CoinDesk Turns 10: 2021 – The Year Bitcoin Became Salvadoran

When the bill was announced in July 2021, BTC was trading at around $30,000. When the bill became law in September 2021, it was trading around $45,000. By September 2022, a year after the law was enacted, it was below $20,000. Any discussion around El Salvador and adoption would be incomplete without acknowledging these price swings and the bitcoin bear market.

Celebrating Bitcoin Pizza Day: the Time a Bitcoin User Bought 2 Pizzas for 10,000 BTC

No, of course not. They paid them $50,000 cash and 1% of a company that was worthless at the time. In that same way, Hanyecz didn’t pay $270 million for two pizzas, he paid 10,000 bitcoins for two pizzas in 2010 because that’s how much two pizzas cost in 2010.

Fractional Reserve Banking Is a Fraud (but It’s Genius)

In reality, banks run like this: Short-term, safe customer deposits come in the door, the bank uses those short-term customer deposits to invest in long-term, risky assets in exchange for future financial returns and then the banks pray like hell that all the customers don’t want their deposits at the same time since short-term deposits are tied up in long-term assets.

U.S. Stablecoin Bill Picks Winners and Losers

Yeah, yeah – studies and briefings are just studies and briefings, but the conversation around CBDCs in Washington D.C. will be critically important. If the U.S. government does implement a CBDC one day, it should be done in a way that maintains personal privacy and doesn’t allow the government to implement draconian monetary policy on a whim.

Thank Elon for Making the Use Case for Twitter Competitor Nostr

Censorship or the lack thereof has long been a pain point for social media users and providers. Just recall the controversial cancellations and reversals on Twitter, crypto’s and President Donald Trump’s once-favorite social media site. In January 2021, while Twitter was a public company run by Jack Dorsey, Trump was permanently banned for tweets he sent prior to the Jan. 6 attack on the United States Capitol in Washington, D.C. Then in November 2022, when Twitter was a private company run and owned by Elon Musk, the Trump ban was reversed.

You don’t have to look far to see polarized reactions to each of these decisions.

But aside from personal opinions about Trump, many took the inconsistent behavior regarding his account status as further proof a censorship-resistant alternative needed to be built. Compounding that desire even further was Twitter’s decision in December to “remove accounts created solely for the purpose of promoting other social platforms and content that contains links or usernames for the following platforms: Facebook, Instagram, Mastodon, Truth Social, Tribal, Nostr and Post.”

That decision led to individuals being temporarily banned from Twitter simply because they posted a link to another social media site. Twitter walked back the policy, but the damage was done. Social media users wanted a next-generation Twitter where they couldn’t be canceled, and they needed it immediately.

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Nostr is the decentralized, open-source relay network that makes decentralized social media projects a possibility.

The pseudonymous developer fiatjaf has been working on Nostr since November 2020. Its name is an acronym for Notes and Other Stuff Transmitted by Relays. The following December he released branle, his first attempt at a Nostr-powered Twitter. In his announcement tweet he made clear that branle was just one client to the Nostr protocol and that it was a work in progress – it was the first client for Nostr.

A client is a software front end that allows access to underlying technology. Think about how you can send emails using Gmail: Gmail is the client that lets you access the protocol of email (there are three protocols, but you don’t even have to know that to use email). Similarly, branle was the first client that let you access and use the Nostr protocol. Taking the email analogy further, you could use another email service like Outlook to send emails just as you could use another Nostr client to use Nostr.

Fiatjaf was the creator but not the only developer who contributed to Nostr clients. Embracing equality and the true spirit of collaboration, fiatjaf declined a request to be interviewed for Projects to Watch, saying that he “could not be Nostr’s leader.” That is OK because, in early 2022, developer Will Casarin found a markdown document from fiatjaf that described Nostr and advertised it as a censorship-resistant alternative to Twitter. As he saw more evidence of deplatforming on Twitter, he started working on the iOS client for Nostr in his spare time as other open-source developers worked on their own clients or tended to the Nostr protocol.

He named the client Damus.

Casarin now works on Damus and Nostr full time after securing enough funding from Jack Dorsey to work on his client and the protocol for a year. When asked who is calling the shots at Nostr, Casarin said, “The running joke in the Nostr community is that either [me] or fiatjaf is the CEO.”

