The impact of blockchain resonated around the world in 2017.
Fusing technology and idealism together, consensus protocols have become a viable alternative to the centralized domination of data. Marketplace noobs and giant corporations alike have swarmed together, creating a collaborative mesh of interconnected projects.
Whole blockchain empires rose in 2017. Those at the core of the ecosystem stand to disrupt numerous industries, including healthcare, supply chains, financial markets, centralized exchanges, governance, energy production, identity management, and many others.
As blockchain systems advance, organizations like the Enterprise Ethereum Alliance (EEA) have risen to prominence. Since its formation late in February 2017, EEA has swollen to encompass the collective efforts of nearly 300 companies that seek to bolster the Ethereum ecosystem's ability to meet the demands of businesses the world over. The work of EEA and similar groups continues to build a foundation upon which the future of blockchain-backed industries will rest.
ICOs Went Big
2017 was a landmark year for crowdfunding, presenting record-breaking figures from companies like BAT, Status, Gnosis, Aragon, Bancor, and Kik, all of whom successfully initiated token offerings that collected millions in capital, sometimes in a matter of seconds. Given the success of these efforts, 2017 may well be labeled "The Year of the Token Offerings." Alongside crowdfunding, the market for Ether has exploded and has experienced nearly 9,000 percent growth.
The Good, The Bad, And The Hacky
While it had its peaks, 2017 also came with pitfalls. Bugs plagued developers, and ransomware, phishing attacks, and social engineering schemes were rampant.
One of the most notorious hacks of the year came with a silver lining when a quick-acting good Samaritan, along with other white hat hackers, rescued 377,000 Ether. A vulnerability discovered in a multi-signature Parity wallet had put funds at risk.
Parity suffered further woes later in the year when it failed to perform a critical update to fix an exploit that would ultimately result in the freezing of 513,774.16 Ether belonging to 573 users. No one can say for sure how this issue will be resolved.
Scandals like Tapscott and Tezos were in the news as well. In a throwback to the MtGox scandal, one Alexandar Vinnik was arraigned in Greece. He may soon be extradited to the US on charges related to money laundering, as well as enabling hackers and drug traffickers, if the court ruling is upheld by the Greek Minister of Justice.
In weirder news, one Englishman lost millions of dollars in digital currency in a landfill; a US man was held at gunpoint for his Ether wallet; and thieves made off with a bunch of bitcoin ATMs.
The Tax Man Cometh
2017 also saw quite a few crypto-focused legal cases. One of the more prominent of these involved the IRS's issuance of a John Doe Summons demanding that the Coinbase exchange turn over account records. After the summons was challenged, an order largely limited the scope of records Coinbase was required to produce.
Additionally, the passage of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act is projected to have implications for cryptocurrency, subjecting trades to capital gains tax. A wave of attention to crypto-gains seemed to spread over the globe, with regulators in India, Russia, the US and the EU all clamoring over the potential of undeclared capital gains from trading and mining.
Securities, Commodities, or Utilities?
Officials at the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) have had their hands full in 2017 as the ever-changing landscape of blockchain technology and cryptocurrency is proving to to be a bit of a regulatory oddity. In July this year, the SEC declared that at least some tokens are to be considered securities, though it remains unclear if others might be categorized as commodities or currencies.
Just this month, the commission intervened in a token offering for the first time when it issued a cease-and-desist order to blockchain-based review platform Munchee for engaging in an illegal securities offering. Munchee swiftly complied with the SEC orders and no charges were filed.
The Ecosystem Levels Up
While authorities develop strategies to integrate consumer protections alongside FinTech development, developers of blockchain platforms themselves have been equally busy. In 2017, the first Ethereum lite client was tested and released. In addition, the ecosystem was introduced to MetaMask, a useful Chrome plugin that allows for Ethereum blockchain interactivity with any Web 3.0 compatible site.
Perhaps among the greatest feats for the Ethereum blockchain was a transition through the Byzantium hard fork: a non-backward compatible protocol upgrade that adjusted block rewards, reduced the block size, and introduced numerous other fixes to various issues on the platform. Byzantium was the fifth Etherean hard fork to take place and was widely celebrated as a success among developers.
As 2017 comes to a close, ETHNews and the ecosystem at large celebrate a year of growth, blockbuster market activity, and innovation. Let us all look forward to many more.