It’s hard to predict or understand how a new technology will be used, even when we’re given a lot of clues. It’s especially difficult to envision how a versatile technology, like the blockchain, will drive new products and services compared to a specific one, like a 3D printer. We take a look at how blockchain and cryptocurrency evolved this year in unexpected ways, and make our predictions for 2018, knowing full well the odds are against us.
Most surprising events of 2017
- Bitcoin crosses $1,000, $2,000, $5,000, $10,000, and neared $20,000: Yes bitcoiners were saying this was going to happen for years, but even they were caught by surprise by the suddenness and timing of bitcoin’s massive bull run. Bitcoin crossed $1,000 on the first day of 2017 and kept going, hitting new highs month after month, faster than expected. It surely caught the outside world by surprise and embarrassed naysayers who were calling bitcoin a dead-end for years. Bitcoiners were finally vindicated — their currency that has been ridiculed for years, is at last being taken seriously.
- ICOs: While ICOs (initial coin offerings) are nothing new — Ethereum itself launched with an ICO in 2014 — the form they took in 2017 was unexpected. They were no longer only used by new software projects trying to get off the ground, but by established companies, such as Kik or Omise raising funds for the launch of a new product. Also the quantity and size of ICOs, with some crossing $200 million, exceeded anyone’s expectations.
- Bitcoin Cash and Bitcoin Gold: Let’s pause to reflect for a moment that Bitcoin Cash and Bitcoin Gold weren’t even a thought before 2017, and now they have a market cap of $41 billion and $4 billion, respectively. The idea that bitcoin would weather a fork (split) and weather it well caught many off guard. It has now led to the proliferation of other bitcoin forks, such as Bitcoin Silver, Bitcoin Platinum, Bitcoin Diamond, Bitcoin Uranium, Bitcoin Cash Plus, Super Bitcoin and more.
- The EEA: It’s amazing to realize that the Enterprise Ethereum Alliance did not exist one year ago, and it now has over 200 member companies including Microsoft, Cisco, Intel, JP Morgan, Santander, UBS and Mastercard. No one would have predicted that last one to be part of an Ethereum focused organization.
- Bitcoin Futures: Just this month CME and CBOE both launched bitcoin futures trading. This was undreamt of even 6 months ago. Earlier this year the SEC aggressively denied the application for a Bitcoin ETF, so for the CFTC to approve bitcoin futures shortly after came as a surprise.
Predictions for 2018
- We will see a large social media platform or chat app integrate a blockchain token to reward and incentivize their content creators. We started seeing this in 2017 with the Kik messenger platform launching their own crypto token to create a micro economy within their app, and Steemit — a Reddit-copycat that utilizes its own blockchain and cryptocurrency.
- Users will be able to pay for content on some media platforms using a crypto-token. The Brave web browser with its crypto-token, BAT, is already moving in this direction. The token will be used to reward users for their “attention” to content or ads, and may also be used in the other direction to compensate content producers in lieu of ads.
- We’ll see some large established companies offering a pilot service or product on a public blockchain. We already saw some movement in this direction this year with insurance giant AXA offering flight delay insurance on the Ethereum blockchain. Established companies are very cognizant of how institutions that ignored the internet in the 90s were consumed by web startups, and they don’t want to be similarly blindsided with the arrival of blockchain technology. They recognize it’s either start experimenting with a blockchain, or go the way of blockbuster.
- A large financial institution or government will create a digital asset that moves on a publicly viewable ledger. There are already murmurings of central banks (e.g. Russia, Israel) looking at creating a digital currency using a blockchain.
- The hottest job market will be for blockchain professionals, commanding salaries far higher than comparable positions non-blockchain related. It won’t just be for blockchain developers, but for all professionals literate in the technology.