Obviously, the project has no CEO because it’s simply a protocol. Who is the CEO of email, anyway?

True to the ethos of Bitcoin – there is significant overlap between the Bitcoin and Nostr communities – Casarin seemed more excited to talk about Nostr than spend any more time on the thing he created.

What about Mastodon? Or Urbit?

Before asking “Why Nostr?,” ask “Why Not Mastodon?”

Mastodon is an early decentralized social media that boomed in user growth after Musk bought Twitter. But the boom didn’t last. What was missing from Mastodon or other decentralized social media attempts in order for Nostr to have gained so much traction?

Mastodon uses a federated model where your data is controlled by whoever owns the particular “instance” of Mastodon you’re using. An instance is started by someone with servers who will store data for you. Users connect to that instance to use Mastodon. What that means is the administrator who owns that instance can ban a user – arbitrarily, in fact – and that user basically has to start over because their data is owned by the instance.

Casarin was banned from a Mastodon instance for posting about Bitcoin. He and many bitcoiners eventually found the Bitcoin Hackers instance (which was recently wound down) where he could post about Bitcoin, but there was a big problem: The Bitcoin Hackers instance was banned from the rest of Mastodon.

But an even bigger problem?

“Running your own Mastodon instance is heavyweight. Even for someone like me,” Casarin said. It requires technological expertise, time and even money to keep the servers running. When Mastodon exploded in user onboarding after Musk bought Twitter, people running instances began GoFundMe campaigns to keep their communities running.

Nostr, by comparison, is far simpler: “It’s just JSON and WebSockets.”

And it is simpler still than yet another attempt at decentralized social media, Urbit.

“Urbit is crazy, a very eccentric model for decentralization,” said Casarin. “It’s not for normal people. It’s very bizarre and the complexity is very high.”

The point is Nostr is trying to solve censorship by making Nostr as easy to adopt as email or texting. Casarin suggested that running and using Nostr was much easier than running and using a Bitcoin node (which this reporter can tell you is definitely true).

Which raises an obvious question: What does this have to do with crypto? Nostr doesn’t have a token. It doesn’t use a blockchain. But its inclusion here as a crypto Project to Watch has nothing to do with tokens or blockchains. Yes, users are using Nostr to send bitcoin to each other over the Lightning Network, but Nostr’s connection to crypto is simpler. Bitcoin spawned the crypto landscape under the auspices of decentralization, censorship-resistance and disintermediating the need for third parties.

These principles pulse through the veins of Nostr.

Nostr is brutally simple. A user plugs into the network, connects to relays and those relays transmit data across the Nostr network.

However, Nostr has had growing pains. For example, the protocol uses public-key cryptography. A Nostr user has a private key (which is unknown to anyone but that user) and a public key that other users can use to follow other accounts and check out their notes (and other stuff). If a user accidentally shares their private key instead of their public key with others, all of a sudden “their” Nostr account becomes “our” Nostr account.

It’s still early days for Nostr, so these types of hiccups are expected and should be ironed out as the protocol grows and matures.

Besides user error, there are two top-of-mind concerns with Nostr at the moment: scaling and spam.

Scaling is a concern because there will be a need to run more relays than there are now to onboard billions to Nostr. By way of example, Twitter has more than 350 million monthly active users at the moment. While it feels as if you’re connected to just one Twitter server when you use Twitter, there are actually many servers behind the scenes, and an immense amount of engineering work that allows the user experience to feel that way.

Casarin shared that Nostr got hammered with spam shortly after users from China started downloading the app from the Apple App Store (more on that below). The relatively simple solution was to filter out “non-paid relays,” which are free for clients to connect to, while paid relays have some sort of fee (usually payable in bitcoin). This filter worked decently, but it now requires ordinary users to pay to mostly avoid spam.

Nostr is an exciting idea if it continues to grow beyond social media use cases. Nostr applications could eventually generate data and start broadcasting it to the network, and other clients can start using that data. In some sense that makes Nostr more powerful than the internet. Most websites are isolated and don’t talk to each other. Imagine if those websites could talk to each other.

