The Protocol: Bitcoin Cry for Help Heard

It may seem perplexing to the corporate mindset that bitcoin's price surged this week to a new all-time high above the old record around $69,000, even as the dominant Bitcoin Core software used to run the blockchain remains dependent on a group of volunteers. But there may be help on the way.

AccessTimeIconMar 6, 2024 at 8:00 p.m. UTC
Updated Mar 9, 2024 at 6:05 a.m. UTC

Rosy predictions for bitcoin spot ETFs are paying off, with billions of inflows into the vehicles, helping to push the BTC price this week to a new all-time high above the old record around $69,000. The vindicated prognosticators may argue there's now ample proof that if normies have an easy way of investing in crypto, they will. The question is whether newbies fully understand the vagaries of decentralized governance of decentralized networks, or grasp the reality that the technology is still very much in its adolescence. Maybe that's the point of getting in now.

In this week's issue of The Protocol:

  • Ethereum conferences like last week's ETHDenbver are now attracting a presence from Bitcoiners, Solana acolytes and Polkadot representatives – perhaps a sign of just how influential the second-largest blockchain has become.
  • A maintainer of the dominant Bitcoin Core software used to run the original blockchain has acknowledged lone Bitcoin Improvement Proposal editor Luke Dashjr's call for backup.
  • Top picks from the past week's Protocol Village column of blockchain project updates: Marathon Digital, Metis, Chainlink, Tea Protocol, BOB (a Bitcoin layer-2 network), Wormhole.
  • More than $50M of blockchain project fundraises.
  • Tron leads Token Terminal's ranking of blockchains based on daily average users.

This article is featured in the latest issue of The Protocol, our weekly newsletter exploring the tech behind crypto, one block at a time. Sign up here to get it in your inbox every Wednesday. Also please check out our weekly The Protocol podcast.

Network news


No, this isn't a Solana conference – but the Solana booth at last week's ETHDenver conference, which was founded to focus on the Ethereum blockchain ecosystem. (Sam Kessler)

ETHEREUM'S BIG TENT: Ethereum conferences aren't just for Ethereans anymore, CoinDesk's Sam Kessler reports. Last week's ETHDenver conference in Colorado, one of the year's largest gatherings for developers and users of the Ethereum blockchain, drew in a cross-section of the blockchain industry. The broad swath of attendees might be a testament to Ethereum's influence on other blockchain ecosystems, attracting onlookers from other crypto tribes. But it also might be a sign of rival systems looking to encroach on Ethereum's success in making blockchains more programmable, with its vibrant ecosystem of software developers looking to create new applications. Bitcoin, in the midst of a developer renaissance with the advent of its own NFTs and decentralized finance (DeFi) services, had an impressive turnout of builders at the conference. So did Polkadot, the "hub-and-spoke" blockchain created by Gavin Wood, an Ethereum co-founder who used to market his new project as an improvement over the Ethereum model. Even Solana, the speed-focused network that's long positioned itself as an "ETH Killer," had a well-attended booth at Denver's National Western Complex, the conference's venue. John Paller, the conference's founder and executive steward, told CoinDesk in an interview that there were "probably seven or eight layer 1s that are here, and we have probably 12 layer 2s." According to conference officials, there were 20,000 "festival attendees."

BITCOIN PSA: In last week's issue, we highlighted how, despite robust demand to buy bitcoin by newly approved U.S. spot ETFs, and the surging BTC price (this week surpassing the previous all-time high around $69,000), the governance of the blockchain's software is still dependent on largely volunteers, or on pro developers moonlighting – a labor of love, as it were. And the process is down to having only one editor, Luke Dashjr, to manage what he described as the "thankless and boring job" of handling all the new Bitcoin Improvement Proposals or "BIPs" that come over the transom. Well, his cries for help were heard, apparently. Ava Chow, one of the maintainers of Bitcoin Core, acknowledged in a post on the Bitcoin-Dev mailing list that it might be "prudent for us to look at adding more BIPs editors." According to Chow: "this would significantly help get through the backlog of BIPs PRs, and responding to them in a timely manner to significantly reduce the friction of getting BIPs changes merged," adding that "any new BIP editors should be people who have a history of following and being involved in Bitcoin development, as well as being known to evaluate proposals objectively, and of course, are willing to do the job." As Bitcoin Optech newsletter put it dryly, "No clear resolution has been reached."


  • Independent U.S. presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy told the crowd at ETHDenver, "After I went to the Miami conference, I bought a bunch of bitcoin for my kids, and I'm going to buy some Ethereum after I leave this place."
  • Bitcoiners have struck a significant victory in their push to strike down the U.S. Department of Energy’s statistics unit’s “emergency” bitcoin mining order. According to court documents, the Energy Information Administration is dropping its mandatory survey sent to hundreds of miners in favor of the proper notice and comment period required by law.
  • Bernstein Research wrote in a report that it would not be surprising to see global asset managers considering a possible DeFi exchange-traded fund (ETF) and active DeFi funds, noting that Uniswap, Aave, Maker, GMX, Synthetix and Sushi account for six of the 10 top revenue-generating blockchain protocols.
  • Some $200.5 million has been lost to hacks and rug pulls in 2024 year-to-date, a 15.4% increase when compared with the same period in 2023, according to the "Crypto Losses in February 2024" report from Immunefi, a bug bounty and security services platform.
  • A single "monke" from the NodeMonkes collection of Bitcoin Ordinals inscriptions sold for 17 BTC ($1.08 million) – called "Alien Hoodie" or #2769 – featuring some very low-res pixelation.
Alien Hoodie

Yes, this "Alien hoodie" from the NodeMonkes Bitcoin Ordinals inscriptions collection sold for more than $1 million. (NodeMonkes/X)

Protocol Village

Top picks of the past week from our Protocol Village column, highlighting key blockchain tech upgrades and news.

