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Imagine There’s No Bitcoin. If You Can, Then We Haven’t Done Our Jobs

Cryptocurrencies won’t conquer our wallets until they capture more of our imaginations. Imagine There’s No Bitcoin. If You Can, Then We Haven’t Done Our Jobs

Crypto is seemingly everywhere in 2022. The total market cap of all cryptocurrencies is still above $2 trillion despite some recent losses. In 2021, people spent more than $44 billion on non-fungible tokens, or virtual ownership rights on digital objects — an amount that approached the total size of global art and antique sales in 2020. The notion of “Web 3.0” has firmly attached itself to crypto in the past year or so.

And yet, 13 years after the first Bitcoin was mined, I can’t help thinking that not much would change for the vast majority of us if we woke up one morning and found that the entire crypto phenomenon had disappeared forever.

Imagine the web — still Web 1.0 at that point, when Facebook was still called The Facebook — disappearing in 2004, 13 years after Tim Berners-Lee released his World Wide Web browser to the wider public.

Even then, before YouTube (2005) and Netflix streaming (2007), no more internet would have been a major shock, a huge loss: No more Google? No Wikipedia? No Skype?

No more crypto in 2022, though? Meh, unless you’re one of the millennial millionaires with more than 50% of their assets in cryptocurrencies.

One could pick and choose adoption statistics to show that crypto is at about the same stage now as Web 1.0 was in 2004. There are some 71 million Ethereum addresses and some 40 million Bitcoin addresses with non-zero balances.

These numbers are on the same order as those reported by the internet auction company eBay Inc. in 2004: 56 million active users who had bought or sold something that year, and 20 million active accounts in its payment segment, served by PayPal, then part of eBay Inc.

Coinbase Global Inc., the biggest U.S. cryptocurrency exchange, has some 2.8 million monthly active users; in 2004, E*Trade Financial Corp., one of the first internet brokers, reported 3 million active brokerage accounts, and TD AmeriTrade Holding Corp., another firm in that space, boasted 2.6 million.

The market cap of the NASDAQ 100 Index, the mirror of the nascent internet industry, reached $2.5 trillion at the end of 2004 — again, the same order of magnitude as crypto’s today.

But even the most generous estimates of the number of crypto users — about 200 million today — are a far cry from the more than 1 billion internet users in December 2004. People were actually buying things on Web 1.0 — books, plane tickets, pizzas — and, after 13 years, not many of them are using Web 3.0 to buy things.

BitPay, one of the biggest cryptocurrency payment processors, handles about 66,000 transactions per month, compared with Visa’s 17 billion or so.

That, of course, is a consequence of the crypto world’s inability to drive down transaction costs — a median 1.4% for both Bitcoin and Ethereum. That’s more than the current average cost of an international money transfer to Azerbaijan or Georgia, according to the World Bank. Wise Plc, the transfer company, which doesn’t use crypto, moves money for as little as 0.35%, depending on the currency.

There’s not much of a benefit to switching to crypto from the traditional banking system, unless one is looking — probably in vain, should the authorities get interested — for more anonymity at the cost of more risk (the crypto world is infamous for its helplessness in the face of fraud).

Yet there’s more to Web 3.0’s lower adoption rate than Web 1.0 had after 13 years. The technological promise of crypto, despite what its boosters say, is far more limited than was that of the early Web.

For every real-life application of the blockchain, you could name several that Web 1.0 opened up, many of them in areas that affect pretty much everyone’s everyday life. As early as 2004, the internet was the main source of election news for 18% of Americans; it’s hard to find a comparable example involving crypto today.

That’s one reason the internet’s progress throughout the Web 2.0 era can’t be projected onto crypto. Far fewer areas of business and life in general require the blockchain than Web 1.0 and Web 2.0 applications — and even those areas will adopt it only if the blockchain can do a better job than existing Web 1.0 and Web 2.0 tech. That is far from a given at this point, at least while the energy expended on one Ethereum transaction is enough to power more than 100,000 Visa transactions.

The current crypto adoption rates, comparable in some cases to internet payment and trading tech adoption in 2004, are still driven by speculation that is taking place in a kind of walled garden. Despite the traditional finance world’s acute curiosity about the new, often lucrative crypto assets, it’s only been dabbling in them.

A $6.5 million BlackRock Inc. investment in Bitcoin futures has been touted as a breakthrough; that’s less than BlackRock had in shares of cybersecurity company McAfee Inc. in the third quarter of 2004. According to CoinGecko, the biggest Bitcoin holding by a public company, MicroStrategy Inc., was worth $5.1 billion, followed by Tesla’s $2 billion and Galaxy Digital Holdings $1.3 billion; the rest of the Bitcoin and Ethereum holdings were far smaller.

By contrast, internet companies in 2004, survivors of the dot-com bust such as Amazon.com Inc. or eBay, were legitimate if risky investments; Amazon’s bonds were rated a notch below investment grade in 2004. And if one recalls the dot.com boom itself, the frenzy in the regulated markets is hardly matched by the current cautious interest in crypto.

