The 2019 BlockShow kicked off with a bang with some of the biggest names in the crypto industry coming together in Singapore to assess the current state of affairs and talk about their plans for the future. Freewallet was on hand for the event to take in the scenes and report back from the frontlines.
Neo and data silos
The BlockShow got started with a presentation by Neo founder Da Hongfei on the state of the decentralized web in 2019. Billing itself as “an open-source, community driven platform… leveraging the intrinsic advantages of blockchain technology to realize the optimized digital world of the future,” Neo is often referred to as the “Ethereum of China.” The platform, which provides developers with a vehicle for decentralized app development and deployment, has a market cap correlated to its eponymous token of over $600 million.
In his talk, Hongfei focused on data silos and how they are obstructing growth, not just in the blockchain sector, but across many modern industries. A data silo occurs when a large store of information is only accessible to one company or one group of people. Hongfei used modern social media platforms to illustrate his point. Giants like Facebook, Twitter and Wechat have divided the world in terms of data with little inroads towards cross platform storage. The onus is placed on the individual to move from one digital center of data to the next.
The idea behind Neo is essentially decentralized data. What this means is data that is not tied down by one specific entity, but rather accessible to everyone. Hongfei talked about how in China right now all financial operations are essentially digital. Shanghai operates in a cashless fashion; nearly all payments are done via application or cards. Hongfei is convinced that this is the way things are going to be for nearly all aspects of life in the future. All stores of value are going to be digitized, which will increase the importance of cryptocurrency assets, but also will give rise to problems concerning data protection and access.
With Neo, and specifically NeoFS, Hongfei has laid out what he believes to be a viable solution to the inevitable data problems awaiting us. NeoFS is designed to be a decentralized data storage mechanism that ensures the security and anonymity of the data being hosted. The nature of business of course precludes a certain amount of data from being accessible to the public at large, but aside from that relatively small section of data, the NeoFS model would add an unprecedented level of flexibility to data storage. Da Honfei’s entire keynote address is available to those interested on YouTube.
Hongfei was followed by the most high profile speaker at the conference in Changpeng Zhao, CEO of Binance. CZ, as he is known on the internet, made what I found to be a pretty compelling case for open-mindedness when it comes to centralized crypto. His remarks were specifically tied to Libra, as he was asked about his position on Facebook’s controversial crypto project.
The cryptocurrency community is comprised of a lot of people who champion privacy and decentralization, a fact attested to by the talk given by Da Hongfei we covered above. However, what can be lost upon the crypto purists and the figures that have been in this space the longest is that not compromising isn’t the most effective growth strategy.
Mass adoption is a goal that much of the hopes for crypto-sustainability are anchored to. But where cryptocurrency is now, in its current state, is not the place where mass adoption is going to happen, barring sudden and unexpected circumstances.
CZ argued that more crypto is better than no crypto at all. To set the table for his argument he shared what happened when he gave a speech on a similar subject matter at a prior conference. First he asked the room of crypto enthusiasts to raise their hands if they used Facebook, Whatsapp or Instagram. Nearly everyone in the room put their hand up. Then CZ asked for everyone in the room who planned to use Libra to raise their hand. Not one person put their hand up.
Where does the hostility towards Libra come from? Well much of it is probably justified considering all the privacy abuses and lying in which Facebook has engaged in the past. But different people like and require different things. Bitcoin is beautiful, we all agree on that, but to the layman, Bitcoin isn’t the easiest thing to wrap your head around.
The fact that most everyone, even the most tech-savvy of us, uses some form of Facebook speaks to its potential value for the cryptocurrency industry according to Zhao. The key thing we have to remember is that we aren’t obliged to do anything we don’t want to. No one is going to force people to use Libra if they don’t want to. To the people already in the crypto space, Libra shouldn’t be considered a threat. If anything Libra stands to benefit the already existing structures in place in this industry.
Facebook is poised to deradicalize the idea of cryptocurrency for the people whom, as we too often forget, cryptocurrency is still some radical concept. Once this happens, once the digital passport has been stamped for potentially billions of Facebook users, the more established and worthwhile projects in this space stand to benefit most of all from the influx of new people. As Zhao said, the more options we all have, the better off we all will be. For more of what CZ had to say at the BlockShow, be sure to check out his full fireside chart with Bloomberg’s Joanna Ossinger.
Fundstrat and the analytics of blockchain
Another highlight from the BlockShow was Fundstrat’s Thomas Lee sharing his analytical expertise on market reading. Fundstrat is a Wall Street, and more recently crypto, analytics firm that focuses on identifying and exploiting market anomalies. The topic of his talk was crypto predictions in 2020.
I found Lee’s talk to be refreshing due to its measured and realistic optimism. The crypto space is, to use the parlance of our times, filled with hype beasts. We need more reasoned and subtle analysis if we want this industry to evolve into a more expansive vehicle of economic growth.
