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The Next Ten Years

This is The Block. Today, let's talk timelines.

The Block

June 14 · Issue #50 · View online
Weekly curated #cryptocurrency news and commentary.

This is The Block. Today, let’s talk timelines.

It’s 1995. Less than 14% of American adults use the internet. Ten years later, 66% use it regularly, and by 2015 75%-84% are using it (stats are fuzzy, based on how ‘use’ is characterized) on a daily basis.
The web has outgrown its original form and taken on a different visage. It encompasses social media–itself unknown in 1995–as well as a blooming e-commerce sector and a thriving news outlet. Digital media consumption, from photography and music to streaming video, has also exploded in popularity, in part because the infrastructure evolved to handle the higher bandwidth requirements. Hardware changed, but so did software. But the most important thing that changed?
People’s behavior.
But it didn’t happen overnight, or even over a year. It’s taken over twenty years to see this evolution, and many of these industries are just now coming into their own. Some, like curated products-as-a-service businesses and communal VR, have just recently begun to grow and have yet to see maturation and mass adoption.
1983, the DynaTAC 8000x was the first commercially available handheld mobile phone. The first ‘smartphone’, the touchscreen Ericsson R380 Smartphone, was released in 2000. And the first iPhone model was announced on January 9, 2007. Oh hey. That’s just eleven years ago.
It didn’t take long for people to consider their smartphones ‘indispensable.’ As in, can’t go anywhere without it. As in, checking email and taking photos and uploading videos and chatting and ordering food and buying goods online, all from this tiny device in your pocket. 
As in, it completely changed our behavior.
As did the Internet.
As will cryptocurrency.
Cryptocurrency is itself still in its infancy, relatively speaking. Bitcoin is only nine years old, while alt-currencies are much younger. Ethereum is itself only three years old (as determined by its initial launch date of July 2015).
While not a perfect representation, we can look at Bitcoin as one metric for measuring usage. According to Bitinfocharts, Bitcoin had over 200,000 transactions over the last 24 hours, or about 8,712 transactions average per hour (Ethereum, for comparison, had over nearly 800,000 transactions in the last 24 hours). That isn’t much compared to, say, VISA. But interestingly, the average transaction value is 6.17 BTC, or about $39,824 USD. There are close to 860,000 subscribers to the Bitcoin subreddit and Bitcoin garners mentions in nearly 50,000 tweets per day.
Cryptocurrency usage stats are increasing over time, as you’d expect with a nascent technology. So what could we expect over the next two decades? Metcalfe’s law, which says that as more and more people adopt a new technology—cell phones, for instance, or Facebook—its value goes up geometrically. But this isn’t even about just monetary value. This is about what form cryptocurrency will take and how it will affect us as a nation, as a culture, as people.
Here’s the honest truth: No. One. Knows.
Could you have predicted Amazon’s rise twenty years ago, or even ten? Amazon made its first sale in July 1995, and ten years later, it had begun selling other items besides books, and its Prime service debuted. But it wasn’t yet the behemoth it is now.
Consider Spotify, Kickstarter, 4G wireless technology, drones, Instagram, Snapchat, Uber, Tesla, or YouTube (and a thousand other things). None of them existed twenty years ago. And in a way, they couldn’t have been imagined–until someone did the work and conceived the ideas, built the infrastructure and companies, raising money along the way to do it, and produced actual products and services, which we all now take for granted.
And now that’s happening in crypto. And in some ways, it’s happening under our noses. It’s going to take time. Most of these experiments will fail. Most coins will fall off into zero value, as people migrate to other coins and usage plummets. As regulations zero in on bad actors. As innovations disrupt existing models and the technology grows and becomes easier to use, so people will adapt.
The cryptocurrency market is in its growing pains stage, with lots of uncertainty and awkwardness as the tech shakes out poor players and weeds out all but the best. We have yet to see a purge of the system, such as the dot-com bust that slaughtered companies wholesale; my gut tells me we’re still a couple years away from that kind of shakeup. But when it happens, there will be a period of mourning and anguish and thinkpieces about what a curious and terrible experiment cryptocurrency was.
But from the ashes will emerge the victors, and new competitors, with new ways of solving problems and achieving higher aims and purposes than anyone now can conceive.
People will change their behavior because crypto is a game-changer, like the Internet and the smartphone. So what’s going to happen over the next twenty years? No one knows. But I do know this:
Crypto is here to stay.
The South Korean coin exchange Coinrail was hacked last weekend, causing a loss of about $42B in market value. That’s a lot of sad-face emojis.
It has been 173 days since bitcoin set a new price record–it’s longest stretch in about 2 years. 
And remember last week how Bitcoin searches had decreased by 75%? Well, it’s still bigger than Beyonce. 
And Bitcoin purchases are on the rise in Venezuela.
Bitcoin’s 2017 price rise was due to manipulation, researchers say.
William Shatner has a solar-powered Bitcoin mining farm in Illinois.
Ethereum has a smart contracts competitor, Codius, which was just launched by former Ripple CTO Stefan Thomas.
SEC Chairman Jay Clayton says Bitcoin is not a security, but ICOs almost certainly are.
Ten of the largest companies in the world are exploring blockchain applications.
Links of Note
Coinbase Announces Plans to List SEC-Regulated Crypto Securities
The Problem With Bitcoin Is You
Why a 19-year-old Bitcoin millionaire built a working Dr. Octopus suit
Crypto Debit-Cards Are the Next Step in Crypto-Adoption
My take on who Satoshi Nakamoto is
American Express To Consider Ripple XRP Payments
A Crypto-trader’s Diary — Week 11: Storage Coins
Andy Warhol Art To Be Sold For Bitcoin Via Ethereum Blockchain
In the Crypto Ecosystem, It’s Still 1968 — But We’re Moving Fast
Bitcoin Mining Energy Usage A ' Sensationalist Narrative' Says New Report
Wells Fargo Bans Bitcoin, Cryptocurrency Purchases on Credit Cards
Say Goodbye to ICOs, Crypto-Fundraising Has a New Form.
“Stablecoins” are trending, but they may ignore basic economics
How Blockchain Technology Can Save The IRS
That’s it for today. Thank you for reading!
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