The future is decentralized

What about becoming, say, decentralized GitHub? Sure.

To be clear, Casarin hedged and said the internet is more decentralized than Nostr because Nostr has something of a hub-and-spoke construction – like Bitcoin’s Lightning Network – where most of the data flows through a few distinct hubs. Maybe that is the right approach for Nostr and maybe it’s not.

As for the “other stuff,” consider Lightning Zaps. Lightning Zaps allows bitcoin to be sent over Nostr as a new note type using the Lightning Network. That way users can directly pay other Nostr users over the protocol if they post a funny note or if they just feel like it.

It’s all still a work in progress.

As for Casarin’s Damus client, it hit the Apple App Store on Jan. 31 after multiple failed attempts. By Feb. 2 it was banned in China. The proof that Nostr is onto something is staring us in the face. Nostr must be doing something right if in less than three days a client that connects to a censorship-resistant social network was banned by the long arm of the Chinese government.

George Kaloudis is a research analyst and columnist for CoinDesk.

Learn more about Consensus 2023, CoinDesk’s longest-running and most influential event that brings together all sides of crypto, blockchain and Web3. Head to to register and buy your pass now.

George Kaloudis is a research analyst and columnist for CoinDesk.

Happy 48th Birthday, Satoshi Nakamoto

We don’t know who Satoshi is and we likely never will, but the pseudonymous founder does apparently have a birthday. Satoshi entered a birth date when they registered the pseudonym with The P2P Foundation. Satoshi’s birthday is, according to that registration, April 5, 1975. (For proof, Satoshi’s age showed up as 38 on their The P2P Foundation on April 4, 2014 and as 40 on April 5, 2015, implying an April 5, 1975 birthday.)

Sen. Warren’s ‘Anti-Crypto Army’ Is Just the Beginning of Crypto’s Politicization

“Instead of Bitcoin we could be talking about digital currency, that’s something totally different, because that’s a government-backed electronic transfer … but that has something that backs it up.” Adding later, “If you think: We can improve that in a digital world? The answer is sure you could but in that case let’s do a CBDC.”

The ‘Skull of Satoshi’ Proves Bitcoin Mining Discourse Isn’t Dead

Without getting into too much detail, the conversation about moving Bitcoin from proof-of-work to something else, like proof-of-stake (PoS), which doesn’t use much energy, is generally a nonstarter. Bitcoin will almost certainly never move away from proof-of-work. That isn’t obvious from the outside, so that’s exactly where Von Wong began his journey to understand bitcoin mining.

A Sudden Onset of Hyperinflation: What Will Happen to Bitcoin?

Right now you could get roughly $28,000 in exchange for a bitcoin. Under hyperinflation with $1 million bitcoin, you can get 35 times that amount for a bitcoin. If you have some bitcoin that might excite you. But don’t think of this as the dollar value of your bitcoin stack increasing 35 times. Instead, think about the price of bread, gas, rice, steak, cast iron pans, electricity, everything increasing 35-fold. It would be the same for your bitcoin.

The Credit Suisse Buyout and the Lingering Risks to the Banking Sector

Despite its lofty side quest to disrupt finance, it wasn’t crypto that upended these banks and it certainly didn’t upend Credit Suisse. Bankers were so busy laughing at crypto’s unraveling they didn’t realize their banks were also unraveling.

Bitcoin Is a Clear Winner of the U.S. Banking Crisis

Silicon Valley Bank (SVB) failed on March 10, and since then the price of bitcoin (BTC) has been on a tear.

In the early hours of March 10, bitcoin was trading around $19,600. It whipsawed just above and below $20,000 until around 12 p.m. ET when it was announced that SVB was going into FDIC receivership. At that point, bitcoin shed $200 to dip below $20,000, jumped around a bit and spent most of the weekend trading above $20,000.

By Monday, March 13 at 9:30 a.m. ET it was trading at $22,386. And then the fun began. Just 24 hours later, bitcoin was trading at $26,175, at one point even touching up against $26,500. As of publication, it is currently sitting around $26,700.

