Recently the founder of something called Ripple briefly became richer than Mark Zuckerberg. Another day an anonymous donor set up an $86 million Bitcoin-fortune charity called the Pineapple Fund. A Tesla was spotted with a BLOCKHN license plate. There’s a surge in people looking to buy Bitcoin on their credit cards. After the Long Island Iced Tea company announced it would pivot to blockchain, its stock rose 500 percent in a day.
In 2017, the cryptocurrency Bitcoin went from $830 to $19,300, and now quivers around $14,000. Ether, its main rival, started the year at less than $10, closing out 2017 at $715. Now it’s over $1,100. The wealth is intoxicating news, feverish because it seems so random. Investors trying to grok the landscape compare it to the dot-com bubble of the late 1990s, when valuations soared and it was hard to separate the Amazons and Googles from the Pets.coms and eToys.
The cryptocurrency community is centered around a tightknit group of friends — developers, libertarians, Redditors and cypherpunks — who have known each other for years through meet-ups, an endless circuit of crypto conferences and internet message boards. Over long hours in anonymous group chats, San Francisco bars and Settlers of Catan game nights, they talk about how cryptocurrency will decentralize power and wealth, changing the world order.