It is fascinating to see how quickly technology can develop in such a short time. When I started with blockchain in 2015, there was really only Bitcoin as a use case. Today there are countless other cool developments. From NFTs and Metaverse to Decentralized Financing (DeFi) and Organizations (DAOs). Also stablecoins, smart contracts and much more. However, the news has only recently been about crashes in cryptoland. That is why I share the 5 coolest developments in the field of blockchain in this article.

Crash after crash after crash. For those who think blockchain technology is all about Bitcoin, last month’s news probably felt like the end of the technology. Cryptocurrency prices collapsing, companies going out of business, and lawmakers cracking down. These are tough times for crypto enthusiasts. But even though the confidence in digital currencies among small and large investors is disappearing, developers and companies are working hard on the underlying technology in the background.

1. Bubbles, keep building and wider adoption

The State of Crypto Report from one of the largest blockchain and crypto investors, Andreessen Horowitz, shows this beautifully. The research they conducted shows that cyclical price increases lead to interest in the ecosystem. This attracts new entrepreneurs who set up new startups and projects, which then lead the next cycle.

They call this the ‘Crypto Price-Innovation Cycle’. In each cycle, even after prices fell, more developers and startups remained in the ecosystem than there were before the cycle started, according to their research. These entrepreneurs are building a better infrastructure and new applications. And they turn potential use cases into real ones.

I, therefore, see recent developments in the field of cryptocurrencies mainly as positive for the entire ecosystem. Errors come to light: from errors in code to wrong companies. The nearly 19,000 developers who develop the technology on a daily basis can pick up and address these flaws.

Legislators can prepare regulations to make the ecosystem more stable and secure. Where in the beginning I only saw negativity among lawmakers around the technology, in 2022, I see not only a much more constructive attitude, but also a lot of positive recognition of the potential of the technology. In the broadest sense of the word.

Developments users

I also see great developments in the field of users. In 2015, I was mainly involved with ‘magic internet money’ Bitcoin with a collection of other nerds. Today 15% of Dutch people own cryptocurrencies, and more and more organisations, governments, and consumers are using the technology in the broadest sense of the word. From NFTs to supply chains and play2earn games to smart contracts.

According to recent research by Deloitte, as many as 75% of retailers want to enable payments in crypto within the next 12 months. And not just companies. Banks also continue to expand their interest in the technology. Meanwhile, 55% of the top 100 banks worldwide have invested in blockchain companies, which is already in the billions of euros.

Disruptive and innovative

Services and solutions that already exist and work, but are sometimes not quite perfect. According to Clayton Christensens’ theory of disruptive innovation, that makes no difference. On several levels and for many users, these new solutions are worse than their existing counterparts. For an ignored segment of the market, this newcomer’s offering is ‘good enough’.

Companies in the blockchain ecosystem that prove disruptive, according to Christensen, find a foothold with a small group of those overserved, ignored users and then expand the market. We see this, for example, in the use of cryptocurrencies in developing countries, where banks refuse to provide their services to many consumers. And when using NFTs in the creative industries, because a way has finally been found to capture the ownership of digital art.

Many of the solutions that come up are not yet perfect. But they are “good enough” for a certain group of users. They often meet certain needs that centralized and more secure products do not. According to Chainalysis’s State of Web3 report, this is also one of the reasons for the NFT hype. It attracted a lot of people who sometimes cared little about cryptocurrencies but cared a lot about art and entertainment. After crypto and NFTs, the wait is for the next killer app (which I wrote about earlier) for the technology.

2. NFTs of your life, in space and on Instagram

Non Fungible Tokens (NFTs) are for me a really great use case that shows the multifaceted potential of blockchain and also has a really profound impact on our society. What started as “overpriced monkey pictures” for many critics has now expanded into a great tool for many industries and even countries. Earlier I wrote about the African country of Central African Republic, which wants to ‘tocanize’ $600 billion in raw materials. Before that, I wrote about the many possibilities of NFTs for companies and communities.

Meanwhile, Instagram’s parent company, Meta, has announced that they will be testing NFTs on Instagram Stories using their augmented reality platform Spark AR. Makers and collectors can share their digital collectibles on Facebook and Instagram. First for a smaller group of US users, then worldwide.

There are also cool NFT developments within the music industry. In addition to merchandise and tickets, Spotify now also makes it possible for artists to promote NFTs. In addition, fans of a well-known female Dutch DJ can invest in the DJ’s career after the summer by buying NFTs. The name of the DJ has not yet been announced, but I also think this is a very cool development: the tokenization of a career.

The soul wallet

Not just careers, by the way. The co-founder (Vitalik Buterin) of one of the largest and most influential blockchain companies, Ethereum (on which most blockchain applications are also built), has submitted a proposal for so-called “Soulbound Tokens” (SBTs). The DUO (and at the European level) is currently experimenting with creating NFTs for diplomas from educational institutions, for example, to combat fraud. The idea of ​​SBTs is to establish a powerful identity and reputation system.

The idea is still fairly futuristic and is part of the ‘decentralized society’ (DeSoc) idea. Including Decentralized Autonomous Organizations. These are not only the diplomas and certificates that you obtain by successfully completing education but also medical data, for example.

According to Buterin, they are “non-transferable tokens that represent commitments, credentials and preferences that are part of the social relationships on Web3 networks”. They should already be available to users by the end of the year. By 2024, they should go mainstream and become the next big blockchain hype after NFTs, according to the Ethereum co-founder.

