Why security is more important than speed

If you have read much about blockchain technology, you will be aware that there is an obsession about transaction speed within the community. Indeed, it is possible to conclude that every problem the blockchain and cryptocurrencies are curently experiencing comes down to the issue of speed.

But this obsession is blinding us to the fact that speed isn’t everything and it certainly isn’t going to be a deal-breaker that ends the future of blockchain projects. Certainly most people working in the fintech sector don’t believe it will and for good reason. If you use PayPal as an example, there is an average of 193 transactions per second. Blockchain-based platforms are aiming for one million transactions per second. However, that is a long way off happening. Still, even if PayPal is ‘slow’ compared to what blockchain developers believe they can achieve, nobody thinks the lack of speed is going to be the end of PayPal forever.

Ethereum is the blockchain network most used for transactions and scaling has presented an issue for it. People using the ethereum platform would like to see it scale faster, but there is something else that is more important to them, and that is security. As James Halladay writes at Hackernoon; “Of course, rapidly scaling the Ethereum network would be fantastic — no one’s disputing that — but making it the goal seems misguided.” He calls the obsession a smokescreen and a distraction.

And here is why: do we really need the kind of transaction speed that blockchain enthusiasts have set as the “holy grail”? No, because for fintech platforms security and stability are much more important than being fast. And, the obsession with speed is off-putting to the more conventional financial institutions that might be wooed over to using blockchain solutions if there was more focus on security and stability.

Security is the major advantage that the blockchain has to offer, so if we talk about a ‘Three S’ blockchain, it should be Security –Stability- Speed in that order.

Have ICOs reached the end of the road?

In 2017, Initial Coin Offering (ICO) was probably one of the biggest buzzwords in the fintech and other blockchain-based sectors. There were ICO calendars, journalists tracked how various ICOs were doing and reported on the final amount raised, looking for the ICO that would break all ICO records. However, the negative reaction of media giants like Facebook and Google to the ICO sphere had the effect of making it more difficult for those fledgling businesses holding ICOs to market their offering, and ultimately could be said to be responsible for dampening enthusiasm for this new form of crowdfunding.

Then 2018 brought with it a change in wind direction: the cryptocurrency market started to behave in a way that disappointed the small investor. Institutional investors were still apparently wary of the entire ecosystem, regulatory bodies debated how to handle it, and on top of that, the word ‘ICO’ became almost toxic thanks to the social media rulings on promoting them. Instead, people started to look for ways around it, calling them ‘token sales’ and talking about ‘digital assets’ rather than cryptocurrency. And, lets be honest, the glamour and excitement associated with ICOs in 2017 was beginning to wear a bit thin.

This is not something I made up: data from Crunchbase published this summer and in the Q3 of 2018 shows that there has been a massive decline in ICO fundraising. A report from ICORATING reveals, “a total of just over $1.8 billion was raised by a total of 597 ICO projects in Q3 2018, down significantly from the over $8.3 billion that was raised in Q2 2018.”

America’s SEC is also responsible for some of the problems faced by ICOs; its scrutiny has made the country a cold place for the blockchain-based startups. And America isn’t the only jurisdiction presenting barriers for the sector.

ICOs aren’t dead; they’re being reborn

The fact that ICOs seem to be declining in terms of the funds raised this year doesn’t mean that funding is not coming in for new blockchain businesses. Instead, what is happening is that the environment is simply changing: ICOs may no longer be the fashion, but there is an increase in crypto funds coming from venture capital sources. What we are going to see are better funding solutions in a different format.

The point I really want to make is this: just because there is a decline in ICO activity, don’t take this as a sign that cryptocurrencies, tokens and blockchain technology have also had their day. This is a new market where various roles and functions are constantly evolving, and there’s nothing surprising about that as history shows us.

How Satoshi changed world

As the global economy staggered, fell and got up again, an anonymous person, or group of people, named Satoshi Nakamoto came up with a surprising solution; a peer-to-peer electronic cash system, which became known as bitcoin. A small number of people saw its potential the minute they heard about it, but it has taken a much longer time to get the concept into the wider mainstream, and even now, there are as many doubters as believers, probably even more.

What some people have not grasped is that Satoshi created much more than a digital currency that could ‘protect’ the public from the greed of the big banking system that had brought much of the world to its knees — Satoshi solved a longstanding computing problem connected to data and networks, and that is just as important as whatever is happening to the bitcoin price.

