What a great year it has been for blockchain. And what an amazing year we have ahead of us. Never before have there been so many startups. Never before has so much money from investors gone into technology. And never before have so many organizations worked on implementations. If we leave all the Dogecoin Drama and the hype surrounding the Bitcoin Boom there and focus on the technology itself, I see a lot of cool developments that are currently playing and will play in the coming year. I share my top 5 in this article.

Blockchain, not Bitcoin or blockchain beyond Bitcoin. Many professionals and enthusiasts around the technology try to make the clear distinction with the best-known cryptocurrencies. Away from the current speculative hype around prices. Focus on the development and implementation of the technology itself. Understandable, although I can see that the current madness in the cryptocurrency market is also positive for blockchain. The news is once again full of it and there has never been as much money invested in the technology by investors as in the past year.

Today, 81% of large companies use the technology. And I also see more and more smaller SME companies experimenting with it or even implementing it. Now I often leave enthusiasts disillusioned by saying honestly that they don’t need the technology in the organization at all. You often see that the wrong thinking sequence is used. We want to do something with blockchain and then we look for an internal problem. Instead of: we have an existing challenge and blockchain is a good solution for that. Nevertheless, I see that there are currently a lot of challenges being tackled with technology.

Startup showtime
It’s not just implementations. At the moment it seems like showtime almost every week, with one after another unveiling a new product or service from a startup in the Netherlands. If we look at the Gartner Hypecycle of blockchain, we see that various elements of the technology have already gone through the tough ‘trough of disillusionment’ and are now walking the ‘slope of enlightenment’. As I wrote before, compare it to the development of the Internet and you’ll see that we’re only just getting started. We are at the beginning of a great technological revolution.

In the next decade we will have more progress than in the last 100 years. — Peter Diamandis, founder of Singularity University

First look back
Also last year I was allowed to look at this year in the glass blockchain sphere of Frankwatching. Back then I already saw many companies that were rapidly making these chains transparent. This very recently published report shows that the number of countable implementations has doubled in the past year compared to the year before.

Another trend that has undergone a lot of development beyond expectations is the “government crypto”, the Central Bank Digital Currencies. I will share an outlook for the coming year about this later in this article. I also foresaw many developments in the field of the ‘fintechization’ of our society, which has entered a fast waters worldwide with the unprecedented development of the Decentralized Finance (DeFi, which I wrote about earlier).

1. DeFi continues to amaze
As I wrote in my cryptocurrency trend article for the coming year, ING published that they find DeFI insanely interesting, we see a lot of established financial institutions worldwide already working with it and I see the ‘total value locked’ in the ecosystem in the coming doubling from $200 billion to $400 billion year on year.

A recent report from investment bank JP Morgan shows that it’s not just about experimenting anymore. $9 billion in profits alone are made each year by individuals and organizations that are “striking”: locking/saving crypto that earns you interest.

Building bridges
I foresee a number of developments in the coming year. Now that big finance, the big banks, are working hard with DeFi, you see many startups building bridges with their products. Bridges between traditional finance and new crypto world. Synthetix is ​​the best-known example of this, Nexis does this nicely with insurance and many other startups will also launch their product on the market next year.

The virtual gas price is going through the roof
The high fees that many people in developing countries pay for sending money are often the marketing argument of enthusiasts to promote cryptocurrencies. Where easily 10–20% is charged by parties such as Western Union, crypto transactions are often a fraction of this. For example, someone recently paid $0.80 for a $2 billion transaction in Bitcoin.

But with the Ethereum blockchain, on which the majority of blockchain applications run, such as ‘smart contracts’, ‘NFTs’ and DeFi products, this is unfortunately no longer the case. The costs for transactions, the so-called GAS, have increased by more than 300% in 1 year. Developers are therefore looking to other blockchain networks for the development of their applications, where Polkadot is currently doing well, which was set up by the co-founder of — yes — Ethereum.

It is a much discussed topic and with all the new technological developments from existing companies and new startups, I expect that the high costs will largely disappear in the coming year.

Decentralized trading platforms
What will certainly not disappear are the decentralized exchanges, such as Uniswap, Pancakeswap and Sushiswap. Names that put a smile on your face at first sight. But when you see how much money these decentralized exchanges (DEXs, cryptocurrency trading platforms) are currently processing per day, the smile turns to amazement.

Nowadays, more is traded on these types of decentralized trading platforms than with central parties such as Coinbase and Binance. Although it is still fairly complex for many users to use and the US government has indicated that it wants to strictly regulate these platforms, I see an insane growth in trading volume in the coming year. All kinds of new DeFi applications are being developed on these trading platforms, which will only increase the growth of the ecosystem.

