If there’s one thing the mainstream business media and their allies in banking managed to achieve in 2018, it was to throw shade on the entire blockchain industry.
There’s no proven use-case. It’s a work-in-progress. It’s better-handled by IBM, Amazon, Facebook – the “grown-ups”.
And the truth is, they have a point: even if it’s drowned out by their hyperbole.
Our industry needs to deliver. And some projects can lead the way – or they can prove Bloomberg right.
Ethereum has to show that it serves a purpose beyond crowdfunding. EOS has to prove that its billions serve to do more than make a few block producers rich.
Unless dApps can proliferate (and actually gain users) we will face 2020 in the certain knowledge that the enterprise technology case is more powerful than the consumer case.
And other projects, too, will help define whether cryptocurrency and blockchain thrive in 2019. Here’s a list – by no means exhaustive – of some of the projects with a lot to prove over the next year.
It’s do-or-die for Ethereum in 2019, with all eyes on the scalability of the network. The Ethereum community is cautiously optimistic about Constantinople, the upcoming hard fork which was mired in uncertainty for much of the last year. It’s also one that will (hopefully) begin the transition from proof-of-work to proof-of-stake consensus. The potential integration of Zcash’s zk-SNARKs would be icing on the cake, bolstering the network to 500 transactions per second without the need for Plasma.
Meanwhile, competitors such as TRON and EOS are capitalizing on the uncertainty that has plagued the Ethereum network, bringing Ethereum Co-Founder Vitalik Buterin to defend the development team’s roadmap. His reputation in the Ethereum community is also at stake in 2019, after previously declaring that the project could survive without him.
There’s not much room for error now that the Jan. 16 date for Constantinople is out there. This hard fork could be the catalyst for lifting ETH’s price out of the trenches and retaking the No. 2 spot among the biggest cryptocurrencies.
It is also the development that could silence the critics who seized the opportunity to kick Ethereum when it was down.
On January 4th, 2017, Dominic Williams – Chief Scientist of DFINITY – announced that “Code is Law” and outlined his proposal for a “sister network” to Ethereum that would resolve in 3-5 seconds.
In February, Williams noted on Medium that “Our task with Copper is simple: avoid feature creep, and release a client that greatly increases the speed and capacity of the virtual computer produced and plus a functioning Blockchain Nervous System. We want to do this as quickly as possible and in a few months not years.”
DFINITY enjoyed almost mythic status throughout much of 2017 as the project continued to bring in exceptional talent, and began to describe itself as “The Internet Computer.”
In 2018, over two funding rounds led by industry goliaths Andreesen Horowitz and Polychain, DFINITY raised $195M.
In December of 2018, DFINITY announced in a Medium post that “A full test network, including our unique software framework, algorithmic governance, and other features, will then be available (again, with the level of access provided still undecided) in late Q2, with a production version of the network following.”
DFINITY is a gold star project in the decentralized world. It’s a project that has been in process since 2014 – and there may be nothing sinister at all about the fact that it’s still not showing the public much at all.
However, time-to-market is surely a factor, even for the best-funded operations. With DFINITY now projecting out to the end of summer before illustrating an MVP, questions will surely be asked about the progress of the project that aims to be the ‘NASA for decentralization’.
They certainly got that right. Boldly going where they’re going is proving to be a five-year mission – at best.
The Polymath team must be licking their lips at their prospects for 2019. After raising $59 million on the back of a highly-unusual promise at the time – to focus on KYC, AML, and securities compliance – Polymath has watched from the sidelines as the SEC has knocked its primary competitor out of the game completely.
The ICO model may return in some refined form, but for 2019 the attention of the crypto industry is firmly on the Security Token Offering (STO) and the need to comply with regulations and enforcement strategies that are becoming gradually clearer. The rise of the STO has been identified by many as the crowdfunding platform of the future – and Polymath seems well-placed to adopt the mantle of King.
So if Polymath and its ST-20 token standard want to experience the kind of growth that Ethereum and its ERC-20 tokens did, on the back of their funding model, they need to prove that there is demand for digitized securities that extends far beyond a few thousand start-ups.