I’ve maintained (here and here and probably elsewhere) that narrative matters a lot when it comes to the price of assets. If you don’t believe me, you could ask Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell, who said that “people’s expectations of inflation have a real effect on inflation.”

So what happened to the narrative to lead to this type of aggressive 35% trough-to-peak change? It’s simple, really: A lot happened.

One one hand, the bank failures

Given Bitcoin’s history, the bank failure adjacency is obvious here: At least three banks have failed, others – both American and non-American – are failing. Because it’s not because of Bitcoin, that’s good for bitcoin’s price.

Actually, it isn’t clear who is at fault for the three bank failures, because who even knows if these banks are failing due to insolvency?

Sure, SVB failed due to an old-fashioned bank run that was spurred on due to apparent weaknesses on its balance sheet because of poor duration risk management. And, yes, Silvergate was running into some issues and had to take an FHLB Loan, but its eventual winding down was reportedly voluntary. And then we have Signature Bank, where even the regulators can’t figure out if the bank was shut down because of crypto or because of a “crisis of confidence” in leadership.

Let’s add on the fact that there are wider risks to the broader banking system. Credit Suisse (CS) just received a 50 billion Swiss franc loan from the Swiss central bank, and 11 banks just injected $30 billion into California-based regional bank First Republic Bank (FRC) in order to save it.

On the former, it is telling that the central bank wants to save Credit Suisse. On the latter, it is even more telling that banks want to save a competitor for fear of contagion. (Otherwise, why wouldn’t they just let a competitor fail?)

That all said, we know one thing that isn’t causing these banks to fail. These banks aren’t in trouble because of bets on bitcoin, crypto or the companies in those industries. What appears to be happening is the fractional reserve banking system is under stress due to rising interest rates, and it’s showing cracks.

And so the narrative goes: As the banks fail, opt out and buy bitcoin. That narrative is strong enough to propel the price.

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(CoinDesk Indicies)

On the other hand, stablecoins were unstable

With the failure of Signature Bank, we saw U.S. dollar stablecoin USD coin (USDC) lose its dollar peg last weekend. USDC regained its peg during the week, but the loss of the peg rightly spooked a lot of people. To USDC’s credit, it is worth considering how rapid its recovery back to $1 was. That said, its depeg did highlight that USDC is not immune from counterparty risk, as some may have erroneously thought.

So if we establish that both USDC and the dollars in a bank account have counterparty risk, you might ask yourself: “Is there anything without counterparty risk?”

Well, yes, there is with bitcoin.

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A related stablecoin story also came into play with the world’s largest crypto exchange by trading volume, Binance, converting $1 billion of U.S. dollar stablecoin Binance USD (BUSD) to bitcoin, ether and other cryptocurrencies in the early hours of March 13. The conversion came as a result of Binance-rival crypto exchange Coinbase officially shuttering BUSD trading on its platform due to “liquidity concerns.”

Binance’s sale not only added to the buying pressure, but also could have potentially led to a “follow the leader” effect in which people also exchanged their BUSD for bitcoin.

And if I had another hand, the US Federal Reserve

It looks like we might have a suspension of interest rate hikes from the U.S. Federal Reserve, which would give the entire market a well-needed breather, especially as some (myself included) view the failure of these banks as being closely tied to the raising of rates by a multiple of almost 20 over the last year.

On Wednesday, the CME FedWatch Tool, a predictor of interest rate decisions, forecast a 45% chance of a zero basis point rate hike. It’s now predicting an 80.5% chance of a 25 basis point (bps) increase. Both numbers contrast sharply from last week when the CME showed a 68% chance of a 50 bps rate boost.

Of course, that’s just the market hopping on the narrative that the rate hike might not be as high as previously expected. There has been no indication from the Fed that this will be the case. There goes that “narrative and expectation” again.

Lastly: I keep saying bitcoin, but don’t I mean crypto?

No, I don’t mean crypto. I mean bitcoin.

Amid all the market turbulence, bitcoin’s price is going up faster than even the much smaller and often more volatile altcoins. We see that with bitcoin dominance, a measure that looks at bitcoin’s market capitalization compared to the rest of the cryptocurrency market, which reached a nine-month high at 45.5% on Wednesday.

