It’s time to look back at the year 2021: What has it brought to us? What challenges did we overcome? What will we bring to the new year, and what should we leave in the past? From the rise of nonfungible tokens (NFTs) to Bitcoin (BTC) gaining the new status of legal tender in El Salvador, and from stablecoins gaining attention from regulators and retail consumers to play-to-earn blockchain games and the Metaverse, it was a great year, indeed.
To gain more insight on the matter, I reached out to different experts from the blockchain industry, asking: “What are the biggest outcomes of 2021 within the blockchain space that have most affected the whole industry?”
Yat is the co-founder and executive chairman of Animoca Brands, which delivers digital property rights to the world’s gamers and internet users, thereby creating a new asset class, play-to-earn economies and a more equitable digital framework contributing to the building of the open Metaverse.
“NFTs and GameFi are indubitably the biggest outcomes of 2021. NFTs have emerged as stores of culture that are able to capture narratives literally all over the globe. The simple concept of value, or ‘money,’ is how crypto adoption grew at first, but the simple fact is that most people are able to engage with culture more easily than with the more complex concept of ‘money.’ NFTs are bringing mass adoption to blockchain because people can relate to culture — it’s as easy as being a fan of something, as opposed to the comparatively higher level of technical or financial understanding required to handle cryptocurrencies effectively.”
Tim is a pioneer of business ventures in the United States and a co-founder of Draper Fisher Jurvetson, a leading investment firm in early-stage tech startups.
“I think the combination of OpenNode allowing retailers to easily and quickly accept Bitcoin and El Salvador (and now other country governments) making Bitcoin an officially accepted currency has opened the door for McDonald’s and Starbucks to easily accept Bitcoin and save the 3% going to the banks and credit card companies.”
Sameep is the founder of QuickSwap, a decentralized exchange on Polygon that allows users to swap, earn, stack yields, lend, borrow and leverage, all on one decentralized, community-driven platform.
“I’m going to give an unpopular opinion for this one, but I think Bitcoin’s falling market dominance has made a bigger impact than many realize. Don’t get me wrong, I’m still a big Bitcoin supporter, but time has shown that there is room for more than one cryptocurrency. A single chain simply cannot support all of the world’s needs. Twelve years after Bitcoin’s inception, scalability remains a big issue. Additionally, this time has proven that DeFi protocols (which cannot be built on Bitcoin) have real utility, and it’s not just ‘dumb money’ who thinks so anymore.”
Ray is the CEO of Paxful, a global people-powered platform for buying, selling and trading digital currencies.
“This was a breakout year for Bitcoin. We’ve witnessed lower barriers to entry globally and emerging markets like El Salvador quickly declaring Bitcoin a legal tender. The prospect of true financial freedom paired with blockchain innovation is going to be massive for the Bitcoin industry. We are now entering a new era where we’ll find people-powered digital currencies becoming the new frontier. From Bitcoin bonds to new financial instruments and tools, Bitcoin is changing the face of finance.”
Martha is the head of research at Bequant, a digital asset exchange and prime broker.
“Ethereum costs have continued to rise, creating additional cost implications across the space, impacting NFT collectors and creators, traders and investors. Alternative blockchains and layer-two solutions that drive the costs down are making the market more accessible for retail investors across the world. Expect more progress on this front.
Of course, the development of NFTs, GameFi and the onset of the Metaverse have been transformational. These cultural and economic trends have brought blockchain technology to a much wider audience and made it more accessible. NFTs allow for easier access to affordable virtual art and help artists to boost their income. Play-to-earn has allowed families from Venezuela to the Philippines to supplement their income via gaming in tough economic environments. The Metaverse movement fulfills a need for better digital experiences in a world where we spend more time online and will also make businesses more efficient. The lines between these different applications will become increasingly blurred and spill over into other segments of the economy.”
Johnny is the CEO of KuCoin, a secure cryptocurrency exchange that makes it easier to buy, sell and store cryptocurrencies.
