It's safe to say that 2014 was an interesting year for bitcoin.
As core development on the bitcoin protocol continued to strengthen the technological foundation of the digital currency, members of the bitcoin community had a significant impact on the 'front-end' of the budding industry this year too.
With bitcoin and blockchain technology approaching – but yet to reach – mainstream adoption in society, it's not enough that Satoshi Nakamoto's invention stands on its own technological prowess.
The bitcoin community needs influencers to spread awareness, build confidence and set precedents for the digital currency industry to reach its full potential. Sometimes these influencers dedicate their time, money and expertise to make a positive impact on the industry, and other times people have an impact on bitcoin for all the wrong reasons.
Whatever their intentions, CoinDesk has ranked the 10 most influential people in bitcoin in 2014 according to a number of factors.
We considered the year's biggest stories, contributions to the community and the companies working with digital currencies, and the answers of our reader poll – all within the broader context of the bitcoin industry and its growth in 2014.
Here are CoinDesk's top 10 most influential people in bitcoin this year:
10. Marc Andreessen
As an early pioneer of the Internet and creator of the very first web browser, Andreessen's bullish stance on bitcoin serves as a signal of confidence to other venture capitalists who may be interested in, but wary of, the digital currency. His op-ed in the New York Times titled 'Why Bitcoin Matters' and investment in Coinbase are just two examples of the mark that Andreessen is making in the bitcoin industry.
9. Ross Ulbricht
Although Ulbricht's arrest as part of the FBI's takedown of Silk Road happened last year, his alleged involvement in the online black marketplace continues to have an impact on the bitcoin industry to this day. Many believe that the results of Ulbricht's ongoing trial will set an important precedence in regard to crime and freedom on the Internet, and notable members of the bitcoin industry spearheaded high-profile campaigns this year to "Free Ross".
8. Roger Ver
Ver, an angel investor and proclaimed 'Bitcoin Jesus', may be best known this year for donating $160,000 to the Free Ross campaign; his promise to donate $10 for every retweet of a tweet he sent in July went viral and resulted in more than 16,500 retweets. Ver also works in business development at Blockchain and has invested in a number of bitcoin startups.
7. Ben Lawsky
As the face of the New York State Department of Financial Services' BitLicense proposal, Lawsky has been front-and-center in one of the most high-profile regulatory decisions in the bitcoin industry this year. While there's no clear consensus about the proposed BitLicense regulations, Lawsky has been open to hearing comments from all stakeholders and has made revisions to the proposal in response to suggestions made by members of the bitcoin industry.
6. Vitalik Buterin
Buterin is the founder of Ethereum, one of the more prominent cyrptocurrency 2.0 projects. In addition to overseeing Ethereum's pre-sale of its much-anticipated native currency 'ether,' Buterin was recognized twice this year for his contributions to innovation in technology: he received a $100,000 Peter Thiel Fellowship in July and, more recently, won a World Technology Network award.
5. Gavin Andresen
While he may not be as much of a public figure for bitcoin as others on this list, there's no doubt that Andresen's work in developing the bitcoin protocol and role as chief scientist at the Bitcoin Foundation has had a significant impact beyond bitcoin's underlying technology. Andresen continued to be a voice of reason in the industry this year and was a regular on the bitcoin conference circuit, helping to spread his knowledge and insight about bitcoin's often-misunderstood core technology.
4. Satoshi Nakamoto
While we still don't know the true identity of bitcoin's creator(s), he or she will continue to have an impact on the digital currency for as long as it exists. Despite attempts from people hoping to put a face to Nakamoto – including Newsweek's controversial cover story that named Dorian Nakamoto as bitcoin's creator – Satoshi remains illusive as a hero to many who laud his or her invention as one of the greatest of our time.
3. Tim Draper
Well-known venture capitalist Tim Draper emerged as one of the strongest supporters of bitcoin this year, and he certainly put his money where his mouth is. Draper swept the US Marshals' first auction of Silk Road-confiscated bitcoins in July, winning nearly 30,000 BTC. Draper followed his auction win with a number of investments in bitcoin startups, led Boost VC's recent Boost Bitcoin Fund 2 and scored another 2,000 BTC in the second US Marshals bitcoin auction earlier this month.
2. Mark Karpeles
The downfall of Mt Gox was arguably the biggest story in bitcoin this year, and as CEO of the now-defunct exchange, Karpeles had a critical role in how his firm's collapse played out. Karpeles was criticized heavily for the way he handled Mt Gox's bankruptcy and for what many perceived to be a general incompetence in running what was once by far the world's largest bitcoin exchange.
1. Andreas Antonopoulos
Widely regarded as one of the most trusted voices in the bitcoin industry, Antonopoulos continued to serve as an advocate and ambassador for bitcoin this year. In addition to serving as an advisor to bitcoin companies like Blockchain and CoinSimple, Antonopoulos spoke with government officials and organized campaigns this year to increase public awareness and understanding of the digital currency.
The following people received a significant number of votes in our reader poll: Barry Silbert (investor and founder of Digital Currency Group), Brock Pierce (investor and Bitcoin Foundation board member), Chris Larsen (founder and CEO of Ripple Labs), Daniel Larimer (founder of BitShares), Josh Garza (CEO of GAW Miners) and Patrick Byrne (CEO of Overstock.com).
Who would you have included in this list? Let us know in the comments below.
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