So in all: There’s systemic global bank risk, stablecoins in crypto proved they need those banks to be stable, and amid all the general angst the Federal Reserve may be pulling back on rate hikes. All that has added up to bitcoin swinging up massively over the last week.

That continues is anybody’s guess. To be sure, uncertainty is never cause for celebration because of its potential negative consequences on people’s lives. But for the time being, bitcoin, with its fixed issuance at a time of monetary expansion, looks like a way to opt out of this most recent crisis.

Learn more about Consensus 2023, CoinDesk’s longest-running and most influential event that brings together all sides of crypto, blockchain and Web3. Head to to register and buy your pass now.

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George Kaloudis is a research analyst and columnist for CoinDesk.

Who Failed Silicon Valley Bank Depositors?

Yes, SVB was tech-forward and, while not necessarily “crypto-friendly,” it did bank crypto hedge funds and VCs like Blockchain Capital, Castle Island Ventures, Dragonfly and Pantera (oh, and even CoinDesk). SVB didn’t fail because of any of these businesses. Even though it might make sense to be critical of depositor concentration in most cases, that doesn’t apply here.

Gary Gensler’s Take on Crypto Doesn’t Matter

In the interview, Gensler suggested that all cryptocurrencies other than bitcoin are securities. The direct quote was: “Everything other than bitcoin, you can find a website, you can find a group of entrepreneurs, they might set up their legal entities in a tax haven offshore, they might have a foundation, they might lawyer it up to try to arbitrage and make it hard jurisdictionally or so forth.”

The SEC Is Taking Aim at Paxos and (Annoyingly) It’s Good For Bitcoin

Chalk up another point for the regulators as the crypto onslaught continues. I hate to make this about Bitcoin, but I will. Because in a way, this is about Bitcoin.

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) reportedly plans to sue crypto firm Paxos for violating investor protection laws because the firm issues, maintains and white labels Binance USD (BUSD). The SEC alleges that BUSD, a U.S. dollar stablecoin with Binance branding, is an unregistered security.

And while it seems bad for BUSD and Paxos, it’s good for Bitcoin. Leave it to the Bitcoin maximalist, I guess.

Nevermind if it makes a shred of sense that something with no expectation of profit can be deemed a security (U.S. dollar stablecoins are not interest-bearing and they are pegged at $1), Paxos still decided to stop minting the stablecoin starting Feb. 21 at the direction of the New York Department of Financial Services (NYDFS). Paxos has since said it “categorically disagrees” with the SEC on the point that BUSD is a security and is “prepared to vigorously litigate if necessary.”

Points were also recently awarded to the regulators following crypto exchange Kraken’s settlement with the SEC last week on charges it was offering unregistered securities through a staking-as-a-service platform, and after Wyoming-based Custodia Bank was denied membership to the Federal Reserve System in late January for being a risk to the banking system since it aims to serve crypto clients.

Again, nevermind if the regulation makes a shred of sense. It is regulation nonetheless.

No regulation for you, Bitcoin

What’s missing from the regulators’ recent push is anything that represents a direct attack on Bitcoin. Sure, there are warnings of market volatility, and a lot of Bitcoin’s most-used trading pairs feature the stablecoins regulators are focused on. But putting Bitcoin in a chokehold isn’t a priority. That’s mostly because it would be quite difficult to do so.

For all the issues Bitcoin’s decentralized design presents, there isn’t a central company or individual that a government can pinpoint for a targeted regulatory push as it can for stablecoins (e.g., Paxos, Circle) or staking providers (e.g., Kraken, Coinbase). And for the Bitcoin-related companies or individuals it could pick out and somehow buffet, the network is decentralized enough that it would take the battering in stride. It would take a widespread, highly coordinated and expensive attack to meaningfully slow down the Bitcoin network.

As such, Bitcoin as a network will be largely uninhibited by this regulatory push.

No one should be surprised that regulators are regulating

That said, maybe Bitcoin regulation isn’t completely off the table after the Biden administration published a call to action to regulate the industry thoroughly, titled “The Administration’s Roadmap to Mitigate Cryptocurrencies’ Risks” on Jan. 27. Looking back at this, no one should have really been surprised with new crypto regulatory action.