Blockchain based games
A final development, which is currently emerging in DeFi and could become very big in the coming year, are blockchain-based games. There are 2 billion gamers worldwide who currently spend $150 billion on this. And $250 billion in two years. The in-game purchases are a big part of this multi-billion dollar market and 62% of gamers and 82% of developers have indicated that they would like to see this on the blockchain.

There is still a lot of work to do in the security shop because of the many major hacks. Recently, $600 million was stolen during the Poly hack and $115 million during the Cream hack. Research shows that 2/3rds of these hacks are due to developer incompetence and almost 1/3rd to code errors.

2. NFT boom or crack?
It seems that if you haven’t made NFT yet as a creative, you don’t belong anymore. My social feeds are full of enthusiasts who mint (make), sell and buy the NFTs. Earlier I wrote about the great possibilities, for both makers and companies. Where with Web1.0 companies made and earned content and the current Web2.0 people create content and companies earn from it, with Web3.0 I see that people not only make content, but also start earning real money from it. NFTs play a key role in this.

In my view, NFTs will really have a major impact on the art, fashion, music and sports worlds. Not only the large companies such as VISA, Disney and Adobe that are working with this, are piling up. There are also more and more possibilities that were not (technically) possible before.

The lazy monkey community
In addition to the flat buying and selling of content and artworks, you also see a new trend emerging: communities. The best example of this is the Bored Ape Yacht Club. All owners of one of the Bored-Apes, which on average sell for a few million each, can become a member. Many owners even buy a Bored Ape to join this community.

Monkey owners make their own monkey their Twitter photo as a sort of status symbol. In addition, they also get a number of benefits with their property: access to a Discord group for other owners, access to virtual merchandise drops, and free additional NFTs. NFTs makes all this (technically) possible and I think this is going to be very big not only next year, but also beyond.

Play to earn blockchain games
In my trend blog about crypto I also wrote about another cool trend within blockchain / NFTs: the ‘play to earn blockchain games’ (P2E). Because who wouldn’t want to make money playing games? For example, Louis Vuitton has launched its own online NFT game and the most famous P2E game, Axie Infinity, has already made $1.6 billion. Players in countries such as the Philippines and Indonesia are now playing these games because they earn more money than regular work.

Also within NFT there are new developments every week. LOOT is really a revolutionary thing in this. The creator of VINE created 8000 ‘LOOTbags’, put them online and all were claimed for free in no time. They have all turned out to be conversation starters. All kinds of communities of fans, artists and creatives are currently looking at future creations. It is inspired by how the famous Marvel spent billions developing all kinds of sci-fi films. Hundreds of writers and artists received money and came up with ideas for the films, where eventually a combination of all ideas was actually produced. LOOT does not want to do this top-down, but directly with the virtual community.

The coming year can’t go wrong in my opinion, with the great drive with which many people continue to develop the NFT ecosystem. A lot of news is still about the insane amounts that are sometimes paid for NFTs, such as $533 million that was supposedly deposited for a CryptoPunk. The great thing about many blockchains is that everything is transparent, so you can also make big data analyzes around the earnings. Then you see that only 2% of NFTs sold are sold for more than $600 and the majority of the large sums end up in the pockets of just 50 artists.

3. Stablecoins on the chain
It is a thorn in the side of lawmakers worldwide: stablecoins like Tether. Earlier I wrote about the importance of this within the global financial and cryptocurrency systems. Due to their rapidly increasing size, according to several governments, they could actually endanger the global financial system.

Credit rating agency Fitch warned this month that the rapid growth of stablecoins could have “destabilizing effects” on short-term credit markets. The global Financial Action Task Force (FATF) recently warned about the huge increase in money laundering. And the Bank for International Settlements wrote in its most recent report that they see no value in it at all.

While the coins imply bringing stability, the largest stablecoin, Tether, has been in the news on a continuous basis lately. Many people assume that stablecoins are ‘pegged’: 1–1 backed by another asset. So for every Tether in circulation, there would be a dollar stored somewhere. This coin is now worth more than $70 billion. And after great international pressure, it turned out that the company behind Tether had a very strange mix of assets to cover all this money on its balance sheet.

As a result, the company had to pay a fine to the American government and the same government has now urgently developed a framework to severely restrict stablecoins, such as Tether. Trade exchanges such as Bitcoinmeester have already taken the coin offline. It’s not just about Tether, though. There are dozens of stablecoins in circulation and the big wait is still for the stablecoin that shook up many governments: Diem, initiated by Facebook.

