When Bitcoin’s peak hit the news at the end of 2017, the big question (once people had finished asking “what’s Bitcoin?” and “how do I get some?”) was “what’s it for?” Buyers knew that they couldn’t pay for their morning coffee with Bitcoins. They knew that they couldn’t put a handful of Bitcoins in their pockets. Nor is it a currency they could use to pay their bills.
The hope is that one day Bitcoin acceptance will be broad enough, and the value will be stable enough, for the coin to function as a real currency. We’ll be able to use it to buy and sell goods online in the same way that we choose to pay by PayPal.
But in the meantime, Bitcoin’s main role has been to pave the way for other coins. The currency has shown that the blockchain works, while the addition of smart contracts has shown that cryptocurrencies can be put to work.
In 2020, we should all be looking for cryptocurrencies that support real, valuable projects. Here are three coins and projects that stand out.
Mark Zuckerberg’s cryptocurrency has been taking heat from regulators and seen a number of important backers pull out. That attention, though, has come because Libra is important. Backed by one of the world’s biggest companies, it has the potential to reach nearly a quarter of the world’s population. That would take currency control out of the hands of governments… and place it in the hands of corporations. Whether that’s a step to celebrate or fear, it’s a giant leap and it’s no surprise that government regulators are trying to limit Libra’s influence.
But while government has been putting up walls to keep Libra in, development work has quietly continued to help it break out. On Github, the coin has already produced more than 2,200 commits from 100 contributors.
Libra is expected to launch in 2020. It might be limited and relatively simple at first, but it’s a coin we should all be watching next year.
2. Basic Attention Coin
Libra will have a clear use: as a currency for online transactions. Basic Attention Coin (BAT) is another coin with a clear use. The currency is used to reward users of Brave when they agree to allow ads on the Web pages they view.
Brave is a new kind of Web browser, and it has the potential to be as revolutionary to the Internet as Libra could be to online transactions. The current Internet model is for publishers to give content to users for free in return for the owner of the browser having the right to sell personal data to other companies. The user gets free content. The publisher gets a share of the ads that appear on their pages. The advertiser finds its market. And the owner of the browser—usually Google—gets rich for very little effort.
Brave promises to turn that model on its head. It assumes that users want to keep their data private and offers a reward to tempt them to share some of their information on their own terms. The temptation comes in the form of a cryptocurrency, making BAT another coin that supports a real, valuable application.
3. Medici Ventures
The last project is actually a set of projects. Patrick Byrne might have been a controversial figure in 2019, selling his shares in Overstock, getting involved with the FBI, and running off to a beach on Bali, but his crypto-projects live on.
And the work that Medici Ventures is doing is important. The firms are using the blockchain to register land holdings, pay farmers, and secure voting. These are real needs being met by the blockchain and by secure tokens.
None of these projects may work in exactly the same way that Bitcoin was expected to work, but they all use cryptocurrencies to support real, valuable projects—and that’s what we all need to be watching closely in 2020.