. The Commission chose the 27th of February, 2019, as the day for either the approval or disapproval of the proposal. 

Although dozens of established cryptocurrency specialists, like CNBC expert Bill Barhydt, believe that we will see an ETF approval in the following months, it remains to be seen if the SEC is convinced that the time is right to unleash the first physical Exchange-Traded Fund for Bitcoin.

Further reading: What is a Bitcoin ETF (And Will it Trigger a Bitcoin Price Surge?)

2. Tokenized Securities

security token map - the block
Mapping the Security Token ecosystem, by The Block

“Security tokens, not utility coins, will attract significant amounts of Wall Street money next year.”

Security tokens or tokenized securities were definitely buzzwords that grew in the past 12 months in crypto. This is, of course, because tokenized assets are one of the most promising innovations in the blockchain sector, as they could disrupt the corporate and financial world.

Rohit Kulkarni, the managing director of SharesPost, one of the leading marketplaces for private securities, firmly believes that 2019 is going to be the year of tokenized securities. In a recent article on Nasdaq, Kulkarni stated that “security tokens, not utility coins, will attract significant amounts of Wall Street money next year.” 

Despite missing regulations often being seen as a major stumbling block for the industry to grow, Kulkarni is confident that the space will mature in the near future. “We ultimately expect a more stable regulatory environment over the next six to twelve months,” he said.

In 2018, many companies already started engaging in the security token industry. Overstock, for example, became the first billion dollar company to start building their very own security token exchange, which is expected to open up trading during this year. 

Moreover, Open Finance became the first U.S. based security token exchange that went live on December 13, 2018. With traditional stock exchanges, such as Switzerland’s and Malta’s main stock exchanges, forming partnerships to build security token exchanges, the industry is without a doubt worth to keep an eye on in 2019.

Further reading:

Nasdaq Stocks on the Blockchain: You Can Now Buy Tokenized Shares in Apple, Tesla, and Facebook

Real Estate on the Blockchain: Is Tokenized Property a Reality in 2019?

3. Nasdaq and New York Stock Exchange Get Involved in Crypto

Nasdaq bitcoin futures

Date to Watch: Late January – The expected launch of Bakkt.

The two biggest stock exchanges in the world will step into the crypto ring in 2019: the New York Stock Exchange and the Nasdaq. 

Bakkt, a cryptocurrency exchange built by ICE, which is the parent company of the NYSE, planned to launch the first physical-backed bitcoin futures on January 24. Although the start has already been postponed several times, crypto enthusiasts still see the exchange as a potential game-changer for involving institutional investors into the market, due to the reputation and experience that is connected with its operator.

Meanwhile, Nasdaq is following Bakkt on its mission and recently announced it was working on Bitcoin future trading for 2019 as well. Further news from Nasdaq include the exploration of security tokens and a potential exchange for such assets in the following time.

While it is not yet certain what kind of future security token trading Nasdaq will be providing, it still shows that some of the biggest financial enterprises in the world are not scared of the overall bearish market sentiment of 2018. “The concept of having a digital currency that does allow for transfer of money across borders, that really transcends the banking system, and allows for a seamless transfer, is really really fascinating and one that we have to assume will become a part of the ecosystem of the internet,” Nasdaq CEO Adena Friedman commented on digital currencies such as bitcoin.

Further reading: “We’re Doing This No Matter What”; Nasdaq Confirms Bitcoin Futures Launch

4. Custody and Storage Solutions

fidelity-investments-crypto-blockchain-bitcoin-760x400

Fidelity: We’ll “make digitally native assets, such as bitcoin, more accessible to investors”

$1 billion in cryptocurrency was stolen in 2018 with high-profile crypto exchange hacks hitting the headlines. Keeping cryptocurrency on an exchange is risky. And, while holding bitcoin yourself in a personal wallet is safe, you risk losing the wallet.

That’s why custody and storage solutions will be a huge talking point in 2019.

As for institutional investors, bitcoin or storage solutions are seen as major hurdles for attracting the big fish to the crypto market. Most institutional investors are prohibited from investing in assets unless they are held in secure custody provided by highly specialized firms, 

Coinbase and other blockchain companies already gave birth to novel crypto asset custodial solutions in 2018. Fidelity, an established asset management firm that administers its clients’ assets with a combined worth of about $7 trillion, also decided to “make digitally native assets, such as bitcoin, more accessible to investors,” and founded a new subsidiary that focuses on storing digital assets for its clients. According to CNBC, the company is already in the process of onboarding clients and is expected to launch its platform in early 2019.

Some say that we should even expect major banks to join Fidelity and Co. in providing services for storing bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies. As stated in several reports, Ripple CEO Brad Garlinghouse, at the Singapore FinTech festival in 2018, mentioned that banking institutions are about to offer blockchain asset custody solutions to their clients during the next year.