The White House’s relatively short online post notes stablecoins twice: In the first instance it is enclosed in what must be scare quotes in reference to terraUSD, which collapsed; and in the second instance it linked to a (very long) Financial Stability Oversight Council (FSOC) October 2022 report on digital asset financial stability risks and regulation. The FSOC report specifically makes the case for robust regulation of stablecoin issuers’ reserve assets and banks’, credit unions’ and trust companies’ interactions with crypto – using the term “stablecoin” over 170 times in its 124 pages.

Now the regulators are taking direct action against the providers of stablecoins they deem to have opaque reserve practices – the custodial staking service providers like Kraken and the banks looking to service crypto companies like Custodia before they get too big and intertwined with the noncrypto financial system.

Yet, even though the keen observer shouldn’t be surprised by the recent regulatory moves they need not be happy with or satisfied with the regulation.

No one should be satisfied, even if you’re a Bitcoiner

From the same White House blog post:

“Safeguards will ensure that new technologies are secure and beneficial to all – and that the new digital economy works for the many, not just the few.”

I want to put aside the staking provider conversation to focus on the consequences of policies aimed at Paxos and stablecoins instead. With stablecoins as the focus, the White House’s sentiment encapsulated in the above quote is perfect, and you’d be hard-pressed to find anyone who could argue against it in good faith. Expanding access to sound financial services empowers people, which raises the quality of life across the board. But sentiment needs to be met with action to mean anything.

Forcing stablecoin issuers like Paxos to operate with almost unsettling transparency would be a good thing as long as it doesn’t become onerous for the issuer.

Right now, we generally have to trust that stablecoin issuers like Paxos (USDP, BUSD), iFinex Inc. (tether) and Circle (USDC) maintain adequate U.S. dollars or dollar equivalents in reserve to survive a spike in withdrawals by looking at “Trust and Transparency” blog posts or one-page .pdf uploads when we should have some other means in which we could verify their claims. If it’s not clear, this is where a blockchain is supposed to have value.

So policy which edges the stablecoin ecosystem away from where it is now with its “Don’t Verify. Trust.” dogma toward the exact opposite would be a net improvement for the aforementioned “many.” Especially because it is those “many” who can most benefit from stablecoins.

Just ask the Lebanese citizens who are opting to use U.S. dollar stablecoin tether to pay for groceries as their country’s sovereign currency tanks and the economic crisis continues to unfold. Regulation that decreases the likelihood of yet another bank run experience for people is a good thing. And don’t think for a second the plight of the Lebanese person doesn’t at least loosely resemble that of some Americans.

If the U.S. government instead intends to regulate stablecoins harshly in an attempt to introduce its own central bank digital currency (CBDC) with the same or worse transparency and strong-arm people into choosing it from a menu with only one option, then what have we actually achieved here? The attitude that “Uncle Sam knows best” is exactly why our institutions are the way they are now. U.S. stablecoins wouldn’t exist if the current banking infrastructure expanded access to financial services like permissionless stablecoin protocols rather than excluding half the world’s population.

Don’t get me wrong, I maintain that stablecoin regulation is good for Bitcoin. Bitcoin is the escape hatch. In a world where the regulators continue to pile on stablecoins and other crypto-related things to the point where they’re rendered toothless, Bitcoin will be there.

Borderless, censorship-resistant, peer-to-peer money will be open for you then as it is now. Even if payments aren’t your thing and you live in the world of crypto trading, Bitcoin can fill in admirably as the base of trading pairs as it did in the early days of crypto if U.S. dollar stablecoins are regulated out of existence.

Still, although this can be good for Bitcoin, cheering for it by urging on regulation is unsavory and in exceedingly poor form. Freedom of choice is central to the Bitcoin ethos. Even though Bitcoin is the best choice, regulation shouldn’t force anyone to have to make that best choice.

I’m Glad There Are No Crypto Super Bowl Ads: Here’s Why

Where that desire becomes hubris is when we consider if they even belong. Sure, the companies were flush with money last year, they were expanding and hiring at a breakneck pace, and they were being invited to the tables of the rich and powerful – in government, industry, investment, media – so maybe they did.