2017 has been an important day for both Bitcoin and cryptocurrencies in general. While hopefully not as tumultuous, 2018 is looking like it will bring us a lot of interesting innovation in the space. Here are some of the things I'm personally looking forward to seeing unfold in the new year.
After the SEC's investigative report on The DAO, we have seen a number of companies (mine included) start looking into ICO Securities. This might be a start of a new wave of ICOs that will be bigger than the entirety of the current market.
If a lot of sentiments I've heard so far are to be believed, we might see such ICOs replace traditional VC funding, bring in more traditional investment industry into the market, and get a number of people from various governments to watch closely where this trend will unfold. If properly harnessed, Security ICOs could also drive real-world innovation while providing more sustainable, long-term growth than the current trend of "sell vaporware with hype and turn 100x profit in a few months".
I'm certainly the most excited to see where this trend will go and whether my guesses will turn out to be correct or not...
Lightning Network adoption
In 2017 we got SegWit activated on Bitcoin and a few other currencies. So far it has alleviated a bit of the transaction traffic, but it's nowhere near useful enough to solve the Bitcoin scaling problem on its own. Hence why I'm excited to see if the Lightning Network will be able to deliver on its promises and go mainstream allowing Bitcoin to once more be used for everyday purchases. Betting on SegWit without blocksize increase has certainly been a large gamble that has allowed a number of alts to grow into their own prominence. Hopefully, we'll see this year if this bet pays off, or Bitcoin might lose its luster...
Ethereum POS change
The anticipation of Ethereum changing from POW to mostly POS has been heard many times through 2017. We've seen the technology delayed to (hopefully) later this year. If successful, it would make Ethereum the most prominent POS coin out there, possibly driving some people to invest in it for the staking returns. While I'm not sharing the paranoia surrounding Bitcoin's POW (claiming that its energy consumption will continue to grow at a massive rate eating a significant chunk of world's energy production in a few years), it's still a worthwhile experiment to see undertaken.
Interledger, Codius, etc.
Ripple is another company/crypto to look out for in 2018. While I might have my reservations about XRP the currency, I have respect for Ripple the network and its creators.
Other than the growth of the Ripple network itself, there are two interesting projects from Ripple Labs that might become more prominent in 2018. The first one is the Interledger Protocol, a protocol aiming to help facilitate payments across different ledgers/blockchains etc. The second one I was surprised to see in the light of day again was Codius (which has been shelved since 2015) - a universal hosting standard for smart oracles.
Ripple Labs is definitely a company that will be doing interesting projects for years to come. It will be interesting to see what they will cook up for us in 2018...
Tether and other fiat IOUs
Tether has been an interesting fiat IOU these past few years. The space itself has been a bit paradoxical honestly - there have been a lot of fiat IOUs on Ripple, but only one prominent IOU on the Omni network and so far not all that much on the Ethereum network. Tether as a currency has been rather unremarkable until it started having some banking problems and despite that its market cap has increased to almost 1.5B USD at the time of writing. This has sparked at least one very prominent Twitter user to start calling it out on every given opportunity.
There are two ways I could see this play out in 2018. On one hand, we might see fiat IOUs to appear more prominently on the Ethereum blockchain (Tether has apparently already made that leap), possibly to complement the above mentioned ICO Securities. On the other hand, if some more paranoid people are to be believed, Tether might turn into another MtGox and implode with such a force as to crash the crypto prices by a lot.
One way or another 2018 is looking like a year where fiat IOUs might become more important in the crypto space.
For years a lot of Bitcoiners have been stating that some governments should adopt Bitcoin as a national currency. A few years back we saw Canada looking into doing the opposite - adopting its fiat currency into a crypto form with MintChip. Unfortunately, that project went nowhere, but it's looking like this year we might have the next serious contender - Venezuela aiming to launch its Petro.
Petro is designed to be "backed by oil, gas, gold and diamond reserves", making it a bit more of a commodity IOU than a fiat IOU. It might be an interesting experiment, especially if this creates an alternative to the hyper-inflating bolivar accessible to the people of Venezuela. It will remain to be seen whether the government will be able to keep the value of the new currency stable and keep it backed by the natural resources, or will we one day see the currency stop being backed by anything.
If successful, this might be the first time a government-created currency will have to complete on somewhat equal footing to private currencies and digital cats.
2018 is looking like another exciting year in crypto space. We will see how the echos of the prior year will play out, as well as get to experience entirely new developments shape the space. There is never a dull moment in this industry...