In November 2017, bitcoin was in the middle of a remarkable price surge that would see its value rise 10-fold over the course of six months. By mid-December, one bitcoin was worth close to $20,000 (£15,000), but that was the high water mark before the tide turned.
A year later, bitcoin is trading at around a third of its peak value but some cryptocurrency analysts believe the market might be on the verge of mirroring the gains it experienced in late 2017. The only caveat is that it might not be bitcoin that leads the charge this time.
Overstock CEO Patrick Byrne, who was behind the online retail giant becoming one of the first places to accept bitcoin back in 2014, said that he still expects the mass adoption of cryptocurrency, without specifying which one.
Speaking to bitcoin enthusiast Naomi Brockwell on her YouTube channel, Mr Byrne said he remained highly sceptical of the traditional financial system. When asked if he saw bitcoin becoming a worldwide currency, he pointed to countries like Venezuela that have experienced significant financial turmoil in recent years.
“When people start getting into it is when their own financial systems collapse,” he said. “Whether bitcoin is the one, whether bitcoin has solved its speed problem, or it’s another cryptocurrency, only time will tell.”
Bitcoin has enjoyed the most sustained period of stability in its history, helping it address the issue of price volatility that some critics say makes it unsuitable as a form of mainstream payment.
General consensus among market analysts is that this trend is likely to continue in the short term, barring any major news that could send the price shooting in either direction, such as a large-scale hack on a leading exchange, or positive regulation implemented by a financial body.
Bitcoin price predictions made by 10 analysts for November’s Finder Cryptocurrency Predictions Survey suggest that the world’s leading digital currency will experience steady growth over the next year, though the upcoming months remain uncertain.
“Some of our panellists believe external forces could shift the market greatly over the next month, and particularly for bitcoin,” Jon Ostler, CEO of Finder.com, told The Independent.
“The upcoming decisions on a Bitcoin Exchange Traded Fund being approved or not by the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and the US Commodities and Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) deciding whether to accept the application by ICE backed cryptocurrency exchange, Bakkt, are expected before 1 December. So at this stage, it’s difficult to predict exactly what will happen.”
Looking longer term, Mr Ostler said bitcoin is expected to experience steady growth over the next year, with the panel of experts predicting an average value of $16,732 by the end of 2019.
“With bitcoin being very stable and within a range between $6,800 and $6,100, it is hard to suggest anything will change until it breaks this range,” said cryptocurrency trader Craig Cobb, who forms part of the panel.
But if it’s not bitcoin, a hint at what this next break-out cryptocurrency might be was given earlier this week by Blockchain, the world’s most popular bitcoin wallet. On Tuesday, the company announced it would give away $125m-worth (£96m) of the Stellar cryptocurrency as part of a major initiative to encourage its use as a mainstream form of payment.
Stellar is currently not even in the top five cryptocurrencies in terms of its total value, according to CoinMarketCap, but while it may be lesser-known, its backers say it is more technologically advanced and better suited to large-scale usage.
“[Stellar’s] token, XLM, enables quick, low cost, worldwide transactions, even when millions of people are using it at once,” Blockchain CEO Peter Smith wrote in a blog post introducing the giveaway.
Another cryptocurrency that could see massive gains in the coming months, some experts say, is bitcoin’s closest rival ethereum. Technology expert Ian McLeod of Thomas Crown Art said that the world’s second largest cryptocurrency could be on the verge of a “monumental, defining global breakout.”
Currently trading at just above $200 – down from a high of $1,350 in January – Mr McLeod claims ethereum could reach as high as $500 by the end of 2018 and could see its price “explode” in 2019 and beyond.
“We can expect bitcoin to lose 50 per cent of its cryptocurrency market share to ethereum, its nearest rival, within five years,” Mr McLeod said.
“Ethereum is already light years ahead of bitcoin in everything but price and this gap will become increasingly apparent as more and more investors jump into crypto.”