The first notable piece of insight Lee provided us with was that we can’t really believe all the astronomical figures that are being thrown out related to cryptocurrency usage. If something doesn’t seem right or logical it most likely is not. Lee used figures that had recently been published concerning the number of Australian people using Bitcoin to prove his point.
Lee went on to argue that the size of the market, according to his firm is much smaller than most analysts measure. While the median estimate of the amount of people who own Bitcoin is somewhere around 30 million, Lee said, “I think it’s possible that at one point maybe 30 million people owned Bitcoin, but I think today the market is vastly, vastly smaller. Maybe we are extreme, but we think it’s about 500,000 people.”
Despite the statistical discongruity, Lee is bullish on Bitcoin and crypto as a whole. While he thinks that positive market developments, on the scale of what many in the crypto industry are waiting for, are coming, it is going to take some time before they arrive. Additionally, in contrast with many in the space, is very pleased with the way regulators in the US are cautiously dealing with crypto. He believes that Bitcoin still has a ways to go before an ETF can be launched, but that it will eventually get there.
Jon Jordan of DappRadar on the future of blockchain gaming and why simplification is a necessity with crypto
Freewallet was lucky enough during our time at the BlockShow to spend some time with Jon Jordan, Director of Communications at DappRadar, who was part of the show’s panel on gaming and Dapps. A 20-year veteran of the games industry, Jordan was appointed as communications director of the data company DappRadar in 2019. We were able to chat with the self-described “devilish advocate for the use of blockchains in gaming,” to get his opinion on how things stand in the industry and how he sees things playing out in the future. Here’s Freewallet’s exclusive interview with Jon Jordan:
Could you tell us a bit about how you became active in this space? How did it all start for you?
So, I’ve been in the gaming industry for about 20 years. I spent a while working with console gaming and then the past ten years or so with mobile. I was involved with Steel Media, the company that set up the Pocket Gamer websites and conferences. And then about 2 years ago I was looking for something new, and I was at one of our conferences and they had a blockchain afternoon, and when the speakers started talking about what blockchain could do I, as I think a lot people do with blockchain, got really excited about it very quickly. So that was how I got interested and then I launched a site called blockchaingaming.biz which covered the b2b aspects of blockchain and games. And since then I’ve just gotten more into it, and now I’m working with DappRadar doing communications and strategy.
So, for those unfamiliar with it, what is DappRadar?
Well, there are quite a lot of similar sites, in the sense that anyone can look at a public blockchain and kind of see what’s going on, but DappRadar is a different. Primarily, it is different because it was founded by people that understand how to work with data and that if data is to be of value, it must be extremely accurate, so we pride ourselves on having the most accurate data out there. And what we do is, there are I believe now about 2,700 Dapps that we track across 10 different blockchains, and we are quite active in looking at fake data on blockchains, which is mostly produced by bots.
So in CZ’s fireside chat here he said, in effect, that there is pretty much common sentiment in the industry that gaming is the logical next step forward for the industry, that it has a wealth of untapped potential. Is this something you agree with?
Well it’s interesting, for me, where we are now, it’s been about two years of investigating this pretty heavily. I still believe it’s gonna happen. I still believe in the initial experience I had in seeing how blockchain and games work and could work. In a very broad sense it just comes down to capture of value. $140 billion dollars a year is spent by people buying games and spending within games, and at the moment that just goes to the developer, who goes, “Great thanks!” But even if just a portion of that 140 went into an asset that a player owns, and which then could be traded, I think that a lot of people would be interested in that, and I actually don’t see how that won’t end up happening, I don’t see how gaming and blockchain don’t become intertwined in that way eventually.
But the problem is that gamers don’t really understand blockchain at all right now and they don’t understand that they don’t own anything that they play, or that there is a possibility of ownership in gaming. Part of the reason that gaming hasn’t crossed over in a really significant way yet is that traditional gaming is accessible, while with blockchain you have all these barriers to access. I mean, the whole private keys thing — I think for people in this space, yeah private keys are great and people appreciate why we have them, but it just isn’t going to work for regular people, it’s too complicated. Access to blockchain technology is way too complicated right now for gaming to take off.
I think once that is simplified, and once, because right now we have a lack in terms of game quality, once the quality of blockchain games improves, then this will start to happen. Just, right now there is no reason for the average gamer to switch from the better, traditional gaming experience to that of blockchain gaming, especially considering how complicated it is with access and keys.
That’s about it for our blockchain experience. As always it was inspiring to see how blockchain and cryptocurrency have woven together talented and daring people from all over the world. At Freewallet we are determined to tap into the energy and potential present here and share it with the world at large. We hope to take part in many more such conferences, and, if you ever see us at an event, be sure to stop and chat!
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