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Have We Hit Peak Blockchain Hype Or Is This Just The Start?

Blockchain is undoubtedly overhyped, but will it get worse?

1Nov

There appears to be little doubt that blockchain technologies are having a profound impact on the world. They have already allowed cryptocurrencies to take over, throwing investors into a spin to try and find the best ways to invest, and there are thousands more potential uses that are currently being investigated. Interest has naturally increased as a result, as evidenced by the Google search trends, with blockchain in November 2017 having a search volume 1900% more than the same time only 3 years earlier.

One of the key reasons for this is the rise in popularity of Bitcoin, which is built on the distributed ledger technology. Between October 2016 and October 2017 the value of Bitcoin increased by 890%, and the value of Ethereum, another cryptocurrency based on blockchain, has increased by 3688% since January 2017. With people making millions from both of these, it is no surprise that people are interested in the technology that has made them possible.

This interest in blockchain is not only impacting on people searching for it online though, it is having a big impact on 'normal' trading too. For instance, Mogo, a financial technology company saw their shares soar by 24% in a day when they simply said they had added dedicated block capabilities to their platform. However, this is nothing compared to On-Line PLC, who announced they were changing their name to On-line Blockchain PLC and saw their share price soar over 300% in one day, despite offering little in terms of substance about how they were utilizing blockchain.

The reality is that blockchain today may be one of the most overhyped technologies in the world. There is little doubt that in the future it has the potential to have a huge impact, but the reality today is that the technology has only the potential to do so. It is the same with Bitcoin, which is a bubble waiting to burst that only seems to be rising in value because it's rising in value. As more and more people have begun to buy it, the more the price has risen and hence more people have wanted to buy it. The same is probably true of blockchain interest - the more people have heard about how it powers two of the most highly profitable cryptocurrencies, the more they see it as some kind of magical money making technology.

However, this is dangerous because people who have invested in these currencies and companies in any long-term capacity are inevitably going to lose out. On-line, for instance, hit a peak of 80, but in the next trading day had lost around 50% of its peak value. We have already seen Bitcoin's bubble burst once where it fell from $979 in November 2013 to $421 in April 2014, a loss of over 50% in only 5 months. There is nothing backing the currency that can account for the huge spike we've seen in its price, so there is no reason for it to be so high and at some point this decline will happen again.

The same could be said of blockchain interest as people will only have an interest in potential for so long. We are some way from a genuine practical widespread use of blockchain technology outside of bitcoin, but there are some really interesting uses that are on the horizon. For instance in Estonia it has been used in elections to reduce electoral fraud, it has huge potential uses in e-commerce, and on peer-to-peer platforms it may be the biggest leap forward in history. However, it is still very much potential, so when we see companies triple in value because they add the word to their name, it is not indicative of success, it is instead a sign that there is dangerous expectation that could, ironically, see the development of the technology slow.

Ultimately there is little doubt that blockchain is being massively overhyped, often by those who have little understanding of what the technology does.

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