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Spreading Crypto: In Search of the Killer Application

Spreading Crypto: In Search of the Killer Application
This is the second post of our Spreading Crypto series where we take a deep dive into what it’ll take to help this technology reach broader adoption.
Mick exploring the state of apps in crypto
Our previous post explored the history of protocols and how they only become widely adopted when a compelling application makes them more accessible and easier to use.
Crypto will be no different. Blockchain technology today is mostly all low-level protocols. As with the numerous protocols that came before, these new, decentralized protocols need killer applications.
So, how’s that going? Where is crypto’s killer application? What’s the state of application development within our industry? Today we’ll try to answer those questions. We’ll also take a close look at decentralized applications — as that’s where a lot of the developer energy and focus currently is. Let’s dive in.

Popular Crypto Applications

The most popular crypto applications today are exchanges like Coinbase and Binance — each with tens of millions of users. Other popular crypto exchanges include Kraken, Bitstamp, Gemini, and Bitfinex. In recent years, new derivatives platforms have emerged like FTX and Deribit.
The most popular crypto applications today are primarily focused on trading, speculation, and finance. This class of applications dwarfs all other types of applications in terms of users and growth. That’s either a sign of strong product/market fit, or we just haven’t yet discovered other good use-cases. Or a mix of both.
https://preview.redd.it/8rnxghfrdh551.png?width=1600&format=png&auto=webp&s=b3df8c3d87410f6b84432df79528ee4324daf04d
Beyond the fact that the most popular crypto applications are all used for speculation, another common thread is that they are all centralized.
A centralized application means that ultimate power and control rests with a centralized party (the company who built it). For example, if Coinbase or Binance wants to block you from withdrawing your funds for whatever reason (maybe for suspicious activity or fraud), they can do that. They have control of their servers so they have control of your funds.
Most popular applications that we all use daily are centralized (Netflix, Facebook, Youtube, etc). That’s the standard for modern, world-class applications today.

Decentralized Applications

Even though the most popular crypto applications are all centralized, most of the developer energy and focus in our industry is with decentralized applications (dApps) and non-custodial products.
These are products where only the user can touch or move funds. Not even the company or developer who built the application can access or control or stop funds from being moved. Only the user has control.
These applications allow users to truly become their own bank and have absolute control of their money.
They also allow users to perform blockchain transactions and interact directly with decentralized protocols. Some of the most popular non-custodial products include Ledger, MetaMask, and MyCrypto (#ProudInvestor).
While the benefits of this type of application are obvious (user has full control of their funds), it comes with a lot of tradeoffs. We will cover that later in this post.
https://preview.redd.it/rs6tj7vsdh551.png?width=1600&format=png&auto=webp&s=86fe5bca3a9466abab5e78c9873ce3b57609f2d2

Libertarianism + Crypto

If the most popular applications tend to be centralized (inside and out of crypto), why is so much of our community focused on building decentralized applications (dApps)? For the casual observer, that’s a reasonable, valid question.
“Not your keys, not your coins.”
This meme is endlessly repeated among longtime crypto hodlers. If you’re not in complete control of your crypto (i.e. using non-custodial wallets or dApps), then it’s not really your crypto.
Engrained in the early culture of Bitcoin has always been a strong distrust for centralized authority and power — including the too-big-to-fail government-backed financial system. In the midst of the Financial Crisis, Satoshi Nakamoto included this headline in Bitcoin’s genesis block: “Chancellor on brink of second bailout for banks.” There has always been a close connection between libertarianism & cryptocurrency.
So it’s no surprise that much of the crypto developer community is spending their time building applications that are non-custodial or decentralized. It’s part of the DNA, the soul, the essence of our community.
https://preview.redd.it/fy33zhkvdh551.png?width=1600&format=png&auto=webp&s=386c741f13e9119ecfcfffe1c781d09ce58704ed

Personal Experience

When I was at Mainframe, we built Mainframe OS — a platform that developers use to build and launch decentralized applications (dApps). I’m deeply familiar with what’s possible and what’s not in the world of dApps. I have the battle scars and gray hair to prove it. We’ve hosted panels around the various challenges. We’ve even produced videos poking fun at how complicated it is for end-users to interact with.
After having spent three years in the trenches of this non-custodial world, I no longer believe that decentralized applications are capable of bringing crypto to the masses.
While I totally understand and appreciate the ethos of self-sovereignty, independence, and liberty… I think it’s a terrible mistake that as a community we are spending most of our time in this area of application development. Decentralized applications will not take crypto to the masses.
Mainframe OS

