What The Blockchain Industry And The Great American Gold Rush Have In Common
What’s happening today with cryptocurrency is reminiscent of the dot-com boom in the 90s. People investing in tech companies and wildly ambitious ideas of a more connected future were making millions of dollars almost overnight. Internet stocks climbed like crazy, and all of it was based on speculation. Much of the technology hadn’t yet been adopted at scale, but everyone was betting big that one day it would be.
Some of those companies are still around today. Many are not.
But pull back to an even broader perspective, and what’s happening with blockchain technology, you could say, is similar to the great American gold rush that happened in the mid 1800s. In 1848, when word first got out that gold had been discovered in California, entire industries began to boom in the hopes of capitalizing on the opportunity. The entrepreneurs of that era started stores that sold pans, picks, and shovels required to dig for gold. Larger companies invested heavily in railroads and transportation. And all of this was done prior to mass amounts of gold actually being found—it was all on speculation.
In a sense, that’s exactly what’s happening in the blockchain space today.
Innovators, investors, technologists, enthusiasts—all of us are wondering what those same “pans, picks, and shovels” are going to be in the blockchain space. What new industries and companies are going to spring up as a result of the rush toward early adoption? And on the flip-side, what is going to need to be both discovered and created in order for blockchain to succeed—and for all this upfront investment to pay off in the end?
At the moment, it seems there are an infinite number of possibilities in which one can interact with the blockchain, and over the past 3 to 4 years, people and companies alike have been developing their own interfaces and smart contracts. But in order for these efforts to really scale, there needs to be some sort of global standard, similar to the protocols that underpin the Internet.
You have to remember, the Internet didn’t “take off” until a universal language of sorts was established so that everyday users could build on top of it. Something we have done here at Chronicled is actually bring together an Alliance of companies, the Trusted IoT Alliance, to work on creating a system of standards for global protocols, for the one specific use case of registering identities in IoT devices and sensors to blockchains—and having a system of standards, or a common language, for everyone to use when building on top of the blockchain.
This is just one tiny sliver of what needs to happen within the industry in order for it to become truly successful, but it’s an example of a sub-industry that has sprung up as a result of the “gold rush” toward blockchain innovation.
A separate challenge, and potentially an even larger obstacle, is how to get a wallet into everyone’s hands.
First of all, the language of this industry is rooted in the finance world, and thus is confusing to everyday consumers. Not very many people know what “mining” means, or what a “token” really is. So, until we can come up with more widely understood terms, it’s going to be challenging to convince the masses how and why to use a cryptocurrency wallet.
Second, one of the largest barriers to entry for consumer blockchain is the inaccessibility of a wallet to the end consumer. The wallets that currently exist are confusing and difficult to access. They also only serve one purpose: to trade cryptocurrencies.
In order for wallets to be adopted on a large scale, a few things will need to happen:
1. Less emphasis must be placed on the technology itself.
This is “the great debate” in the world of tech, this balance between UI and UX. UX architects tend to put functionality over aesthetic design, and UI designers tend to put design over function. The truth is, every great product requires both.
Where crypto wallets are currently failing is that they are almost entirely built for function, instead of considering how to make the user experience fluid and elegant.
2. Every consumer will need to be able to access their wallet on their mobile devices.
This wallet can and will power all sorts of different experiences, transactions, and verifications. However, current wallets are solely reserved for cryptocurrencies and transactions. And even though these wallets have a purpose, they still aren’t very user friendly.
For example, if you find yourself out and about, without cash, and you want to use your crypto wallet, the process of accessing your wallet should not take fifteen minutes. That cumbersome experience defeats the purpose.
So, for wallets to become mainstream, they need to be as accessible as ApplePay.
These are just some of the shifts that will need to happen over the next few years in order for blockchain tech to begin acting as a sound infrastructure for tomorrow’s innovations. But I do believe these things will happen.
It’s only a matter of time.