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Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

This was the year that Bitcoin and most other blockchain currencies turned out to be the new tulip — a mania that led otherwise sensible people to suspend their better judgement and become poorer by piling in.

Be smart: Similar fads pop up every few years — always accompanied by the phrase, "this time is different," until it ends in tears.

  • That psychology has now changed decisively: Bitcoin’s price shot up to record prices artificially, only to plummet about 70% this year.
  • "[O]f 573 digital coins launched since 2017," according to The Wall Street Journal, "89% are trading at a loss compared with their offering price and worth a total of about $2.1 billion — $8.4 billion less than the $10.5 billion initially invested."

For cryptocurrencies, 2018 was the correction to 2017, which was basically a big free for all. Then, regulators and reality came calling.

  • Initial coin offerings (ICOs), it turns out, are not a magical and regulation-free fundraising mechanism: A bad white paper does not a viable digital token make.
  • "The SEC and state regulators have brought more than 90 crypto cases over the past two years," but have only managed to claw back about $36 million for duped investors, The Journal reports (subscription).
  • "One of the attractions of digital currency is its anonymity. That ... can also make it hard for investigators to trace funds."

Predictions for next year: more regulatory guidance, and more realistic applications of the tech.

  • Look for other uses of blockchain technology to flourish. One big possibility is supply chain — tracking goods from one point to another.
  • Commodity traders are also eyeing the technology in their quest for an edge.

Go deeper:

Go deeper

Updated 6 hours ago - Sports

Olympics dashboard

Katie Ledecky in Tokyo. Photo: Ding Xu/Xinhua via Getty Images

🚨: Simone Biles won't compete in individual vault or uneven bars

🏊‍♀️: Katie Ledecky wins gold in women's 800m freestyle

🏊: Caeleb Dressel breaks world record in men's 100m butterfly, 3rd gold

🇬🇧: Britain wins gold in first-ever Olympic mixed 4x100m medley relay

🎾: Novak Djokovic defeated in Olympic semi-finals

💻: Japan tests teleporting games and "remote cheering"

Go deeper: Full Axios coverage

Updated 7 hours ago - Sports

Simone Biles won't compete in individual vault or uneven bars Olympic finals

Photo: Loic Venance/AFP via Getty Images

Simone Biles will not compete in the individual vault or uneven bars finals at the Tokyo Olympics, USA Gymnastics announced Friday.

Why it matters: USA Gymnastics said Biles, who previously withdrew from the individual all-around and team finals to prioritize her mental health, will continue to be evaluated to determine if she'll compete in the balance beam or floor exercise events.

7 hours ago - Sports

American Katie Ledecky wins Olympic gold in women's 800m freestyle

USA's Katie Ledecky reacts after taking gold in the final of the women's 800m freestyle race. Photo: Odd Anderson/AFP via Getty Images

American superstar swimmer Katie Ledecky grabbed her second gold medal of this year's Olympic Games, winning the women's 800-meter freestyle race Saturday in Tokyo.

Driving the news: Ledecky, who holds the world record in the 800m freestyle, is considered one of the best women swimmers of all time. Saturday's final marks her third straight Olympic gold in the event.

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