In addition to expressing great concerns, European, Chinese and American governments have now rapidly developed legislation that will come into effect next year. President Biden has already indicated that they are in the same category as banks. And the head of the US central bank, Jerome Powell, has already indicated that he does not want to ban them, but that they are strictly regulated. It is important to filter the cowboys out of the industry and actually gain broad acceptance by larger institutions. In a recent Deloitte survey, 83% of executives said they see current fiat money being replaced by such coins.

4. Governments are working overtime
Normally, governments always lag behind technological developments, the so-called pacing problem. In the blockchain field, however, I see a few important developments emerging from governments in the coming year.

MICA Regulations
First, the important MICA regulation is likely to be extensively tested, discussed, and then implemented in the coming year. An extremely important step in the further professionalization of the sector. And with it the entry of even more organizations.

Self Sovereign Identity
In addition, the EU announced last June that it will further intensify the efforts around ‘Self Sovereign Identity’, about which I wrote earlier. The EU is also making great strides with its own European Blockchain Services Infrastructure. By creating this infrastructure, the European Commission aims to provide a large number of cross-border digital public services. ‘For the benefit of citizens, society and the economy.’

It is the first EU-wide blockchain infrastructure to be created in an effort to make public services more reliable and accessible to European citizens. By making governance more transparent, facilitating compliance with EU regulations and working on data compatibility.

5. Gradually, then suddenly
Bitcoin’s inventor, the still-mysterious Satoshi Nakamoto, is said to be turning in his grave. Several times. The initial idea of ​​the Bitcoin blockchain was to take power away from financial intermediaries (such as banks) and governments and by returning the decentralized nature of blockchain technology to the citizen.

The Chinese government is now using the technology to launch a digital central bank money system, the E-CNY. According to many experts, this gives the Chinese government even more control over its population, by being able to largely control financial transactions in the country. It is only 100 days until the Winter Olympics in the country, where this so-called Central Bank Digital Currency (CBDC) will see the light of day. Meanwhile, the Chinese government has pressured American companies operating in the country, such as McDonald’s, to accept the currency during the games.

The influence of China
Even though there are already countries that use their own CBDC, such as the Bahamas and very recently Nigeria, China seems to be having a major impact on the financial system here. And in the long run, even weaken American power considerably. With its E-CNY infrastructure, it can seriously undermine the current infrastructures, which are dominated by Dollars and American power (such as the SWIFT system).

In the coming year, people are eagerly looking forward to what China will come up with. It will not immediately take over global economic leadership in one year, but as Ernest Hemingway’s beautifully describes in his book The Sun Also Rises: ‘gradually, then suddenly’. Just like the impact of many technologies; slowly, but suddenly extreme and unexpected.

The ‘bank of banks’, the Bank for International Settlements (BIS), recently launched its latest report on the worldwide developments in the field of CBDCs. This shows that 86% of central banks worldwide are looking at CBDC. And 60% are already developing it.

Away with the wallet gardens: power to the people!
Decentralization remains the magic word in many developments. In more and more areas, we see not only the call for the return of certain power to the user/citizen, but also the launch of blockchain solutions that make this possible.

The decentralized storage of big data, no longer in the ‘wallet gardens’ of the ‘big tech companies’.
Putting power and sovereignty back in the hands of makers, owners, small organizations and citizens. What we are now seeing in the major developments around NFTs and DeFi.
Fractional ownership through ‘fantokens’ such as those of Ajax, PSV and Fortuna Sittard and real estate, such as with the Amsterdam Bloqhouse.
It all fits into the next phase of the development of the Internet: Web3.0, built on a decentralized architecture.

Fortune favors the bold
We are looking forward to a very cool blockchain year. I’m really looking forward to all the developments that I don’t see coming at all. It has become clear with all developments that these are often started by the brave, great thinkers. We’ll see if the courage of many of them will be rewarded in the coming year.

Jan Scheele is active in the web3 (blockchain, crypto, NFTs, DeFi) industry since 2013. Besides (former) CEO of a web3 scaleup and founder of an advisory boutique (working for governments, family offices and several multinationals), he is Digital Leader at the World Economic Forum and Board Member at the Blockchain Netherlands Foundation (BCNL). He is writing, consulting, speaking and training regularly about everything web3, all over the world. Furthermore, he is currently finalizing his book about the rise and global impact of blockchain technology.