Overwhelming Friction

The user friction that comes with decentralized applications is just too overwhelming. Let’s go through a few of the bigger points:
  1. Knowledge & Education: Most non-custodial products do not abstract away any of the blockchain complexity. In fact, they often expose more of it because the most loyal users are crypto nerds. Imagine how a normie n00b feels when she starts seeing words like seed phrases, public & private keys, gas limits, transaction fees, blockchain explorers, hex addresses, and confirmation times. There is a lot for a user to learn and become educated on. That’s friction. The learning curve on this is just too damn high.
  2. User Experience: It is currently impossible to create a smooth and performant user experience in non-custodial wallets or decentralized applications. Any interaction that requires a blockchain transaction will feel sluggish and slow. We built a messaging app on Ethereum and presented it at DevCon3 in Cancun. The technical constraints of blockchain technology were crushing to the user experience. We simply couldn’t create the real-time, modern messaging experience that users have come to expect from similar apps like Slack or WhatsApp. Until blockchains are closer in speed to web servers (which will be difficult given their decentralized nature), dApps will never be able to create the smooth user experience that the masses expect.
  3. Loss of Funds Risk: There is no “Forgot Password” functionality when storing your own crypto in a non-custodial wallet. There is no customer support agent you can ping. There is no company behind it that can make you whole if you make a mistake and lose your money. You are on your own. One wrong move and your money is all gone. If you lose your private key, there is no way to recover your funds. This just isn’t the type of customer support experience people want or are used to.
Onyx Messaging App

What Our Industry Has Wrong

Decentralized applications will always have a place in the market — especially among the most hardcore crypto people and parts of the world where these tools are essential. I’m personally an active user of many non-custodial products. I’m a blockchain early-adopter, I like to hold my own money, and I’m very forgiving of suboptimal UX.
However, I’m not afraid to say the poop stinks. Decentralized applications simply cannot produce the type of product experience that mainstream consumers expect.
If the goal is growth and adoption, as a community I believe we’re barking up the wrong tree. We are trying to make fetch happen. It isn’t gonna happen. Our Netscape Moment is unlikely to arrive as long as we’re focused on decentralized applications.
\"Mean Girls\" movie
There’s a reason why the most popular consumer applications are centralized (Spotify, Amazon, Instagram, etc). There’s a reason why the most popular crypto applications are centralized (Coinbase, Binance, etc).
The frameworks, tooling, infrastructure, and services to support these modern, centralized applications are mature and well-established. It’s easier to build apps that are fast & performant. It’s easier to launch apps that are convenient and on all form-factors (especially mobile). It’s easier to distribute and promote via all the major app store channels (iOS/Android). It’s easier to patch, update, and upgrade. It’s easier to experiment and iterate.
It’s easier to design, build, and launch a world-class application when it is centralized! It is why we’ve chosen this path for Genesis Block.
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Have you already downloaded the app? We're Genesis Block, a new digital bank that's powered by crypto & decentralized protocols. The app is live in the App Store (iOS & Android). Get the link to download at https://genesisblock.com/download
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Parallels between two disruptive technologies: Internet & Blockchain – Part II

Parallels between two disruptive technologies: Internet & Blockchain – Part II
In part two of this blog, we will explore the parallels between the technologies in capitals and start-ups, in the decentralization of the blockchain as the main aspect that will revolutionize the Internet and in education. To read up on the first blog post, please follow this link.
Initial Start-Ups and Capitals
For more than 20 years the Internet was narrowed down to the usage of a few tech-savvy that knew how to navigate it. It’s only in 1993-94 that it became mainstream when Marc Andreessen created the Mosaic) browser while studying at the National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA) and brought the Internet to the general public allowing them to navigate the web comfortably with a positive user-friendly experience.
For the first time, users could establish an active presence over the internet by loading their own documents, photos, sounds, video clips, and hypertext “links” to other documents. Navigation of the internet started to have meaning. Later on, Marc Andreessen was on the team that created Netscape, the Internet browser that reached 38 million users in eighteen months and IPO’d in record time, breaking records as far as company growth while becoming the first dot-com company. Silicon Valley and Wall Street jumped on the rapid success of Netscape and started the “Internet Big bang” with a new wave of tech startups trying to follow a similar path.
In the blockchain world, Bitcoin (2008) was the first application of the technology, the most disruptive, and its first wave of users, just like in the first internet era, was also more on the technical savvy side. Despite the significant injection of capital into the blockchain space, we have not had yet a killer app or project that could compare to Mosaic or Netscape.
If blockchain is a synonym of decentralization, so far the unicorns in the space are centralized companies with traditional business models like Coinbase, Binance which are centralized exchanges, and Bitmain, a privately owned company headquartered in Beijing, China that specializes in the design of application-specific integrated circuit chips for bitcoin mining. This is why we still believe to be in the early stages of blockchain technological cycle similar to 1994 during the Internet Revolution, expecting more market cycles to happen in the upcoming years.
A look at the market capitalization of the two technologies highlights a notable difference: according to CBInsights, in the 1990s venture capitals injected in Internet startups were around $35.6 billion while so far we’ve seen no more than $6 billion flowing into the blockchain space. The good news is that the trend is moving up and the potential is to reach $10 trillion between Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies combined.
https://preview.redd.it/3oonw2fopka41.jpg?width=5472&format=pjpg&auto=webp&s=167f366b4ee2eaf47fdf89e418ee498eb8e8a958
Some Venture Capitals, like Node Capital, smelled early the potential of the tech and made their first investments in the industry in 2011. In 2018, there were more than 200 venture investments in blockchain and cryptocurrency companies, more than in all of 2011-2015 combined.
Digital Currency Group is one of the major investors in the space and has been extremely influential in blockchain since 2013. They started off with an investment of less than a million US dollars, in crypto payment processor BitPay. Since then they have invested close to $100 million in dozens of blockchain and cryptocurrency startups including Coinbase and Ripple.
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Cryptocurrency and Blockchain – Industry News – (06.07.19 – 06.14.19)