Aircraft manufacturer Lockheed Martin and the Filecoin Foundation also came up with extraterrestrial plans. Both organizations have launched plans to launch a satellite or other space platform, which will contain the technology to become a so-called InterPlanetary File System (IPFS) node. The IPFS is a decentralized version of Dropbox, which now also stores most NFTs.

3. We’re going to make it all

For many people, Decentralized Autonomous Organizations (DAOs) are still fairly futuristic, but there are already 20,000 worldwide. There are also the first three companies in the Netherlands that will convert their organizational structure to a DAO model.

Recently, a very unique new DAO has been added. The English football club Crawley Town Football Club, which has been renamed We’re All Gonna Make It (WAGMI) United. Fans of the club can buy NFTs, with the NFT serving as a kind of stock. NFT holders receive exclusive merchandise, voting rights, and many other benefits. With this, the club is suddenly very decentralized and democratically managed, because fans get a direct say.

Major partners have already been connected to further expand the possibilities in the blockchain field. Like Adidas and Gary Vaynerchuck.

4. Metaverse is here to stay

If you’ve never worn Virtual Reality glasses or don’t game, I understand that you can’t imagine much with the metaverse. Recently, when giving keynotes on the subject, I often received the comment ‘that it is a hype that would soon blow over’. But recent announcements from Dubai and Shanghai show otherwise. Shanghai aims to develop a $52 billion metaverse industry by the end of 2025 with more than 100 metaverse companies. Dubai aims to have created more than 40,000 metaverse-related jobs by 2030.

Steps are also being made on a technological level. Facebook owner Meta has launched a digital clothing store in the metaverse. There, users can purchase designer outfits for their avatars from brands such as Balenciaga and Prada. For prices between $2.99 ​​and $8.99. The company has also revised its vision for the Metaverse. They think the metaverse experience will likely be more focused on flat 2D displays for many users in the beginning. Instead of using virtual reality or augmented reality technology, such as headsets and lenses.

To immediately set standards for metaverse developments worldwide, the Metaverse Standards Consortium was founded by giants Alibaba, Epic Games, Meta, Microsoft and Sony. The organization strives to develop interoperability standards for an open metaverse. That means if different companies want to build their own versions of the metaverse, they do so in such a way that users and applications can move freely between different metaverses.

Inspiring Metaverse Solutions

Every day, inspiring examples of organizations and individuals launching special metaverse solutions and environments. Spotify has launched Spotify Island. A ‘paradise’ of its own where fans and artists from all over the world come together, listen to music, do scavenger hunts and obtain exclusive merchandise.

Those plans were probably too thin for singer Snoop Dogg because he wants to start his own metaverse ‘Snoopverse.’ In his latest video clip, you get a good idea of what this should look like. All Snoop Dogg style: a large villa that is a 1-to-1 copy of his California home, luxury cars, and statues of the artist. Previously, a piece of virtual land next to Snoop Dogg’s was sold for $450,000. The ‘Decentral Eyes Dogg’-NFT, a digital portrait of the rapper, also fetched almost €700,000 at an auction in November.

5. Slavecoins

After the various crypto crashes in recent months, US and European governments have been rushing to announce laws and regulations to better regulate stablecoins. I personally find the developments in the field of Central Bank Digital Currencies (CBDSs) even more interesting.

According to the ‘bank of banks’, the Bank for International Settlements (BIS), not crypto, but CBDCs will become the cornerstone of the future monetary system. The institute is not that enthusiastic about crypto. In its latest report, they indicate that they only find the technical functionality of a handful of crypto interesting. They are not impressed by the size of crypto and stablecoins. Still, the institute recommends that banks be allowed to hold 1% of their reserves in Bitcoin or another crypto. So a bit contradictory.

Opaque process

The European Central Bank has released a new report on the digital euro, with a comprehensive technical analysis of a possible European CBDC and its position in the existing financial system. During the Dutch Blockchain Days I spoke to the Dutch rapporteur of the House of Representatives about this. Member of Parliament for the SP, Mahir Alkaya. We have now arrived at the most difficult phase of the process, where many choices have to be made about the design.

According to Alkaya, the process is currently extremely opaque. Very little is published about the process, which causes a great deal of misunderstanding among the Dutch parliament as well as among citizens and consumer organisations. Even though the Dutch government has very recently presented its own vision of the digital euro, more and more commentators are calling the ECB’s future CBDC a ‘slavecoin’.

The plans that are now in place would not be in line with the current protection of privacy and data in the EU. If complete anonymity is not guaranteed, governments would suddenly gain a lot more control over all privacy-sensitive payment data of European consumers and companies.

Phygital

Further developments in the wonderful world of blockchain are piling up. I personally find the development of ‘phygital’ interesting: companies from the ecosystem that only worked digitally and now come up with physical ‘touch points.’ Like Solana, who plans to release her own ‘Saga’ web3 mobile phone next year. All kinds of blockchain applications can be used on it. And the first physical feast for Bored Ape NFT owners; APEFest.

web5

While many people, organizations and developers are still working on the switch from web2 to web3, the founder of Twitter, Jack Dorsey, is already working on web5. According to him, this brings decentralized identity and data storage to individuals’ applications.

He has often expressed his displeasure with the current evolution of the internet. He thinks that web3 is already completely in the hands of big investors and eventually will be centralized again in the hands of a handful of large companies, as is now the case with web2. In his pitch deck he explains his plans extensively.

Cool developments keep coming

It is wonderful to see how many new ideas, projects and initiatives keep coming within the ecosystem. Some as an update of existing things and sometimes really completely new, revolutionary technologies. With the multitude of developers and the speed with which things are being built now, I think we will see and hear many more cool developments within the blockchain ecosystem in the coming months.

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.