After being the hottest topic in technology and business for over a year, the buzz around cryptocurrency has died out.
Prices have crashed, GPU mining rigs are now worthless, and the collection of YouTubers and influencer “investors” who hopped on have faded back into obscurity.
But what about the technology behind the tokens? Has the development of big blockchains like Bitcoin and Ethereum stagnated along with their prices?
The short answer is no.
Developers were working on these tokens for years before they met the spotlight of public attention and they have continued to work diligently after the tempest of excitement ran its course.
However, lowered interest around the prices of these cryptocurrencies also means less awareness of the technology’s advancements, and many people might not realise that these blockchains continue to be refined by their dedicated communities.
Cryptocurrencies created purely to capitalise on the excitement around investment have naturally been abandoned, but major projects like Bitcoin and Ethereum continue to grow at a rapid pace.
We have outlined the current state of these cryptocurrencies below, along with their expected development paths in 2019.
Despite its steady loss in value, Bitcoin remains the most popular cryptocurrency in the world by a wide margin.
Statistics on Blockchain.com also show a steady increase in the adoption of the blockchain, with total daily transactions climbing while the cost per transaction continues to fall.
The Lightning Network has been implemented on the Bitcoin blockchain, greatly improving the ability for the network to handle transactions by allowing for payments to be routed through side channels while settled on-chain.
This has greatly aided in reducing the cost per transaction on the blockchain, and also enables participants to earn a small fee for facilitating a Lightning Network node.
With 6,000 nodes running on the Lightning Network after endorsement from Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey, the adoption of Bitcoin continues to grow along with the applications built on top of it.
During the year ahead, Bitcoin developers expect to continue working on the cryptocurrency and implementing new features on the blockchain to improve functionality.
There is no concrete development roadmap for the Bitcoin blockchain, however, as the community comprises a number of developers who select their own projects.
This means that while progress will me made on the blockchain, it will proceed in a decentralised fashion – unless there are any new applications launched which see the same success as the Lightning Network.
Ethereum has seen a lot of changes this year already, with the network’s Constantinople upgrade completed after a short delay.
This change marks a major step in the continued shift towards a proof-of-stake consensus mechanism where users stake Ether on correct block outcomes instead of the traditional proof-of-work mechanism which relied on hashing power.
The hard fork reduced block rewards and proceeded smoothly, thanks in part to the lower number of Ethereum miners fighting against the network upgrade.
Ethereum developers are mostly concerned with the immediate problem of sharding and scalability via side-chains through projects like Plasma.
The implementation of these technologies could allow for the development and adoption of more complex decentralised applications and would help to avoid CryptoKitties-esque blockchain congestion.
Ethereum 2.0, the goal which the developers are aiming for, includes first-generation implementations of sharding and proof-of-stake consensus.
Applications continue to be built and run on the Ethereum blockchain, with apps like Status Messenger providing value to those that depend on the unique decentralised structure offered by these platforms.
While these two blockchains are the largest on the market, some mention should be made of other cryptocurrencies which are seeing continued development.
The obvious token to mention is Ripple, which continues to maintain interest from investors and update its XRP Ledger with improved security and functionality.
Other cryptocurrencies like EOS have slowed development right down following their massive loss in market capitalisation. Some of these projects were based on sound ideas and concepts, while others were simply created to ride the wave of investor interest in the market.
However, both legitimate and illegitimate cryptocurrencies have been culled by the steady decline in pricing, and most development at the moment seems to revolve around the biggest tokens on the market.
It is important to note that niche, useful cryptocurrencies such as Monero, Steemit, and Maker continue to serve their dedicated communities and remain active as long as they are useful.