Total Market Cap, as of 06.14.19 at 12:00pm (PST): U.S. $264,851,593,863 (+1.92%)

Missed last week’s update? Click here

STORY OF THE WEEK

• Effective September 12th, 2019, U.S. customers to be blocked from trading on Binance.com.

CRYPTOCURRENCY TRADING SERVICES

• Polish cryptocurrency exchange Coinroom shuts down overnight and takes users funds
Coinbase now offers its crypto-to-Visa card for its users in Spain, Germany, France, Italy, Ireland and the Netherlands.
• On June 21st, 2019, Bittrex will restricts 32 token trading markets for its U.S. customers
Binance to launch new exchange focused on U.S. customers with FinCEN-registered partner BAM Trading Services.
• Leading cryptocurrency derivatives exchange BitMEX reports an increase in attacks on user account credentials. As a result, withdrawal requests must be verified via email and the firm is looking to make 2FA mandatory on the platform.

REGULATION

• The mayor of Vancouver pushes for outright ban of crypto ATM’s in the city. A decision to regulate, monitor or ban will be reached by Q4 2019.
• The Financial Action Task Force (FATF) is set to finalize guidance for cryptocurrency businesses by June 21st, 2019.
• In an official business plan issued by The Canadian Securities Administrators (CSA), the regulatory body looks to apply existing securities regulations to address crypto assets by 2022. The watchdog will first research and identify emerging regulatory issues and then proposing solutions to mitigate them.

TECHNOLOGY

Visa launches Visa B2B Connect Network, a service designed to help Visa’s corporate clients create near instant international payments powered by distributed ledger technology.

INSTITUTIONALIZATION

• The largest bank in South Korea, KB Kookmin is gearing up to launch a digital asset custody solution in partnership with blockchain start-up Atomrigs Lab.
Bakkt will begin user testing for its physically delivered Bitcoin futures product on July 22nd, 2019.
Facebook brings on Visa, Mastercard and PayPal as backers of its own cryptocurrency. Each of the firms will invest U.S. $10 million into a foundation that will govern the asset. The list has since included Ebay, Coinbase, Andreessen Horowitz, Mastercard and Stripe.

PEOPLE

• Code contributor Michael Ford will join existing maintainers Wladimir van Der Laan, Jonas Schnelli, Marco Falke, and Samuel Dobson to maintain the latest version of the bitcoin node software.
• The cryptocurrency arm of payments company Square has announced former Director at Google, Steve Lee as its first hire.
• Chief Marketing Officer of ConsenSys, Amanda Gutterman steps down from her role and will instead remain as an advisor.

TWITTER

@nic_carter – “The role of a Bitcoin evangelist should be to manage expectations, not to inflate them”
@nic_carter – “Bitcoin may well be environmentally costly, but it is absolutely worth it, even if it cost 10x more. Because Bitcoin disempowers debt-financed consumerism which the ultimate environmental scourge”
@barrysilbert – “The launch of Facebook's cryptocurrency will go down in history as THE catalyst that propelled digital assets (including bitcoin) to mass global consumer adoption. Will be remembered as just as important -- and transformative -- as the launch of the Netscape browser. Buckle up”
submitted by Edmund_N to CryptoMarkets [link] [comments]

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