Most people associate blockchain with Bitcoin the anonymous digital currencyBut providing a new way to transfer payments is only one of many ways in which blockchain will be used in the future Blockchain can also be applied to handle tasks ranging from property eed management to powering IoT applications Thinkstock

2017 Milestones in the World of Bitcoin and Blockchain

Important blockchain trends in 2017 included Bitcoin price increases, the SegWit debate, growth of Ethereum and a sharp increase in ICOs.

2017 was a big year for blockchain technology. Here's a look at the most important developments and milestones in the Bitcoin ecosystem and beyond in 2017.

Bitcoin dates to early 2009, and blockchain technology can be traced back even further. However, it seems fair to say that 2017 was the year when blockchain finally emerged into the mainstream, and secured a solid footing beyond the realm of cryptocurrency.

A full list of important blockchain developments in 2017 would be far too long for one articles, but here's a summary of the top four.

Bitcoin Price Surges

One Bitcoin was worth about $1100 at the start of 2017. As 2017 draws to a close, Bitcoin's value has increased ten-fold.

If you have followed Bitcoin for a while, you know that this value increase isn't actually the most dramatic in Bitcoin history. The digital currency saw even more mind-bogglingly increases in value in its earlier years.

Yet the 2017 growth was notable because 2017 was the year when Bitcoin began to face strong criticism from mainstream financial analysts and stakeholders -- including most famously Jamie Dimon, who called Bitcoin investors "stupid." Despite these challenges, Bitcoin's value has continued to climb steadily.

That doesn't mean you should take every dollar you have and put it in Bitcoin. There are still reasons to question Bitcoin's long-term value. On the other hand, it is entirely possible that the Bitcoins that are worth $11,000 today will be trading at $110,000 a year from now.

Ethereum Ecosystem Explodes

Ethereum is a blockchain platform that is designed to power "smart contracts." It was founded in 2015, but the number of software platforms that leverage Ethereum really took off in 2017. More than 850 applications now use Ethereum.

Plus, if you're a cryptocurrency speculator, you might be interested to know that the value of an Ethereum token increased from a little under $10 in January 2017 to about $470 today -- another sign that investors and developers see long-term value in the Ethereum platform.

ICO Funding Takes Off

Initial Coin Offerings, or ICOs, are a funding mechanism by which startups use cryptocurrency to acquire funding. ICOs have some risks -- some have turned out to be apparent frauds -- but they can be much faster and more efficient than traditional venture capital funding rounds.

Data from Coinschedule shows that 2017 has seen 228 ICOs so far, compared to 46 in 2016.

What's more, the total amount of funding raised through ICOs in 2017 totaled $3,611,293,912, which is more than 37 times the amount raised in 2016.

Bitcoin Uncertainty

Tempering enthusiasm for cryptocurrencies this year was controversy about the technical underpinnings of Bitcoin.

Debate over issues like SegWit, a feature designed to speed Bitcoin transactions, as well as a slew of "hard forks" cast some doubt over Bitcoin's future and contributed to price volatility.

This type of uncertainty is another reason why Bitcoin get-rich-quick schemes carry a lot of risk.

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