The flippening — the possibility that Ethereum would overtake Bitcoin’s share of the crypto market cap and become the newly dominant tech and currency of the entire industry — never happened. But it was much closer to happening than most would remember now. At one point in time, Ethereum and Bitcoin were virtually neck-and-neck in terms of market share, and Ethereum enjoyed considerable momentum with the huge ICO boom of 2017.
Unfortunately, the technology just couldn’t keep up with its own popularity. ICOs, by and large, were a massive disappointment, with more than 90% of them failing to launch any kind of useful product and many being cash grabs; anonymous scammers disappearing with their ill-gotten gains. The panicked jump off the ICO bandwagon happened even more quickly than the rapid rush into the new smart-contract enabled tech less than a year before. The successful applications of Ethereum token technology turned out to be little more than shakey proof-of-concepts like CryptoKitties, and even they caused considerable problems for the unprepared and suddenly burdened blockchain.
Still, to this day, many projects remain ERC tokens, surviving the ICO bubble burst and plugging away at the tech, hunkering down and focusing on development. The get-rich quick ICOs have mostly disappeared, some as exit scams, many simply as ill-conceived failures. But those who remain mostly fit into one of two camps; they’re either fighting for their lives, scraping by on the dwindled value of their mostly Ethereum-based budgets, worth about 80% less than when funds were raised, or they’re wisely, carefully and deliberately building, working toward a long-term vision.
And on the horizon? One can distantly spot progress, approaching in the blurry form of ETH 2.0.
While many have turned their hopes to the next “Ethereum-killer” with technologies like Stellar, Cardano, and EOS, Ethereum has quietly been preparing to experience its very own renaissance. Ethereum 2.0 seeks to right the ship, increasing scalability by a thousand times, improving utility, adding smart-contract complexity and security, and making the grand shift from a Proof-of-Work consensus model to the much faster Proof-of-Stake system.
Vitalik Buterin humorously compares ETH 1.0 to the on-going upgrading process that will bring Ethereum to level 2.0, called Serenity, explaining: “Serenity is ‘the world computer’ as its really meant to be, not a smartphone from 1999 that can play snake.” With so many improvements to Ethereum’s virtual machine technology, it could be that the next Ethereum finally realizes what we all imagined a decentralized world computer could do for the industry.
ICOs, as well, may need to go through a process of rebirth. The current model of recklessly throwing your money at a good looking project, hoping to 10X, 100X, or 1000X your investment at the risk of losing it all, is fading away. Instead, concepts such as the Reversible ICO, whereby investors can take back funds if they perceive the project to be failing, thus causing the developers to have much greater accountability and a stronger investment base, could be the healthier way to move forward.
Perhaps the next big Ethereum-killer is Ethereum itself. With the huge army of tokens that have remained loyal to the Ethereum blockchain, a technological step forward to a new generation of virtual machine tech could be all that is needed to reinvigorate the ICO space.