Given the title of this article, I should preface that this is not investment advice, but rather my observations of how the industry is evolving, and where the next opportunity lies for the mainstream adoption of this technology.
In October, I wrote about the investment themes that many funds are using to build their digital asset portfolios. Essentially, “coins” running as a core part of their blockchains fall into two distinct categories: “state-free money” (eg, Bitcoin) and the “Decentralized Internet” (eg, Ethereum). Although many coins have tried mimicking them, these are the undisputed category kings. Instead of imitating, I asked myself the question, “Is there another digital asset category that’s yet to be defined?”
I think there is, and it’s what I call Open Applications. These are programs that put users back in control within the context of existing online markets, and are universally accessible across these platforms. Using Open Applications, developers can hook into existing platforms like Uber, Shopify, or Twitch to create new breakthrough experiences.
Open Applications have the potential to solve the problems of closed markets. These problems are exemplified by news we’re seeing daily: Uber drivers protesting, YouTubers being demonetized and censored, Postmates riders going uninsured into busy downtown streets.
These closed markets have various stakeholders and economic interests. They present a perfect design space for online marketplaces to solve their unique economic problems – with many of the lessons we’ve learned in crypto-economics. Ethereum is working on building a decentralized web – a worthy initiative, but one that’s probably one to two decades away from being in-market at scale – so how can we start fixing the centralized platforms society uses today?
The solution to limitations of these closed markets lies in an open design space, where Open Applications represent a way of integrating blockchain solutions into existing centralized platforms. My assertion is that no one is focusing on this at scale, although I strongly believe it has the potential to demonstrate tangible value to society at large, and can be implemented in the short term.
The complexity and dynamics of crypto have made this industry become too insular and unapproachable to the average person. But by going back to the fundamentals, you can identify the trends that are shaping what will become an incredibly important industry that has benefit to the general population. I believe Open Applications are a new category of digital asset that represents the future of blockchain and crypto in its ability to solve platform problems on a global scale.