The main driver of the cryptocurrency market is technology. The novelty and constant development of technology created an entirely new market. Work on crypto technology doesn't stop for a minute. According to this report, there are more than 8,000 active developers working on various cryptocurrency projects every month, with 80% of those developers having started in the last two years. Thanks to this constant work, we can define the rise of a specific technology on the crypto market each year.
The standout event of the year was the DAO hack. The DAO was a decentralized autonomous organization (DAO) launched in 2016 on the Ethereum blockchain. After raising $150 million worth of ether (ETH) through a token sale, The DAO was hacked due to its codebase vulnerabilities. The Ethereum blockchain was eventually hard forked (in other words, a critical update has been implemented) to restore the stolen funds. Still, not all people agreed with this controversial decision, resulting in the network splitting into two distinct blockchains: Ethereum and Ethereum Classic.
This year was marked by the explosive popularity of Initial Coins Offerings (ICOs), a new way of fundraising with blockchain. The first ICO was Mastercoin and took place on the Bitcoin network back in 2013. But the popularity of this crowdfunding method reached its peak in 2017 with the development of Ethereum smart contracts.
ICOs ultimately launched a new generation of blockchain projects that significantly shaped Ethereum and widened the whole crypto ecosystem. However, more than 2,000 unique token sales raised more than $10 billion cumulatively in 2017 and 2018. Also, the leading ICOs like FileCoin and Tezos raised more than $257M and $232M, respectively.
The dominant trend in 2018 was the creation of stablecoins. Several companies released their stablecoins—alternatives to USDT. As a result, TUSD, USDC, and others appeared on the market. Besides, this was the same year the popularity of Dai algorithmic stablecoin (based on the whole system of smart contracts) began to grow. Subsequently, the BUSD stablecoin from the Binance exchange joined this trend.
The ICO fever in 2017 proved to be a very high-risk tool for investors. So, IEOs were first introduced in early 2019 and have become a really popular way to launch new crypto projects. As with ICOs, IEOs involve the distribution of new crypto tokens to either a set of investors or the broader public. However, in an IEO, the organization trying to raise funds has to partner with a cryptocurrency exchange, which facilitates the actual token sale and distribution.
This year was definitely the year of the Decentralized Finance (DeFi) popularity surge. Projects like Compound, yearn.finance, and Sushi were the primary catalysts of this surge. The whole crypto community was notably interested in decentralized governance, lending, and yield farming—the three key features of these new projects. Due to their success, we saw a rise in popularity of this cryptocurrency sector, both in the ever-increasing Total Value Locked—the key metrics for this sector—and in the numbers of new projects and blockchains enabling DeFi computing.
NFTs were first created back in 2015. However, they didn't gain popularity until early 2021. This was largely due to the rise in prices, trading volumes, and popularity of Cryptopunks and the OpenSea, as well as NBA Topshot marketplaces. Most interestingly, the popularity peak of early 2021 renewed again in the fall, primarily due to the use of NFTs in the GameFi project.