“The absolute recognition of Bitcoin in El Salvador is a significant event in 2021, and I’m sure it will get into the history books, along with the emergence of the Metaverse. Notably, it was the blockchain industry and blockchain startups that initiated the creation of the Metaverse and the transition from Web 2.0 to Web 3.0. In 2021, after eight years of trying, the SEC granted ProShares permission to launch the world’s first Bitcoin ETF. Dogecoin topping Google searches, an NFT by Beeple selling for $69 million and, unfortunately, the death of John McAfee: These and many other things influenced the cryptocurrency market in 2021.”
Jane is an entrepreneur and thought leader in technological innovation, fintech and blockchain for social impact. She is the chairperson of Kasei Holdings, an investment company specializing in the digital asset ecosystem.
“I would say that 2021 is the year that blockchain came of age. No longer is it a fringe technology, and with the massive innovation during the pandemic with DeFi, NFTs, play-to-earn games and the fast-growing adoption in the Metaverse, blockchain is center stage. This is evidenced by the first Bitcoin ETF making its debut on the New York Stock Exchange and others following suit, allowing traditional investors to enter the market. El Salvador deserves mention with its announcement that it would adopt Bitcoin as legal tender, which rocked the world. Finally, the creation of new economies with play-to-earn games is just the beginning of the next evolution of innovation. ‘Hold onto your hats’ for 2022!”
Hatu is the co-founder and chief strategy officer of DAO Maker, which creates growth technologies and funding frameworks for startups while simultaneously reducing risks for investors.
“For a space as dynamic as blockchain, it is tough to pinpoint the reasons behind the industry evolving during the year. However, I feel the adoption of smart contracts has bolstered the growth of the industry and its relevance in the traditional setup. From optimizing supply chains to building a corporate structure around them, smart contracts are assisting everywhere.
DAOs have emerged as a new wave of democratization of firms and associations. By transferring ownership to everyone involved and reducing centralized authority, DAOs and community governance are here to stay. In 2021, we could see multiple protocols turn into DAOs and kick-start their journey toward true decentralization.
Also, the influx of human resources is definitely an integral part of the way the blockchain space has evolved. And this does not only reflect the amount of talent joining the industry but also the population that is accepting and adopting the technology in their daily activities. With more people getting involved with the technology, the industry matures.
The blockchain industry has made a quantum leap in 2021, and I see no reason why the juggernaut shall slow down in 2022.”
Dave is the CEO of Compute North, a cryptocurrency mining and infrastructure provider.
“Due to chip shortages, supply chain issues and shipping delays, 2021 proved to be a difficult year for miners seeking to purchase new gear and bring it online, and it is likely those challenges will continue in 2022. Further, it isn’t just about having the funds but also being well connected to make the short-list to order gear before manufacturers sell out. Rather than new entities attempting to enter the mining space and bring new machines online, 2022 will see an increased investment in publicly traded blockchain companies that already have equipment online.”
Ankitt is the CEO of EasyFi Network, a layer-two DeFi lending protocol for digital assets.
“In 2021, some major technological developments and innovations were seen in the context of decentralized lending over the blockchain. The rise of layer-two lending protocols solved the problems of scalability, network congestion and interoperability and contributed to the rise in the number of DeFi users. Along with this, NFTs also dictated the blockchain space this year and found a whole host of new use cases.
El Salvador’s adoption of Bitcoin is another notable outcome of this industry. It created a new level of trust among users and could be instrumental to the future adoption of both blockchain technology and cryptocurrencies.”
André is the chief technology officer of Zebedee, which enables programmable payments and small transactions to power economies for virtual worlds.
“2021 has been the year of the Bitcoin Lightning Network, which even still might be the best-kept secret in crypto. El Salvador adopting Bitcoin as legal tender by leveraging LN was certainly the biggest news, but it has been an incredible year of innovation, launches, funding rounds and growth all around for the Lightning Network. NFTs have captured the spotlight this year, but I believe Lightning, connected to use cases like gaming, made the biggest strides necessary for sustainable long-term adoption.”
These quotes have been edited and condensed.
The views, thoughts and opinions expressed here are the authors’ alone and do not necessarily reflect or represent the views and opinions of Cointelegraph.