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Bitcoin Dominance and What It Really Means for the Crypto Market




Bitcoin ETF

When Bitcoin first came on the scene a decade ago, it was the only cryptocurrency available. It had 100% of the crypto market share at the time. Until 2017, Bitcoin accounted for approximately 95% of the cryptocurrency sector's market capitalization. The rise of altcoins such as Ethereum (ETH), Cardano (ADA), and Litecoin (LTC) has eroded Bitcoin's market dominance. Despite the emergence of altcoins, Bitcoin continues to account for over 70% of the cryptocurrency market until January 2021, when its relative dominance has declined. This is despite reaching an all-time high in April of $64,000 and the price of Bitcoin rising to a new all-time high of $66,000 on October 20, boosted by news that the first Bitcoin ETF. The general rule is that when BTC dominance goes up, altcoins lose value against BTC. And when BTC dominance goes down, they gain value. So, is this well-known trend changing in 2021?

TradingView chart showing the decline in Bitcoin’s dominance since the start of 2021

Why is Bitcoin still so dominant?

At the beginning of March there were 12,170 altcoins on the market, according to CoinMarketCap. Despite these figures, investors continue to put over 50% of their funds into Bitcoin when investing in cryptocurrency. When some investors are deciding how to diversify their portfolios, there is clearly a “Bitcoin bias” at work. Because Bitcoin is both the most well-known and trusted cryptocurrency, it serves as an entry point into the crypto world for most people. As the price rises with a bull market, people see it as a good investment and want to get into the market. We've seen time and again that when the price of Bitcoin rises, new entrants flock to the crypto market. As a rule, when money flows into Bitcoin rather than other cryptocurrencies, the price of Bitcoin rises, extending Bitcoin's dominance. Then we see the reverse happening, as investors putting their Bitcoin profits into large altcoins, all the way down to small-cap altcoins, before returning to Bitcoin. The cycle keeps returning to Bitcoin because it is the entry point for most new cryptocurrency users.

We saw a significant decrease in Bitcoin's dominance in January, which fell from 73 percent to 40 percent. As of today, it still has a market share of less than 50%. During this time, the largest altcoin, ETH, has increased in value by about 400%, while Bitcoin has only increased by about 70-80% – what is possibly a key reason why Bitcoin has been losing its dominance in 2021. Plus, when the price of Bitcoin goes up savvy crypto traders know that this often has a beneficial impact on altcoin value, especially Ethereum which has grown in popularity with the Eth2 upgrade and the proliferation of DeFi apps based on the platform.

We also can't ignore the fact that the valuations of the major altcoins are skyrocketing in price, despite a few glitches along the way such as Solana’s (SOL) recent outage; it's now a question of why put your money in Bitcoin when there are more rewarding crypto assets? We believe therefore that the rise in altcoin valuations is the key driver for the current reduction in Bitcoin's dominance, despite the twin all-time high price rises to over $60,000 this year so far. The pace of innovation in Ethereum and rival altcoins' numerous upgrades to meet market demands, are key factors contributing to their growing dominance relative to Bitcoin.

Another solid reason why Bitcoin’s dominance is slipping, is down to the maturing nature of the 2021 crypto market. Noting the growth in size of the overall crypto market value in 2021, Frederick Vold, writing in CryptoNews, points out that the total market capitalization crossed the $2.5 trillion mark in mid-October:

“It is worth noting is that bitcoin’s dominance of the overall crypto market valuation is lower now than during the all-time high which the bitcoin price hit in April. Back then bitcoin’s share of the crypto market made up about 54%. As of today, the bitcoin dominance is around 44%-46% (depending on a data provider), having remained relatively stable around 40% since mid-May.

“The slightly lower bitcoin dominance this time around indicates that more altcoins are experiencing growth in their market capitalizations. However, it is also important to note that the number of altcoins is constantly rising, which, all else equal, reduces bitcoin’s share of the crypto market,” Vold added.

BigONE’s View

BigONE believes Bitcoin acts as a bridge for new users to enter the cryptocurrency market, as the best known and most widely publicized in the mainstream media. It is easier to persuade new users of the value it offers because it has stood the test of time and is the most reputable cryptocurrency, especially when fears of Ponzi schemes persist in the market. “There are a lot of scams and criminal operations that target individuals and it’s very important to recognise that in an unregulated market there is no recourse,” says Ian Taylor, the chief executive of lobby group CryptoUK in a recent FT article. Bitcoin also serves as an entry point for large institutional investors and regulators interested in learning more about the crypto space. Along with worries about rising inflation, spurred on my rising energy prices and raw material costs, institutional investors can now get safer exposure through the ProShares Bitcoin Strategy ETF. It ended with $1.1 billion under management on Wednesday October 20 after trading volume topped $1.2 billion, according to a press release. That’s the quickest that an ETF has reached the $1 billion-mark, Bloomberg Intelligence data confirmed.

We believe that user trust in other cryptocurrencies is still growing and that this will be the deciding factor in the battle for crypto market ‘dominance’. In addition, Bitcoin's influence is beneficial to the crypto space because it acts as a “trust gateway” for new entities and users to understand and invest in the crypto space. As Shaun Heng, vice president of growth and operations at CoinMarketCap, a cryptocurrency ranking and analytics platform, told Cointelegraph: “Although Bitcoin is volatile, I believe it will still dominate the market for a while to come. Bitcoin is the basis for which all other cryptocurrencies were made, and while I don't expect to see it reach the heights it did in the past, I also don't think it will fall off considerably in the foreseeable future.” Chairman of BigONE Anndy Lian said that in the long term it was unlikely that Bitcoin would reach the heights it had in terms of dominance at the start of 2021. “The crypto market’s rapid change, from the rise of stablecoins like USDT and BUSD, to the popularity of meme coins like Dogecoin, is the backdrop for the decline of Bitcoin’s dominance. However, I believe the price of Bitcoin is set for even greater all-time highs in the near future, and with new Bitcoin ETFs coming on stream, it’ still the cryptocurrency of choice for investors.”

Anndy Lian is the chief digital advisor for the Mongolian Productivity Organisation, a partner and fund manager overseeing blockchain investments for Passion Venture Capital Pte. Ltd. He is the author of the best-selling book, “Blockchain Revolution 2030” published by Kyobo, the largest bookstore chain in South Korea. He was previously the chairman of BigONE Exchange and an Advisory Board Member of Hyundai DAC.