Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past couple of weeks, you’re probably aware that cryptocurrencies have taken a big plunge. That was mostly due to a mix of jitters from a recent hard fork in the Bitcoin Cash ecosystem (which was put in effect on November 15th), as well as volatile movement that can probably be attributed to the nature of cryptocurrency. The speculative and volatile nature does have its upsides and downsides.
I would like to echo what many other keen observers have said about this ecosystem, however. It’s not the coins that matter – there are thousands of shitcoins out there, after all. Rather, what’s important is the underlying technology that powers these ecosystems: Blockchains.
Bitcoin launched with the sole purpose of proving that decentralised currencies could work, through a combination of decentralised ledgers, independent nodes, and potential real-world use cases. While Bitcoin launched a revolution, it could not do much except act as a store of value. Other platforms like Ethereum expanded on the capabilities of blockchain tech through smart contracts and decentralised apps or dApps.
Here’s where blockchain can potentially change the world as we know it, for the better.
What are dApps anyway?
The textbook definition of dApps is that these are applications that are open-source, run on a public blockchain on a decentralised environment. As a result, these are free from control or interference from any single authority.
What makes dApps exciting is that they can be run across a distributed network like a blockchain or peer-to-peer platform, running on trustless protocols. Being distributed, there is no single point of failure. dApps typically reward both platform nodes and users with tokens for usage or for other transactions on the system.
To date, the dApp ecosystem ranges from trivial to potentially game-changing. There are now dApp equivalent of popular applications like social networks, chat applications, games, and the like.
For instance, there is CryptoKitties – a game wherein users take care of their digital cats, wherein they can also buy, sell, or breed such digital cats. Not much of a killer app, right? But there’s also Golem – a platform for sharing computing power, which enables users to rent or lend computing cycles at will. There is potential there for a market currently served by expensive supercomputers or cloud service providers.
What good can come out of dApp accelerators?
Just like how the startup ecosystem gave birth to a handful of services that we now take for granted – such as Facebok, Google, Airbnb, Uber, and regional stalwarts like Grab, Go-Jek – these very same industries are now being disrupted with their decentralised counterparts.
dApps have started to become profitable through several business models, including tokensales, premium applications, fee-based structures, subscriptions, and ads. This underscores the potential for developers and startup founders to build their products straight on the blockchain.
However, we all know how hard it can be to build, launch, and scale a product all on one’s own and without institutional support. Here’s where dApp accelerators can come in.
In the recent days, we’ve seen the launch of a dApp accelerator from TRON, initially a US$1 million programme that will support dApp development on the TRON protocol. It’s a notable development, since TRON has reportedly surpassed Ethereum in terms of dApp volume, according to a tweet by founder and CEO Justin Sun – which is only fitting since TRON is essentially a platform for decentralised internet applications.
The accelerator will accept submissions through the end of 2018, and will announce winners at the platform’s first international summit, niTRON, in January next year.
Blockchain summits gaining celebrity attention
Interestingly enough, Blockchain events have been garnering big enough attention to attract celebrities. Last October, former US President Bill Clinton was the keynote speaker at the Swell event by Ripple. At TRON’s conference in January – likewise in San Francisco – basketball star Kobe Bryant will also be a speaker.
Of course, while celebrity appearances at crypto and blockchain events can be a sign of mainstream appeal, celebs have also been careful in making sure their appearances do not constitute endorsement or investment – as it has led to some backlash in the past, particularly when projects proved to be non-viable (or with some having proved to be a scam).
What it all means
I introduced this essay with a warning about crypto – these past couple of weeks had been really hard on startups that have had to deal with the volatility of cryptocurrencies and assets. After all, I’ve known a few people who have lost a huge chunk of value in their portfolios, left to wonder when the market will be bullish again (I’m not one to blame, but I’ve largely been using crypto mostly for transactions rather than for investment/speculation).
I end it, however, with hope and optimism. I’ve been observing the worldwide and regional startup scene for some time now, and the presence of institutions that help devs and entrepreneurs get their products out – such as accelerators – is a good sign. The market is starting to mature, and we’re building up infrastructure and organisations that support what has been a fledgling industry so far.
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