As I see it, the blockchain industry is still sorting itself out, and trying to find its real footing. It is meandering its way forward. There are few truths that can hold. The rest is speculation, promotion, fake claims, and wishful thinking. It may sort itself out in 2019, and I’d be happy to be proven wrong, but I predict another year of confusion before a more solid trajectory in 2020 and forward.

I read a lot of everyday about the blockchain, perhaps 300-400 stories, daily, via OnCoins. I’m not going to enumerate them item by item, but I feel that while while half of what is published is true and positive, the other half just doesn’t make sense, is more promotion than realization, plain rhetoric or just insignificant. The old proverbial trick is to know which is the good versus the bad half, as it’s not that obvious. At the end, you have to tune out a lot of what’s out there.

One reference point is the Web and its evolution between 1993 and 2000, its critical formation years. During that period, many bad ideas, poor projects and weak teams were coming to the scene, just as they are with the blockchain, today. For the Web, its crash brought real lessons about what works and doesn’t work. Subsequently, the quality of projects coming out post-recovery, after 2002 were less insane and more realistic.

For the blockchain to take a positive step forward in 2019, we need to see more results from its promises, some of which include:

  • Faster and more scalable blockchains. It is more challenging to achieve transaction speeds for the larger blockchains like Bitcoin and Ethereum, because their decentralization footprint is way more established than most others that are trying to emulate them. Sure you can lower the bar on your decentralization architecture or governance in order to achieve transactional speeds equivalent to databases, but it’s a bit like cheating on the dogmatic principles of blockchains.
  • More end-users in Dapps or blockchain apps. Apps that can offer an intuitive user experience, coupled with a compelling use case will show the way, but we are still waiting for many of them. Recently, I tried to tally the blockchain apps with more than 1 million users, but the list was short.
  • More developers from mainstream. We still need easier middleware that can bring the 10 Million+ Java/Web developers into the blockchain fold. Maybe some standards will emerge that might facilitate that, but as of today, getting into blockchain technology still requires hoop jumping and compromises that average developers are not happy to partaking in.

Generally, I’m still worried that we are trying to take the blockchain into areas where it doesn’t belong and where the value proposition is weak.

The Web took a few years to sort itself out, as it settled into 5 major use cases that weren’t so obvious early on. They were:

1/ Communications

2/ Publishing

3/ Online Communities

4/ E-Commerce (includes e-services)

5/ Social Interactions

In retrospect, that’s only 5 cases. But they were clear, concise, and moved everything forward around them.

We need the blockchain to eventually settle into few application areas that are compelling and exciting. I can’t say that we have the same clarity as the web, today. But so far, here are some broad flavors of activity:

  1. Blockchain technology (as base layers) That one won’t count later, as it will be granted.
  2. Financial transactions (as payments or transfers)
  3. Reclaiming the Web (everything under the decentralized rubric)
  4. Exotic token utility (like staking, voting, prediction markets, etc.) This area is definitely still sorting itself out.
  5. Native assets (think CryptoKitties, CryptoMonsters, and everything possible with them like gaming)
  6. Replicated assets (also called security tokens, that’s everything to do with digitizing and anchoring known assets into a blockchain to facilitate their movement)  

The blockchain doesn’t need a dozen categories of applications, but fewer more compelling ones that can in turn drive millions of use cases.

Just like the thin edge of wedge analogy, a narrowing of the range of applications is more desirable.

The blockchain is not a hammer for every nail.