5. Over-the-Counter (OTC) Trading

Circle OTC bitcoin trading

The Circle Trade OTC desk

Circle reported $24 billion in OTC crypto trading last year

OTC or over-the-counter trading is another keyword that pops up here and there when scanning the blockchain related stories of 2018. OTC trading is the private buying and selling of cryptocurrencies, often in huge amounts, off the major exchanges.

Bitcoin OTC coverage has increased in the media and social networks, but the trading activity itself seems to have increased in 2018 as well.

With Goldman Sachs-backed Circle’s OTC trading platform recording $24 billion in OTC trading last year, it is regarded as a true money-making machine. “We have seen triple-digit growth enrolling in our OTC business. That’s a big growth area,” mentioned Jeremy Allaire, the CEO of Circle, in an interview with Bloomberg in October.

Consequently, some of the biggest cryptocurrency exchanges are now working on their own OTC trading desks or, in regard to Coinbase, quietly launched one in the matter of a few months. 

Binance, on the other hand, decided to act in a different way, as its newly founded investment wing Binance Labs recently invested $3 million into a U.S. based OTC desk called Koi Trading. 

With major exchanges moving into the OTC business, the field is likely to play a key role in the blockchain world during 2019.

Further reading: What is Bitcoin OTC Trading? Inside the Mysterious World of the Rich and Nebulous

6. Banking and Blockchain

Creating a “seamless experience for storing and managing digital assets”

Banking institutions around the globe are already experimenting with blockchain technology in order to improve cross-border trading and daily operations. In 2018, several achievements were made and they might give us an outlook of how the following 12 months could look like for banks.

The first real customer transactions between several big international banking institutions were conducted on the blockchain platform We.Trade on July 3, 2018. This event is considered a major milestone for blockchain adoption, as institutions across all industries were previously not interested in leaving their sandbox test environments.

While established banks are continuously pushing forward adoption of distributed ledger technologies, new players are also eyeing the creation of banks that are focused on blockchain assets. 

Smaller offshore destinations in the Caribbean, e.g. Bermuda, recently announced an update of their banking legislation in favor of blockchain technology and assets. Additionally, a young enterprise called EQIBank, founded by previous bankers from HSBC, UBS and Credit Suisse, just opened their first customer accounts in December 2018.

EQIBank aims to provide a seamless experience for storing and managing both traditional and digital assets, as stated in a recent press release. This can definitely be considered as an upcoming trend since crypto startups around the world are currently applying for banking licenses in their countries.

7. The Cryptocurrency Insurance Industry

Gemini insurance
The Gemini exchange and custody service is now fully insured

“The evolution is dramatic”

Insurance giants, such as MetLife and Allianz, are often regarded as notable blockchain researchers and adopters. Fair enough, considering that transparent ledgers and smart contracts seem to be the perfect enhancements for the daily business of an insurance company. The most promising use-cases include, but are not limited to, automating payments once the terms of a claim are met, increasing the transparency of transactions, storing information and enabling blockchain powered IoT processes.

Ryan Rugg, the global head of insurance at R3, believes the current evolution of insurance companies is a huge leap for the industry. “These developments would be innovative in any sector, but when you consider the processes underpinning the insurance industry have remained largely unchanged for hundreds of years, the evolution is even more dramatic,” Rugg explained in an article on BlockTribune. When talking about the future, Rugg further stated that “2019 will undoubtedly see the insurance industry enter the next stage of its digital transformation.”

Further reading: Cryptocurrency Insurance: What is It?

8. Regulation Developments

“We need appropriate regulations to be put in place and enforced to safeguard the interest of investors”

2018 has definitely seen some considerable developments in terms of global blockchain regulations. With Malta officially becoming a blockchain island, smaller jurisdictions opening up to security tokens and the SEC finally cracking down on a majority of all the controversial ICOs, the blockchain space clearly advanced and is on its way towards becoming a matured industry. Still, there are countless regulatory issues left that hamper the global adoption of blockchain technology and services.

With 2018 as a foundation, we most probably will see exponential progress in the following year in the most important jurisdictions, such as the US and the EU. In fact, there are already several signs that validate this assumption. On October 18, the SEC announced the launch of a new FinHub, where regulatory approaches to novel financial technologies, like blockchain, are researched and evaluated.

After Singapore, Malaysia is another Asian country that wants to introduce new legislation for blockchain in the following year. “While some parties might still be skeptical of this space, there can be no doubt that we need appropriate regulations to be put in place and enforced to safeguard the interest of investors,” said Lim Guan Eng, Finance Minister of Malaysia. In Liechtenstein, the government is currently working on the Liechtenstein Blockchain Act, which should pave the way for institutional investors in 2019.

Further countries that are expected to unveil updated laws for blockchain include the United Arabian Emirates, Israel, Russia, Thailand and seven major states within the EU. The ball is finally rolling and global regulations in various areas of distributed ledger technology seem to be closer than ever before. We definitely have an exciting year ahead of us and might even be looking towards one of the most productive years for the blockchain industry ever.

