The “blockchain vs Bitcoin” narrative is an old one, and the stance among the more traditional audience such as regulators, bankers and investors was very often blockchain over Bitcoin - in that the cryptocurrency is the much-touted bubble, while the underlying technology offers exciting new opportunities. But is this still the case, or has the time for cryptocurrency come at last?
Checking the prices of crypto shows us that the bear market continues and shows no signs of slowing - all the biggest coins have taken a nosedive this year. For Brian Kelly, founder and CEO at BKCM LLC, an investment firm focused on cryptocurrencies, this means more screen time for blockchain. “Last year was all about the froth, and the promise of, 'Hey, this guy's building the new Facebook.' I think this year is going to be about building the Ciscos [an American multinational technology conglomerate],” he said to CNBC.
In his opinion, “2018 is going to be the year of infrastructure and also the year of Ethereum competitors.” Adding to this, he says there are many risk rewards to using a platform like Cardano that runs the blockchain technology for its coin ADA: “It's relatively new. You can do smart contracts on it. You can do blockchain 3.0. It's an Ethereum competitor in the year of Ethereum competitors.”
But the perspective could have shifted from blockchain back to crypto in the opinion of Elizabeth Stark, the CEO of Lightning Labs. She told a never-before told story for Yahoo Finance about the overpowering narrative of the superiority of blockchain and how it impacted Lightning Labs:
“When we first pitched my company Lightning Labs, we actually took the word ‘Bitcoin’ out of our deck and our marketing material because it was so much about blockchain. Now, I feel like we’ve entered into a ‘Bitcoin, not blockchain’ world, where people understand the value of cryptocurrency technology and what these can bring.”
This could mean better business for her: since Lightning is a second layer built on top of the Bitcoin protocol that can facilitate faster and cheaper transactions, because the payments happen off-blockchain, Bitcoin could become more viable as a payment option. She goes on to explain, “We’re talking many thousands of transactions per second, one day maybe even millions per second… Bitcoin at its base layer can’t do that. But Lightning, because it’s this layer on top of it, can.”
Not everyone agrees: in the “Bitcoin is a bubble” corner that the industry seems to have gotten used to, Bank of America Corp says Bitcoin, “the biggest bubble in history,” is popping. As reported by Bloomberg, Chief Investment Strategist Michael Hartnett wrote that Bitcoin is tracking the downfalls of the other massive asset-price bubbles in history less than one year out from its record, comparing it, for example, to the famed tulip mania of the Dutch.
So, to answer the titular question of focus: it depends on whom you ask. The more time goes on, the more obvious it becomes that not every crypto-skeptic can be won over, and that many will remain bearish on crypto and bullish on blockchain. Luckily, however, people such as Ms Stark are working on solutions that will bring crypto closer to the general public without separating it from its roots and the much-loved blockchain technology. It is in the best interest of the industry as a whole to believe that, while both sides have hard-working believers, the technological advancements of society may well move beyond our wildest dreams.