Polymath believes there are trillions of dollars in the market they address – real estate, art, liquidity via securities issued within an existing company.
If Polymath has a stellar year, and can persuade retail investors that investing in securities is as rewarding (and safer) than investing in purely speculative tokens, then crypto – and its newly-minted ST-20 tokens – will have an equally good year.
A dApp. Any dApp.
It’s been over half a decade since Vitalik Buterin’s white paper promised a “Next-Generation Decentralized Application Platform.” It was followed by several new dApp platforms that have promised to be even more “next generation,” with even more outlandish visions— decentralized voting through autonomous organizations, decentralized banks to replace Wells Fargo, and cryptographic insurance based on decentralized oracles.
But the most successful product of the dApp revolution is still…. Crypto Kitties. The only dApps with mild adoption are used for gambling, unless you count ICO contracts–but that’s not much difference. Other much-vaunted dApps turned out to be like Augur— a hundred-million-dollar white elephant that counts its users in the double digits.
If decentralization is to be more than an eccentric experiment, application builders will have to make serious progress in creating systems that users will want to use. Until then, decentralized applications will mainly be remembered for enabling yet-more ICO’s.
It’s been over a year and a half since Hong Kong-based Monaco launched its ICO with the aim of putting“cryptocurrency in every wallet.” The goal was ambitious but attainable: a digital wallet, that would make spending crypto as easy as swiping a card.
Over the year and a half since its ICO, the most significant achievement of the Monaco project has been to acquire the crypto.com domain name for around $10 million. Considering the project initially raised $25 million in its ICO, investors can consider that money well-spent.
The project rose and fall for months on a potential partnership with Visa – and the branding is finally there for all to see, so that can be considered an achievement.
Since then there has been much news, but few releases. The team has released mobile apps, shot videos of themselves “testing” the new cards, and – finally- announced the first shipments to Singapore. It’s not clear how many of the crypto cards have actually reached their customers.
There’s still much to be optimistic about. According to an announcement, the project has secured and a banking partnership to launch its cards in the United States. One only hopes that in their next market, they’ll move the cards a little faster.
If they can make the gateway between fiat and crypto a little easier to navigate, crypto.com can still be a real player in this field. If they fail, what are the chances that Visa will pick up the pieces for themselves?
Another project that must deliver in 2019 is EOS.
The EOS community has had too many reasons to lose faith in the project. Despite a blockbuster $4 billion ICO, which incidentally may have placed a regulatory bull’s eye on the back of the project, the community became disenchanted for a couple of reasons. First, EOS block producers cast a shadow on the project when they began scooping up RAM and selling it for a profit.
Second, Dan Larimer, the CTO of EOS, signaled that he was starting to become restless, again. After a botched rollout of the mainnet, this was not what the EOS community wanted to hear. Larimer hinted at creating another cryptocurrency soon after the launch of the EOS mainnet, which rattled investors in the project and took a toll on the EOS price.
Larimer is needed to help remove the stigma that is attached to the EOS blockchain surrounding suspicions of centralization tied to the project’s delegated proof-of-stake system. Smaller competitors including IOST have begun taking shots at the DPOS mechanism, pointing to weaknesses in the limited supernodes model that could potentially lead to an attack, which is the last thing decentralized app developers want to hear.
Speaking of dApps, competition has only become more fierce among TRON, Ethereum and EOS. With Ethereum closer to adopting a more scalable solution and Tron’s Justin Sun incentivizing developers to jump ship from other blockchains to his, EOS needs to up its game. Tron currently trails EOS for the number of dApps, but Sun has its closest competitor for developer talent in its sights.
#TRON grows rapidly and has 83 Dapps in @dapp_review now! Mission accomplished! We will surpass EOS on the number of Dapps (now 259) at the end of January, 2019! #TRX $TRX https://t.co/ybPZdldmEI pic.twitter.com/HlbkUgi9Po
— Justin Sun (@justinsuntron) December 30, 2018
The EOS blockchain has too much going for it to let a few chinks in the armor stand in the way.
But as last year has proven, the blockchain landscape can change quickly and EOS must step it up to maintain its competitive position.
Members of the editorial team are invested in several of the cryptocurrencies mentioned in this article.