Auduro's network design

Schematic of Marathon's "Anduro" network design, from the litepaper. (Anduro)

  1. Marathon Digital Holdings, a publicly-traded bitcoin mining firm, disclosed it has been incubating Anduro, a new programmable, multi-chain layer-2 network atop the Bitcoin blockchain. It's a "platform built on the Bitcoin network that allows for the creation of multiple sidechains," according to a press release.
  2. Metis, an Ethereum layer-2 network, plans to integrate Chainlink's interoperability solution, Chainlink CCIP, "as its canonical token bridge infrastructure, enabling the Metis ecosystem to expand its cross-chain footprint, enhance user and developer experience and accelerate adoption," according to the team.
  3. Tea Protocol, founded by Max Howell, the creator of Homebrew's open-source software package management, said that his "latest project leverages blockchain technology to address longstanding challenges in OSS development, marking a significant step towards a more sustainable and equitable ecosystem for software creators."
  4. BOB, a Bitcoin layer-2 blockchain project, announced its innovative hybrid solution between Bitcoin and Ethereum at their "Bitcoin Renaissance" event, a side event of ETHDenver attended by 1,500 individuals, according to the team: "This solution introduces an ETH-settled rollup that leverages an advanced merged mining technique to inherit Bitcoin's PoW security. Looking ahead, BOB plans to enable settlements on both Bitcoin, via BitVM, and Ethereum.
  5. Wormhole, a protocol for communication between blockchains, just revealed "Wormhole Native Token Transfers," a new framework for making any token multichain, securely and efficiently, according to the team: "NTT introduces an open, flexible, and composable framework for transferring native tokens across blockchains while preserving their intrinsic properties. Compared to wrapped assets, NTT is simpler, decentralized, marking a significant stride forward for interoperability."
Native token transfer architecture

Wormhole's "native token transfers" architecture. (Wormhole)

Ethereum Fees Set to Drop for Arbitrum, Polygon, Starknet, Base. But How Much?

Steven Goldfeder

Steven Goldfeder, CEO of Offchain Labs, the primary developer behind Arbitrum, spoke last week at the ETHDenver conference. (Danny Nelson)

Ethereum developers are gearing up for the blockchain's next big upgrade happening next week, called Dencun.

It's supposed to issue in a new era of lower costs for "layer-2" blockchains, including so-called rollup networks that aim to offer faster and cheaper transactions than on the main blockchain. But just how much lower?

Dencun will be the biggest upgrade – technically a "hard fork" in blockchain parlance – that the network will undergo in almost a year.

The main component in Dencun is called EIP-4844, or more commonly “proto-danksharding,” which will bring in a new type of transaction class that reduces the costs of publishing data of transactions on rollups, through the introduction of data “blobs.” These blobs are a separate place in a transaction where rollup networks or other protocols could temporarily stash data – sometimes described as a "side car" that doesn't take up space in the main car.

As a result of more blobs, the costs for these layer-2 networks to stash data on Ethereum will be significantly cheaper, and the reduction is likely to trickle down to users in the form of lower fees.

But how exactly it will all shake out is still ambiguous, according to many Ethereum experts. We asked leading layer-2 teams, including Polygon, Arbitrum, StarkWare and Coinbase's Base, for their predictions post-Dencun.

Money Center


Sahara co-founders Tyler Zhou and Sean Ren
  • Sahara, the latest startup to blend the worlds of crypto and artificial intelligence, says it can help workers and companies get compensated for their knowledge, expertise and data in the age of AI. The Los Angeles-based startup has raised $6 million in a seed funding round led by Polychain Capital. The round also included participation from Samsung Next, Matrix Partners, Motherson Group and Sandeep Nailwal, co-founder of the Polygon blockchain ecosystem. The project was co-founded by Sean Ren, an AI researcher and tenured member of the school’s computer science faculty at the University of Southern California (USC).
  • Taiko, a layer-2 scaling solution provider for the Ethereum blockchain, has raised $15 million in a series A funding round, adding to the growing amount of investment allocations to crypto projects from venture-capital firms. The fundraise was led by Lightspeed Faction, Hashed, Generative Ventures and Token Bay Capital, according to a press release.
  • Baanx, a cryptocurrency payments specialist authorized by the U.K.’s Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), has raised a $20 million Series A funding round, the company said on Tuesday.
  • Stack, a platform for creating and managing point systems, has raised $3M from Archetype, Coinbase Ventures and other VCs and angels to bring points, loyalty programs and identity primitives on-chain, according to the team.
  • Synnax, a protocol that generates AI-driven credit intelligence and ratings for the digital asset industry, announced a $1 million pre-seed funding round, led by No Limit Holdings.

Deals and Grants

Regulatory, Policy and Legal

Tron Blockchain Reported to Have Most Daily Active Users

There's so many ways to handicap the horse race between the various blockchains for relevance and market share – total value locked, transaction fees, network capacity, speeds, token prices, size of the developer community. Here's another one: the number of users. This week, in the chart below, we feature Token Terminal's data showing daily active users. As with a lot of data, there's the potential for manipulation, but the data shows the Tron blockchain in first place, followed by the Binance-incubated BNB Chain and then Polygon in third place.

Blockchains ranked by daily average users

Blockchains ranked by daily average users. (Token Terminal)


Edited by Bradley Keoun.


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Bradley Keoun

Bradley Keoun is the managing editor of CoinDesk's Tech & Protocols team. He owns less than $1,000 each of several cryptocurrencies.