You might be thinking: absolutely no chance. But believe it or not, there was a time when many people weren’t using the internet, and most of those didn’t want to – mostly because they thought it was useless. It was even published in newspapers: “Internet may be just a passing fad as millions give up on it”.
But you already know the internet became popular, that the 1995 – 2000 “dot com bubble” – where loads of tech companies grew in value on the stock market, before then coming down again (although we’re on about the bubble here and not the burst) – is a real part of history.
So why the scepticism over some radical technological change causing a similar boom once again? NFTs and the likes might look like pointless coloured ape drawings right now, but the same jokes would have been made about the web back then: “Haha it’s paper but I can’t walk to work with it and it takes ages to load and it costs a million pounds.” Or whatever.
Let’s break down what this crypto-bubble might look like, (attempt to) open up our minds to how it possibly could come about, and consider why there might even be a reason or two to not completely hate it all.
Blockchains are developed by a person, or group, and are generally recognised a little like a company. In a similar way to holding shares of Google, you can buy a portion of the bitcoins that exist. They might go up in value, they might go down. With blockchains that pose a little more functionality – such as being a place where you can build decentralised applications, smart contracts, NFTs and more (as is the case with Ethereum) – the native coin (Ether in this instance) is used for transaction fees, and as a currency in which to use the things built on its blockchain. It functions a little bit like a Google stock might. On top of that, pretty much anything crypto will be built using a blockchain.
This is the most obvious place to see a sense of how all this blockchain stuff is just an evolution as opposed to being a Black Mirror episode. Why’s that? Well, we’re currently using Web2, and most of us know our numbers, so three comes next. Web3’s development is that it adds an ownership element to how we use the internet. When you type something on socials, send an email or purchase something, data is used by people on the other end (the social platform, the place you bought things from etc) and then stored. With Web3, you essentially keep complete ownership of the things you put out into the world.
At the moment, just 1.4 per cent of the planet use crypto, Web3 specifically will have way fewer users. Meanwhile, 59.5 per cent of the global population is using the internet in some form, and most of that will be Web2. This leaves a lot of room for an increase in Web3 users. If that happens, the value of the cryptocoins and projects that make them happen will go up like crazy relative to where they are now. Thus: a boom.
This is the part where we have a chat about the potential of NFTs, and debunk the idea of them being a completely daft and pointless thing. Essentially, there’s a lot to NFTs: they offer artists a new way of earning money, a new way of interacting with the people who buy their artwork, and new definitions as to what art can be. Also, for better or worse, everyone is getting involved. This might mean large marketplaces keep cropping up and doing well. It might mean we see more and more NFT galleries popping up. Or just simply that the native coins of the blockchains that NFTs are produced on go up in value.
Art aside, the technology used within NFTs could completely revolutionise the ticketing industry (gig tickets and that) in a way that makes it basically impossible to tout them, as you can authentically trace tickets, and even set price caps into them – meaning anyone who tried to sell it for way more than they bought it for, wouldn’t be able to.
Metaverse and play-to-earn games
Here, the native currency of each popular metaverse world and/or game has the chance to increase as more and more people participate. If more people decide this is a spot where they can make a form of income – from all-day professional gaming to earning a few bob instead of slamming GTA for hours every weekend – then the market cap will go up, which generally means the value will, too.
So yeah, a lot of use-cases, a lot of potential things we might want to use one day. And, what’s more, they’re less alien to us than “the internet” was to everyone living it up in 1999. Despite some people making millions – and even billions – from crypto – with less than 2 per cent of the planet involved, it seems the boat has barely set sail.