There’s a fable told in one form or another, many times before, about “The Little Engine That Could.”
It was the end of 2017, and everyone everywhere was talking about virtual currency (cryptocurrency). Entire countries were creating their own tokens. Blockchain was the decentralized peer-to-peer technology that would be adapted well beyond the financial world for any kind of record-tracking and data storage — smart contracts, voting, securing property rights, tracking shipments, managing healthcare patient information and more secure shopping. And Bitcoin, the one crypto way out ahead of the pack in the race, reached an astounding value just under $20,000 for a single virtual coin.
Alas, the "little engine" was a little bubble. The market slumped. Bitcoin's value dropped to $5,000 (holding around $3,500 at this moment).
2018 saw the cryptocurrency market struggling on wobbly legs. Fraud and scams dominated the news and the mood. A new study revealed 80 percent of Initial Coin Offerings (ICOs) in 2017 were scams. And to boot, coin thefts from both wallets and exchanges marred further that bad reality. Adding salt on the wound, malware looks to be more and more a threat. Tough year, 2018.
Overall, the feeling among experts is encouraging. It’s less fable, more reality. Like anything that matures, lessons are learned. Hope finds new clothes, picks itself up and moves on. There is optimism:
What goes down, can go up, again — it’s about emotional investment. Declining prices and improved technologies have actually fostered some excitement out there for those looking to increase their crypto holdings.
Institutional forces are coming to the rescue. Governments are cracking down on ICOs. And Security Token Offerings (STOs) have been created. (STOs distribute tokens that actually represent a stake in a company's assets.) A lot of big money is pouring interest, especially in Bitcoin.
Cryptocurrency as a technology is advancing. For Bitcoin, growth on the Lightning Network advances. The Lightning Network is layered on top of blockchain, enabling fast transactions between participating nodes — possibly fixing the scalability problem. Ethereum also has improvements on the scalability of the platform with an update that will also improve processing times for developers and more. Justin Drake with the Ethereum foundation said of the Serenity update “[Serenity] contains various new radical ideas. Part of it is around a move from Proof of Stake (POS) away from POW. And the other big idea is sharding, so scalability — having a thousand shards compared to just one shard.”
Additionally, the acceptance has broken through of crypto in the power centers of the world. In projecting its focus on the global economy, the United Nations (UN) called cryptocurrency a “new frontier” in digital finance, noting that these digital assets and there foundational technologies such as blockchain will potentially revolutionize business and create remarkable new efficiencies.
And the UN has already dived in to IOTA to “explore how IOTA’s innovative technology — which provides an open-source distributed ledger for data management — can increase the efficiency of United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS) operations.” UNOPS is also keeping its eye on Ripple — a new payment protocol exciting the market at the moment.