Reflections on 2014 and the People, Places and Companies Who Championed the Year

[Editor’s note: After publication, we received comments from a contact in San Francisco, which have been added to the article below.]

Earlier this month, Cointelegraph readers voted to choose the people, places and companies who deserved the most recognition for their achievements in our 2014 Bitcoin Industry Awards. After the votes were counted, I reached out for comments and gathered facts about the year’s highest achievers.

“Bitcoin is still evolving at a breakneck pace. ... In its wake, hundreds of alternative coins and other inventions based on blockchain technology are also sprouting.”  

—Andreas Antonopoulos

The greatest highlight and “biggest news story” of the year, according to readers, came toward the end, when on December 11, Microsoft began accepting Bitcoin for digital purchases. The only announcement by the company appeared on their blog, but account holders soon noticed the new Bitcoin payment option. They quickly spread the news on Reddit.

Many people were so surprised by the sight of the first shared images showing the payment option that they wondered whether they were a hoax. Microsoft account holders soon verified that they were true. In the eyes of many, the acceptance of the cryptocurrency by a merchant as big as Microsoft gave Bitcoin an ultimate proof of legitimacy. 

Bill Gates, co-founder of Microsoft, was positive about Bitcoin earlier in the year, when in October he went so far as to say, “Bitcoin is better than currency”:

“Bitcoin is exciting because it shows how cheap it can be. Bitcoin is better than currency in that you don’t have to be physically in the same place and, of course, for large transactions, currency can get pretty inconvenient.”

I reached out to Microsoft regarding their status as “biggest news story” and a company spokesperson offered the following comment:

“Customers have responded positively to Microsoft providing additional flexibility in the ways they can add value to their Microsoft Account.”

BitPay, the company voted “most successful” in 2014 also made it to prime time. They hosted the first ever St. Petersburg Bitcoin Bowl on December 26, with plans for two more in the coming years. Cryptocurrency fans had the chance to see Bitcoin in larger-than-life-form on giant television screens.

The Bitcoin symbol appeared in the center of the football field, the logo was in the background at all times during the game, #BitcoinBowl trended on Twitter, and fans chanted “Bitcoin”—although their chants may have been drowned out by football fans. The moment was surreal for Bitcoin fans in a huge stadium among cheering thousands.

Many football fans wondered on Twitter what “this Bitcoin thing” was. Those who attended the game to support Bitcoin, rather than watch football, soaked in the excitement when ESPN showed the first-ever prime-time televised BitPay Bitcoin commercials.

By the end of 2014, BitPay had increased its merchant account numbers to a total of more than 50,000. During the year, they hit a daily transaction amount of US$1 million. CEO and Co-Founder Stephen Pair had this to say to CT readers:

“[The year] 2014 has been a great year for Bitcoin and BitPay and we appreciate the communities’ recognition. We expect that 2015 [will] be even more successful. Thank you for all your support.”

The next company on our winners list was