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stocks on the blockchain

From January 9th, investors will be able to buy tokenized shares in leading tech companies. The initiative is powered by Estonian-based cryptocurrency exchange DX.Exchange and Nasdaq. 

Using the DX.Exchange platform, investors can purchase shares in Apple, Tesla, Facebook and others, represented by an ERC-20 token on the Ethereum blockchain.

Stocks on a blockchain: how does it work?

If you want to buy stock in Facebook, you’d purchase the relevant token on the DX.Exchange. The exchange’s partner MPS MarketPlace Securities will then buy the corresponding Facebook stock, and issue an ERC-20 token to you.

As explained in the accompanying press release: 

“Digital stocks are backed 1:1 to real-world stocks traded on conventional stock exchanges. You purchase tokens for leading assets that you choose to invest in, such as Google, Amazon, etc. Therefore, when you are a token holder, you own shares of the company.”

Token holders are also entitled to the same cash dividends as real shareholders.

The trading platform itself will also tap into Nasdaq’s SMART technology, which monitors suspicious trading activity and manipulation.

Why buy tokenized shares?

Firstly, it means you can buy fractions of a share. If you don’t want to buy one whole share of Amazon stock (at $1,500), you could purchase a third of a share via the tokenized platform.

It also means you can buy stocks with bitcoin. Since DX.Exchange is a cryptocurrency exchange, you can simply buy tokenized shares with BTC.

Lastly, you can purchase shares after-hours. Normal stock market trading is restricted to working hours. But with tokenized shares on DX.Exchange, you can buy stocks in the middle of the night.

Speaking to Bloomberg, DX.Exchange CEO Daniel Skowronski said “We saw a huge market opportunity in tokenizing existing securities. We believe that this is the beginning of the traditional market’s merge with blockchain technology. This is going to open a whole new world of trading securities old and new alike.”

Which stocks are available?

The platform will launch with ten leading stocks from the Nasdaq exchange:

  • AlphaBet (Google)
  • Apple
  • Amazon
  • Facebook
  • Microsoft Corporation
  • Tesla
  • Netflix
  • Baidu
  • Intel Corporation
  • Nvidia

More will be added as the platform expands. The tokenized shares will open in Europe on January 9th, and launch in US in mid-late 2019.

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proof of keys

Proof of Keys is a new movement that encourages all crypto users to withdraw their funds from centralized exchanges like Coinbase, Gemini, and others.

Initiated by investor Trace Mayer, the first ever Proof of Keys event will take place on 3rd January 2019 – the anniversary of the bitcoin genesis block – with a view to establishing an annual tradition.

To participate in the Proof of Keys movement, you simply need to withdraw any crypto you hold on an exchange and store it safely in a personal crypto wallet where you control the private keys instead.

Why Does Proof of Keys matter?

There are two main reasons for removing your crypto from exchanges on Proof of Keys day:

  1. To ensure cryptocurrency exchanges actually have the funds they claim. If everyone withdraws their crypto funds on the same day, crypto exchanges will be forced to pay out. If they fail to do so, it’s a huge red flag for exchanges that claim to store your money safely.
  1. To take control of your own crypto. As Andreas Antonopoulos said: not your keys, not your bitcoin. If all your bitcoin is stored on a crypto exchange, you don’t actually own the private keys; the exchange does. That means you’re not in control of your bitcoin or other cryptocurrencies.

Protect Against Hacks and Centralization

If you leave your funds on a cryptocurrency exchange, it’s much more vulnerable to hacks. $1 billion in crypto was stolen in 2018; the vast majority from crypto exchanges.

Exchanges are huge targets for hackers because they store vast amounts of crypto in one place. Instead, move your crypto to a personal wallet where it is much less vulnerable.

As Block Explorer previously reported, at least 25% of all litecoin in circulation is held by Coinbase. That’s a dangerously large amount of litecoin stored in one place. Not only that, but Coinbase technically owns all that litecoin; not you the depositor.

Proof of Keys is a, therefore, a practical and philosophical movement.

How to move your funds off an exchange

To withdraw funds, you’ll first need a wallet and a corresponding address.

The safest option is a hardware wallet from Ledger, Trezor or KeepKey. These are similar to external hard drives designed specifically for crypto storage. Since they’re offline most of the time, they’re difficult to hack (known as “cold storage”).

There are other wallet options that give you full control of your private keys including software desktop wallets and simple paper wallets.

Want more information? 12 best bitcoin wallets for safe and secure crypto storage

Once you have your wallet address, simply withdraw funds from the exchange to the wallet address.

Be aware that there may be high transaction volume on January 3rd which may cause congestion. You should also test the wallet address by sending small amounts of crypto to the wallet first.

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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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