2023 in Review: The Year's Most Impactful Crypto Events

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2023 was a year of mixed fortunes for cryptocurrencies, marked by a blend of both positive and negative developments. Social media and messaging platforms were abuzz with a constant stream of crypto news. Let's revisit the most impactful events of the year that could have lasting effects and potentially reshape the crypto landscape.

The Rise of Ordinals (BRC-20 Tokens)

The concept of BRC-20, a standard for interchangeable tokens, was first introduced by a developer named Domodata in March 2023.
In April 2023, Casey Rodarmor, a former Bitcoin Core developer, launched the first non-interchangeable token on the BTC network, named Ordi. Ordinals notably allow for the direct storage of images on the blockchain, instead of mere external links.
This innovative technology quickly garnered investor interest. Collectors were captivated by the unique possibilities of NFTs, with exclusive sets selling rapidly.
By May, Bitcoin's NFT trading volume had soared to $452 million. However, the market subsequently plummeted by almost 95% upon revelations that Ordinals were significantly overloading the network and hindering BTC transactions. Furthermore, standard fees on the blockchain nearly doubled.
One of the most sought-after Bitcoin NFTs, Ordinal Punks. Source: ordinalsglobal

One of the most sought-after Bitcoin NFTs, Ordinal Punks. Source: ordinalsglobal

Currently, Ordinals are witnessing a resurgence, with their daily trading volume now over $387 million. The market has seen the introduction of specialized wallets for these assets.
Despite cybersecurity concerns about vulnerability to hacking and Bitcoin Core representatives warning that the Ordinals protocol may cease to function after the network's next update, the excitement and demand continue unabated.

Whether Ordinals will sustain their momentum into 2024 hinges on their ability to evolve beyond just being hype-driven JPEGs.

Ripple's Triumph Over the SEC 

In July 2023, Ripple emerged victorious in its lawsuit against the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). Ripple had been accused by the SEC of illegally selling its XRP tokens as unregistered securities. The legal battle, which stretched over two years, took a turn in Ripple's favor when internal documents from former SEC Chairman William Hinman surfaced, stating that Ethereum was not considered a security. Leveraging this development, Ripple CEO Brad Garlinghouse insisted on the inclusion of these documents in court, which significantly shifted the case in Ripple's favor. 

This led to a decisive defeat for the SEC, providing a glimmer of hope to other firms facing similar accusations of illegal securities sales.
Brad Garlinghouse celebrates the victory. Source: cnbc

Brad Garlinghouse celebrates the victory. Source: cnbc

Despite this outcome, legal experts advise caution, as the SEC is entitled to appeal, with a deadline set for April 2024. While SEC Chairman Gary Gensler's chances of winning the appeal are slim, the legal proceedings could extend for another year or more.

The FTX Saga and the Arrest of Sam Bankman-Fried

In November 2022, the FTX crypto exchange, one of the largest at the time, collapsed. The crypto community closely monitored the scandal throughout 2023. 
Following the exchange's bankruptcy declaration, a temporary administrator was appointed, and a task force was formed to examine FTX's financial standing.
Media reports divulged interesting details about Sam Bankman-Fried and his girlfriend Caroline Ellison’s extravagant lifestyle, revealing excesses not only among the exchange's staff but also within Bankman-Fried's family circle. 
Concurrently, banks linked to cryptocurrencies and FTX's creditor companies declared bankruptcy.

Ultimately, the court ordered the arrest of Sam Bankman-Fried and issued a preliminary life sentence. 
Ryan Salame, a former FTX executive, struck a deal with prosecutors, agreeing to pay $1.5 billion in fines and compensations to avoid prison. However, such an opportunity was not extended to SBF.
SBF under special supervision. Source: bankless

SBF under special supervision. Source: bankless

Looking ahead, Bankman-Fried's lawyers are pinning their hopes on an appeal set for March 2024, while the bankrupt FTX faces the liquidation of its assets at reduced prices and the potential transfer of the brand to new owners.
Thus, this chapter in the FTX saga is far from closed. "The show must go on!"

The New Leadership at Binance

A year ago, Changpeng Zhao's position appeared unassailable. However, reports of Binance management's misconduct were frequently surfacing in the media, indicating that major policy shifts at the exchange were becoming increasingly inevitable to avoid a collapse comparable to FTX's bankruptcy.
Consequently, a strategic decision was made: the current CEO stepped down, and the role was taken over by someone deeply connected with regulators and with substantial experience in the TradFi sector. 
Richard Teng, a former head of regional markets outside the USA, was appointed as the new CEO of Binance.
Additionally, Binance was fined $4.3 billion by the U.S. Department of the Treasury's Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) and $968 million by the OFAC. Founder Changpeng Zhao personally paid $50 million to the U.S. Treasury as part of an agreement that also required him to relinquish his position.

CZ's reign as a crypto king has ended. Source: blockhead

It's anticipated that the exchange's structure and trading strategy will be fundamentally altered
Firstly, Binance will work to establish relationships with regulatory bodies and comply with governmental requirements. 
Secondly, the platform aims to attract institutional investors. 
Thirdly, services to users in sanctioned countries will be permanently discontinued.

Yet, CZ's charismatic and ambitious nature should not be overlooked. It's plausible that we will hear about his new endeavors in 2024.

Launch of the WhiteBIT Blockchain

In August 2023, WhiteBIT, Europe's largest crypto exchange, introduced its own blockchain network, WB Network, reducing the gap between CEX and Web3. 
The exchange now boasts its own coin, WBT, a testing ground for experimentation, and soulbound tokens for secure user identification in the blockchain environment using the digital soul attributes.

WhiteBIT clients can now participate in the development of the ecosystem:
  • Discovering new crypto projects before their market debut;
  • Voting for them;
  • Participating in their token sales rounds.

This blockchain launch signals a new phase in the platform's expansion and its ascent to the upper echelons of European crypto companies.
CEO of WhiteBIT, Volodymyr Nosov. Source: Delo.ua

CEO of WhiteBIT, Volodymyr Nosov. Source: Delo.ua

Looking ahead to 2024, given the WhiteBIT team's track record, it is clear they won't settle for their current achievements, and their clients can expect many more exciting surprises.