TL;DR– It’s still early and we don’t have mass adoption, but we are starting to see the very beginnings of decentralized products start to take shape.
We have seen the crypto speculative frenzy take over the world. Governments don’t know how to react. South Korea issues a ban, then recants, then decides to do it…maybe. India freezes the accounts of Bitcoin exchanges. Markets are in turmoil. All of this is par for the course as the world tries to come to terms with one of the most profound technological innovations of all time, the blockchain, and its implication, the elimination of third parties as necessary conduits for the exchange of value.
Meanwhile, beneath the tumultuous service, the innovators who have been in the industry since well before crypto-mania was a “thing” are \ building decentralized solutions. It is still very early. These applications are not quite ready for prime time. However, if 2017 was the Year of the Whitepaper and the ICO, we are starting to see 2018 emerge as the Year of the Emerging Crypto Reality (sorry for the click-bait headline.)
Let’s take a look at just a few of the services that are moving from concept to reality.
How Crypto-Promise Starts Becoming Reality
One of the earliest “giant ICOs” was Gnosis which was valued at over $300 million when it did its ICO and may have been the first coin (not called Bitcoin or Ether) to be valued at over $1 billion…all based on a whitepaper. Many people scoffed. Heck, I was one of them, but fast forward 8 months and we see what a decentralized prediction market is going to look like.
The Olympia marketplace allows anyone to come in and place a “bet” with Gnosis tokens on the outcome of an event. As there is no intermediary, we can be confident that the information we are seeing is not susceptible to manipulation or “insider trading.” You will need a MetaMask account to log-in, but you can get in there now. You can also see how you are doing against everyone else because there is a scoreboard
Another ICO that was ridiculed was that of the Basic Attention Token, which raised $35 million in 30 seconds. Its promise is to revolutionize the way that we engage with ads via our browser, eliminating the numerous middlemen in the ad tech eco-system and allow individuals to directly pay publishers for their content while getting compensated by advertisers for viewing ads.
They certainly are facing an uphill battle in trying to get us all to move off Chrome to their Brave browser, but they are not sitting still. They are giving away $1 million worth of BAT tokens to help jumpstart their economy and userbase. Whether it works or not remains to be seen, but the software is there. The one challenge I have had is figuring out which sites actually accept BAT in a natural, organic way, but I’m sure that will be solved shortly.
Once you claim your BAT, however, it is in your wallet and you are off and running
Another ICO that was huge and was full of massive hype was Bancor. They have been the subject of much ridicule from various corners and I will admit to having read the whitepaper 4 times but am still not clear on how it all works behind the scenes. The basic idea is that the rapid, frictionless, and near zero cost of exchange between tokens built on their platform provides greater liquidity than any other option out there.
That being said, there is no denying that they are creating a solid interface that actually does what they said they would do. You can try the Bancor app now on their site.
Finally, we look at Radar Relay, a decentralized exchange built on 0x. Many people in the industry are excited about the idea of 0x (sometimes known as “ZRX”) because it is a protocol for decentralized exchanges. One of the current chokepoints of the crypto-industry is, ironically enough, the single points of failure and vulnerability that places like Coinbase, Bittrex, and Binance represent. If they are hacked or taken down, you lose your coins.
Decentralized exchanges offer some protection from this by not holding your coins on your behalf, but providing (hopefully) high liquidity. The competition comes from building the best User Experience on top of the protocol, which Radar Relay seems to have figured out nicely. Their interface and usability is far superior to other platforms like EtherDelta or OasisDex.
The Hype is Real, but so is the Reality
It is not easy to keep an eye on the “long game” during periods of mania like the one we are experiencing. The attention of the world is on the currencies, but people like CNBC are missing the point. The bulk of the iceberg lies below the water. The same is true with crypto. That is where you should keep your eyes as well.
Expect to see more reality emerge from the hype as the serious crypto projects demonstrate that they are committing to delivering.