As the 2022 chapter closes, it’s time to turn our eyes to what’s coming in 2023. Here are some themes I’m seeing for Bitcoin in 2023.
The Financial Action Task Force’s (FATF) Travel Rule is forcing exchanges and bitcoin service providers to document and share ever-more information about customer transactions. We are seeing politicians such as Elizabeth Warren publicly go against Bitcoin, and even if her proposed digital asset AML act has no real chance of passing, it does foreshadow that there are future battles coming on this.
But, on the other hand, we should also remember that governments were initially against voice over internet protocol (VoIP) technologies (e.g., Skype, etc.), and nowadays they use VoIP. It’ll be similar with bitcoin, where some countries adopt it as legal tender, hold bitcoin in reserves, provide Bitcoin services for citizens and encourage bitcoin investors and entrepreneurs.
CBDCS AND THE WAR ON CASH
The war on cash proceeds, with many countries taking high-denomination cash notes out of circulation, or banning physical cash transactions above a threshold. There are many countries talking about central bank digital currency (CBDC) trials, but my speculation is that most will not have the technical and overall economic capability to stand up a fully-functioning CBDC in 2023.
2023 will mostly be about trials and rhetoric, in preparation for future CBDC rollouts. Governments can especially force people into CBDCs in countries with large welfare states, with the understanding being, “If you want your welfare check, you’ll take it as a CBDC.” Just like Darth Vader in “Star Wars,” it’ll be a case of, “Pray I do not alter the deal any further.”
Once upon a time, CBDCs might have been seen as a “conspiracy theory” but by now they are clearly coming as a threat to financial freedom and privacy. Sadly, most people will not see the threat until it is too late and CBDCs are upon them — but it is also the pain of CBDCs that will push more people into using Bitcoin and the Lightning Network.
MAXIS BEING MINTED AND RESURGENCE IN SELF-CUSTODY INTEREST
Bitcoin Maximalists are being minted as casual “crypto” fans get rekt on platforms such as Celsius, BlockFi, FTX, Voyager, Vauld, etc. So, in some ways, it’s very cyclical, the 2014 to 2015 bear cycle followed after the collapse of Mt. Gox, and during the 2018 to 2019 bear cycle, we saw the breakdown of QuadrigaCX — so we’re just going through another round of people having to learn the hard way.
For 2023, we will see a stronger self-custody culture given the pain of 2022 is more recent. This is not to preclude future cycles and waves of new adoption with people coming in who are not as careful. Yield and shitcoin scams will be back in another form sooner or later, but it will be a new round of people who succumb to them.
We are seeing more rounds of content and webinars that relate to self custody. For example, with Swan Bitcoin I hosted some self custody 101 webinars (which will be ongoing), and these webinars had some of the highest interest and registrations of any Swan webinars ever offered. Offering an easy auto-withdrawal feature or being 100% non-custodial will be an important feature for Bitcoin on-ramps in 2023.
MINISCRIPT WALLETS AND FEATURES
Per Pieter Wuille’s site:
“Miniscript is a language for writing (a subset of) Bitcoin Scripts in a structured way, enabling analysis, composition, generic signing and more.”
For those who are unfamiliar, Miniscript is a way to more easily express different scripts or spending conditions for bitcoin. This could be built into different wallets in ways that enable easier cross-hardware and -software compatibility.
You might first think, “Why should I care?” and, at the start, you’d be right to ask that. But over time, this will enable more sophisticated self custody, enterprise or even inheritance planning scenarios. Want to have a three-of-three multisig setup that degrades down to a two-of-three multisig setup after 90 days? Or have different “back out” conditions that exist for a business context? Miniscript makes it easier to do these things, and to let people use their existing software or hardware for this purpose. To be clear, some of this is already possible with Bitcoin script today, but Miniscript makes it more technically feasible or easier to achieve in practice.
It will take time for these solutions to be built out, but the functionality does seem promising. Businesses and enterprise customers may be particularly interested in this because it could make their self-custody practices more practical for employees and key holders to execute.
Currently, there is Liana (by the same team behind Revault), and Ledger, which has announced Miniscript support in its hardware, and Specter DIY had already enabled support in 2021! Rob Hamilton has also spoken about Miniscript uses in the world of insurance here. I anticipate more support coming in 2023.
This could help push the use of bitcoin into self-custodial directions, and away from the “old model” of financial services where you have to place more trust in government, banks and fiat financial institutions to honor their word or not debase your wealth.
It’s time to bring about a Lightning-first model for two types of bitcoin transactions: low-value transactions and in-person commerce. We saw the mempoolfullRBF debate blow up toward the end of 2022, but the real answer for most of us is to promote and use Lightning first, where possible.
As a quick anecdote, I recall talking with Giacomo Zucco who was explaining his experience in El Salvador of paying with bitcoin at a supermarket. Unfortunately, the Chivo terminal at that time defaulted to Bitcoin on-chain, and as he paid on-chain, the people in the line behind him had to wait for confirmation, which was very awkward. Contrast this with a Lightning-first experience which could look more like this:
We should show people the best of Bitcoin and for in-person, lower-value commerce, we should go for Lightning first. I believe we’ll start to see this being driven and encouraged by more Bitcoiners and local communities in 2023.
EXPANSION OF BITCOIN-ONLY COMMUNITIES AND EVENTS
We will see more events and small-sized conferences in different countries around the world. Contrary to some who believe there are too many Bitcoin conferences, the issue is more one of assuming that you must attend them all!
You should instead attend the events and conferences that align with your interests and/or geography. Having more conferences is a good thing, so long as they are done in a low-cost, effective way. For example, the Bitcoin bush bash is a model that we may see replicated around the world — free to attend, held in a hall or other free/cheap area, no recordings, smaller-size gathering that is hosted somewhere that is cost effective.
By lowering the expectations about things that typically cost a lot more money (e.g., fancy, professionalized operations, live streaming, lots of international speakers), Bitcoiners can grow their local scenes and meetups. This is not to detract from the larger Bitcoin events and conferences, as they also play a key role — but I see a “middle ground” that can be taken up by low cost, local events.
Without having a crystal ball for 2023, I believe bitcoin’s fiat price will remain in a mostly sideways trend. Forget what the bull-hopium people are posting and talking about, they are usually chasing engagement or getting too caught up in their own echo chambers. It takes time for the cycle to bottom out.
But let’s look on the bright side, it’s a great time for stacking sats and building something. Remember, in prior cycles, it wasn’t so clear that “Bitcoin would come back,” whereas now, the world is slowly realizing that Bitcoin is here to stay.