Cryptocurrency prices may be in the gutter, but how is the industry holding up? According to some sources, the answer is “surprisingly well.”
A Little Background
Digital currencies experienced solid bull runs in 2017. Bitcoin, for example, surged to nearly $20,000 by December of that year, while currencies like ether would spike to nearly $1,400. Unfortunately, the good fortune wasn’t built to last. Beginning in January 2018, prices started falling faster than anyone could have anticipated, and they haven’t let up since.
In November 2018, bitcoin dropped to the mid $3,000 range and lost roughly 80 percent of its overall value.
Things Are Stronger Than They Seem
With news like that, it might be easy to assume that businesses and investors alike would steer clear of crypto and label it a massive failure, but truth tells a different story. Blockchain – the “energy” behind cryptocurrencies – stands as a popular new form of technology that continues to attract developers everywhere.
Last August, ConsenSys – a blockchain software company stationed in New York – produced a list of 40 new Ethereum-based applications available for use. At the time, Ethereum had fallen in price by well over $1,000 and was trading in the low $200 range, yet the currency’s blockchain remained one of the most attractive in existence for the creation of new apps and digital tokens.
Killer Applications Built on Blockchain Are Coming
Among the applications available was a web browser known as Brave. Developed by Brave Software in 2015, the browser implements a blockchain-based advertising system that gives users control over which ads target them. Users can choose the ads they view while performing searches and are subsequently rewarded with Basic Attention Tokens (BAT) – the official cryptocurrency of Brave – depending on their decisions.
The goal of Brave is to give internet users more control and ownership of their private data. Versions of the browser were released in late 2018 for the Android and iOS phones, as well as Mac and Windows-based computers.
A New Kind of Coin…
Ethereum is also paving the way for new stable coins that could potentially make volatility a thing of the past. A stable currency is one that’s pegged to a reputable asset or fiat money, such as gold or the U.S. dollar. Thus, its less susceptible to market threats like inflation. Many institutional players have been hesitant to get involved in cryptocurrencies thanks to their fluctuating prices, but stable coins are designed to alleviate some of the worries that come with crypto investing.
Among these currencies is USD Coin (USDC). As an ERC-20 token, USDC is compatible with Ethereum smart contracts. The currency is a joint venture between U.S.-based exchange Coinbase and peer-to-peer (P2P) payments company Circle and is programmed to be compatible with all United States money transmission laws.
Other stable coins built on the Ethereum blockchain include True USD (TUSD), Paxos (PAX) and Gemini Dollar (GUSD), the official currency of the Gemini Exchange in New York. All these coins are regulated, transparent and fully audited, allowing them to provide many of the same banking services and trade abilities as traditional finance institutions and bringing a higher level of legitimacy to Ethereum and the cryptocurrency space.
Video Games Revamped by Blockchain
Ethereum is also paving the way for new gaming experiences with applications like Gods Unchained and CryptoKitties. Built on the Ethereum blockchain, both platforms give collectors, gamers and crypto fans something to enjoy.
CryptoKitties, for example, is one of the first examples of blockchain technology being utilized for leisurely purposes by offering players the chance to buy and sell virtual cats they’ve bred themselves. Released in 2017, CryptoKitties experienced the height of its popularity in December of that year. Activity surrounding CryptoKitties clogged the Ethereum Network; transactions exploded to an all-time high, causing Ethereum’s speed to slow down significantly.
Gods Unchained is similar in that allows players to collect special items, only this time, the products are digital trading cards – not cats. Players purchase and sell cards accordingly with the goal of building the most powerful decks they can. These decks are then used to declare war on other collectors via video game settings, with winning players earning in-game rewards.
A professional tournament will be held later this year. The last person standing will be eligible for a $1.6 million prize accumulated partially from the company’s ongoing deck sales.
Seeing Money Differently
But it isn’t just decentralization and blockchain power that speaks to the true testament of cryptocurrency. Many are still intrigued by the prospects of digital money and the change it can bring to the globe’s financial infrastructure. Last December, bitcoin was at its lowest point in over 15 months and was trading for about $3,400. The currency had undergone a stagnant summer and fall season after dropping to the $6,000 range and remaining there for roughly five months. Though small declines and spikes would occur along the way, nothing lasted long, and bitcoin always managed to find its way back to the $6,000 comfort zone.
After bitcoin fell to just over $3,000, December brought news of a startup in Sydney, Australia. Known as BTC.com.au, the company had developed a new cryptocurrency debit card that stored both bitcoin and ether tokens. Customers could then use these cards at bitcoin ATM machines in their areas or at participating retailers. A linked bank account proved unnecessary with the card, and customers could enjoy its services without inducing fees.
Despite the sinking prices of both bitcoin and ether, CEO Danny Ariti says that the number of users has grown faster than anyone could have expected.
“We’ve seen an overwhelmingly positive response, and the uptake has been far beyond our expectations,” he stated in an interview with Micky.com. “The card program has given us some great insights into just how broad of a demographic this technology attracts. We’re seeing applications from hobbyists and professionals, some as young as 18 or as old as 80. The market never ceases to surprise us, and it’s great to see such a broad range of people making use of our platform.”
So, What’s Attracting People?
Ariti says his team is now working to expand the card’s capabilities by adding more digital assets to its repertoire. He commends that while crypto prices were best in 2017, they prevented people of limited financial means from entering the space and taking advantage of the industry’s benefits.
Now, however, he says that prices have been lowered to where more people can feel relaxed, which explains the growing number of new entrants to the market despite the ongoing bearish conditions.
“We’re receiving a large amount of inquiries, which is refreshing as we’re seeing interest and an increasing number of new adopters,” he explains. “The recent price drop has had a surprisingly positive effect in that it is allowing those who were priced out of the market during December 2017’s bull run to enter the market at a price point they feel comfortable with.”