Satoshi’s solution involved an infrastructure consisting of “blocks” of confirmed transactions, which when ordered chronologically formed a “chain.” And there we have it — the real Satoshi revolution — blockchain technology.

Bitcoin is just the first example of the use of blockchain, but it certainly hasn’t been the last. In the last two years, the number of blockchain-based projects, platforms and their accompanying digital assets, tokens or cryptocurrencies, call them what you will, have grown like daisies on a summer lawn. And the ecosystem is changing rapidly: one only has to look at what was happening in 2017 and compare it with 2018 to see that the blockchain world changes every month.

A change in crypto speak

As does the language used to describe it. The negative view of the mainstream media and the response of Facebook and Google to Initial Coin Offerings (ICOs) meant that marketers and writers started to avoid the use of the term “cryptocurrency,” and so “tokens”, “digital assets” and “digital currencies” became the preferred terms, so that the anti-crypto “police” wouldn’t spot what we were actually talking about. And now the term “blockchain” is apparently being dropped in favour of “distributed ledger technology” (DLT) because apparently blockchain has been over-hyped. It appears that some think that words have the power of a Cloak of Invisibility; only to find that there are more than a few people who can see right through it.

Project Crypto Fear

And even this language factor points to the importance of Satoshi’s revolutionary creation: things that are feared by the majority have to be presented in more palatable ways. The mainstream media has certainly pushed a Project Fear approach to crypto, and here is the reason: Satoshi’s blockchain takes away the power of a central authority. This is one of the reasons why the major financial institutions have been slow to get involved with it, and some governments have banned it, while others look at it with a raised eyebrow. But they can’t hold back the tide that is coming their way, which is why the World Economic Forum predicted even back in 2016 that 10% of global GDP would be stored on blockchains.

And in 2018 we have seen central banks, retail banks and financial regulators finally joining the blockchain sphere. They have to join the Satoshi revolution or face going the way of the dinosaurs.

Satoshi Nakamoto set in motion a world-changing technology, and bitcoin is only one small part of the story; it’s certainly not the entire revolution.

NYSE head backs digital currency survival

Good news for cryptocurrency supporters from the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) chairman, Jeffrey Sprecher. This week he expressed his optimism about the survival of digital currencies as an asset class, according to one business news outlet.

Sprecher, who also happens to be CEO of Intercontinental Exchange (ICE) was speaking at the Consensus Invest conference. He told the audience about how he reacts to press headlines like “Will digital assets survive?” and said that his unequivocal answer is yes. However,, when it comes to price he suggested that the NYSE was “agnostic” about that, meaning that it has no bias about what might happen as regards that.

Coincidentally, and rather tellingly, Sprecher was joined on stage at the conference by his wife, Kelly Loeffler, who happens to be the CEO of Bakkt, a cryptocurrency platform. Bakkt also happens to be owned by ICE and will launch next year.

Loeffler talked about what Bakkt will be offering, including the Bitcoin futures contract, saying, ““the Bakkt futures contract will help Bitcoin traders establish a trusted price. Bitcoin now trades at different prices on different exchanges, many of which are unregulated.”

Indeed, the NYSE and its parent company have been quite proactive in the digital currency sphere, which is encouraging for others involved in it. ICE has already partnered with Blockstream, a blockchain tech company to provide the big Wall Street investors, including hedge funds, with what it calls “disciplined” BTC pricing. To do this, it said it would pull data from 15 major exchanges.

A few months after this, ICE then said it would offer traders contracts that would result in customers owning Bitcoin. At the time it said, “ICE has had conversations with other financial institutions about setting up a new operation through which banks can buy a contract, known as a swap, that will end with the customer owning Bitcoin the next day — with the backing and security of the exchange.”

And at the same time as this Sprecher has made a supportive statement on cryptocurrency, it has been announced that an Association for Digital Asset Management (ADAM) has been created to produce a “code of conduct” for the digital currency sector. Among ADAM’s founding members are the former NYSE CEO, Duncan Niederauer, Galaxy Digital, a crypto merchant bank, BTIG, a global financial services firm, fintech firm Paxos and GSR, a crypto liquidity solutions provider.

Even if the markets are struggling to find their level, it seems apparent that slowly but surely the financial world is coming around to the idea that cryptocurrencies are here to stay.