You could blame crypto’s walled-off status — and thus its lack of systemic risk for the global financial system — on regulators’ wariness and the crypto world’s buccaneering spirit and antigovernment rhetoric. But Web 1.0 pioneers embodied the same anarchic spirit; they, too, wanted to break things. Perhaps the early 21st century busts have taught investors something about buying too much of the new new thing.

The real breakthrough for crypto will only come if and when the world is unimaginable without it, as it was unimaginable without the internet back in 2004. Even 13 years after it all started, that sense of an irreversible technological revolution — one that would deserve the Web 3.0 label — still requires some technological leaps, even in areas where the blockchain has its obvious uses, such as payments or the creation of contracts.

But the turning point will not come in the form of overwhelming statistical evidence, or as a single event, such as a major traditional investor’s conversion to the crypto creed or a major nation’s adoption of a blockchain-based currency.

It’ll come as a feeling, a sense that Web 3.0 has changed the world so much that losing it would leave a scar. That sense is the biggest prize when it comes to technological revolutions.

Updated: 12-17-2021

Crypto Is the Biggest Thing To Change Culture Since Hip Hop

Imagine There’s No Bitcoin. If You Can, Then We Haven't Done Our Jobs

A ‘90s kid reflects on seeing how iconoclastic rappers changed the world. And how that energy is now in Web 3.

Hip hop music in the 1980s was like the past decade in crypto. On the rise. Understood by few. Regional to mainly New York.

Dismissed as a fad.

Then, around 1990, it went national with Public Enemy, NWA, 2 Live Crew, Native Tongues Crew, countless others. It was embraced by the youth.

Not just African Americans, but almost every minority in the U.S. and Canada, including my friends and I who were all first generation Indo-Canadians and Chinese-Canadians.

By 1992 hip hop style bled into sports and fashion. The Michigan “Fab Five” repped every kid in high school at that time. They shaved their heads like Onyx, wore their shorts extra baggy, talked brash and wore black socks. They were so influential that Nike rushed out a line of black socks. Nike had only sold white socks then.

Our clothing style changed because of rappers. Snoop Dogg even made wearing hockey jerseys cool. Starter caps were a must. And then, when Allen Iverson entered the National Basketball Association in 1996, the league was changed forever.

Some people hated the style. It launched an era of “respectability politics,” where pols and celebrities told kids to pull up their pants.

What was once considered a short-term trend – like a Tulip Bubble –became a legitimate global culture. I’ve travelled to almost every region of the world the past six years, and the one common culture is hip hop, even if you didn’t realize it.

The biggest fashion designer in the world, Virgil Abloh, who recently passed away, was purely hip hop. He was also every kid I knew growing up.

Having paid witness to growth and longevity of hip hop culture, I now see something similar with crypto. NFTs have made the crossover, and they’re never going away. It’s now not just money but an integral part of their products and youth identity. Non-fungible tokens rep kids today like Georgetown Starter Caps and Satin Jackets repped me and mine.

Crypto has changed how communities form around products. Discord, or something like it, will be the main platform for any project or brand that wants to connect with the youth. Crypto is real-time, it’s money, it’s a video game, it’s flexing, it’s anti-establishment. Sense a trend?

Boomers are trying to jump in and take ownership of this trend. They’re abusing the word “Web 3.” It reminds me of when a 1990s family sitcom with sagging ratings would introduce a Black kid dressed like a rapper to try to save their dated show. There is a saying in rap, “There ain’t no such thing as halfway crooks.” We can see what they are doing from a mile away.

I had an interview a few weeks back and they asked me, “What are we going to say when a boomer googles ‘NFT’ and sees a bunch of crazy apes, frogs and wild stuff?”

I said, “Who gives a damn.” What did the boomers of the 1990s say when they heard about rap on TV? When they saw Tupac giving the finger, Ice T yelling “cop killer” and NWA saying “F**k The Police.” Boomers couldn’t stop it then, and they won’t stop a cultural movement now.

Crypto‘s ascendence into culture isn’t even for us, it’s for my teenage kid and her peers around the world. The difference is only a select group made the big money in hip hop. With crypto, we all can.

 

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US Lawmaker Reintroduces ‘Safe Harbor’ Crypto Tax Bill In Congress (#GotBitcoin?)

EU Central Bank Won’t Add Bitcoin To Reserves — Says It’s Not A Currency (#GotBitcoin?)

The Miami Dolphins Now Accept Bitcoin And Litecoin Crypt-Currency Payments (#GotBitcoin?)

Trump Bashes Bitcoin And Alt-Right Is Mad As Hell (#GotBitcoin?)

Goldman Sachs Ramps Up Development Of New Secret Crypto Project (#GotBitcoin?)

Blockchain And AI Bond, Explained (#GotBitcoin?)

Grayscale Bitcoin Trust Outperformed Indexes In First Half Of 2019 (#GotBitcoin?)

XRP Is The Worst Performing Major Crypto Of 2019 (GotBitcoin?)

Bitcoin Back Near $12K As BTC Shorters Lose $44 Million In One Morning (#GotBitcoin?)

As Deutsche Bank Axes 18K Jobs, Bitcoin Offers A ‘Plan ฿”: VanEck Exec (#GotBitcoin?)

Argentina Drives Global LocalBitcoins Volume To Highest Since November (#GotBitcoin?)

‘I Would Buy’ Bitcoin If Growth Continues — Investment Legend Mobius (#GotBitcoin?)

Lawmakers Push For New Bitcoin Rules (#GotBitcoin?)

Facebook’s Libra Is Bad For African Americans (#GotBitcoin?)

Crypto Firm Charity Announces Alliance To Support Feminine Health (#GotBitcoin?)

Canadian Startup Wants To Upgrade Millions Of ATMs To Sell Bitcoin (#GotBitcoin?)

Trump Says US ‘Should Match’ China’s Money Printing Game (#GotBitcoin?)

Casa Launches Lightning Node Mobile App For Bitcoin Newbies (#GotBitcoin?)

Bitcoin Rally Fuels Market In Crypto Derivatives (#GotBitcoin?)

World’s First Zero-Fiat ‘Bitcoin Bond’ Now Available On Bloomberg Terminal (#GotBitcoin?)

Buying Bitcoin Has Been Profitable 98.2% Of The Days Since Creation (#GotBitcoin?)

Another Crypto Exchange Receives License For Crypto Futures

From ‘Ponzi’ To ‘We’re Working On It’ — BIS Chief Reverses Stance On Crypto (#GotBitcoin?)

These Are The Cities Googling ‘Bitcoin’ As Interest Hits 17-Month High (#GotBitcoin?)

Venezuelan Explains How Bitcoin Saves His Family (#GotBitcoin?)

Quantum Computing Vs. Blockchain: Impact On Cryptography

This Fund Is Riding Bitcoin To Top (#GotBitcoin?)

Bitcoin’s Surge Leaves Smaller Digital Currencies In The Dust (#GotBitcoin?)

Bitcoin Exchange Hits $1 Trillion In Trading Volume (#GotBitcoin?)

Bitcoin Breaks $200 Billion Market Cap For The First Time In 17 Months (#GotBitcoin?)

You Can Now Make State Tax Payments In Bitcoin (#GotBitcoin?)

Religious Organizations Make Ideal Places To Mine Bitcoin (#GotBitcoin?)

Goldman Sacs And JP Morgan Chase Finally Concede To Crypto-Currencies (#GotBitcoin?)

Bitcoin Heading For Fifth Month Of Gains Despite Price Correction (#GotBitcoin?)

Breez Reveals Lightning-Powered Bitcoin Payments App For IPhone (#GotBitcoin?)

Big Four Auditing Firm PwC Releases Cryptocurrency Auditing Software (#GotBitcoin?)

Amazon-Owned Twitch Quietly Brings Back Bitcoin Payments (#GotBitcoin?)

JPMorgan Will Pilot ‘JPM Coin’ Stablecoin By End Of 2019: Report (#GotBitcoin?)

Is There A Big Short In Bitcoin? (#GotBitcoin?)

Coinbase Hit With Outage As Bitcoin Price Drops $1.8K In 15 Minutes

Samourai Wallet Releases Privacy-Enhancing CoinJoin Feature (#GotBitcoin?)

There Are Now More Than 5,000 Bitcoin ATMs Around The World (#GotBitcoin?)

You Can Now Get Bitcoin Rewards When Booking At Hotels.Com (#GotBitcoin?)

North America’s Largest Solar Bitcoin Mining Farm Coming To California (#GotBitcoin?)

Bitcoin On Track For Best Second Quarter Price Gain On Record (#GotBitcoin?)

Bitcoin Hash Rate Climbs To New Record High Boosting Network Security (#GotBitcoin?)

Bitcoin Exceeds 1Million Active Addresses While Coinbase Custodies $1.3B In Assets

Why Bitcoin’s Price Suddenly Surged Back $5K (#GotBitcoin?)

Zebpay Becomes First Exchange To Add Lightning Payments For All Users (#GotBitcoin?)

Coinbase’s New Customer Incentive: Interest Payments, With A Crypto Twist (#GotBitcoin?)

The Best Bitcoin Debit (Cashback) Cards Of 2019 (#GotBitcoin?)

Real Estate Brokerages Now Accepting Bitcoin (#GotBitcoin?)

Ernst & Young Introduces Tax Tool For Reporting Cryptocurrencies (#GotBitcoin?)

Recession Is Looming, or Not. Here’s How To Know (#GotBitcoin?)

How Will Bitcoin Behave During A Recession? (#GotBitcoin?)

Many U.S. Financial Officers Think a Recession Will Hit Next Year (#GotBitcoin?)

Definite Signs of An Imminent Recession (#GotBitcoin?)

What A Recession Could Mean for Women’s Unemployment (#GotBitcoin?)

Investors Run Out of Options As Bitcoin, Stocks, Bonds, Oil Cave To Recession Fears (#GotBitcoin?)

Goldman Is Looking To Reduce “Marcus” Lending Goal On Credit (Recession) Caution (#GotBitcoin?)

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