With Bitcoin rising above $4000 for the first time in 2019, with altcoins across the board seeing a spike of green, the crypto markets are off to a strong start to begin the year.
However, the positive wave hitting cryptocurrency comes at the expense of several dire months. November 2018 saw the worst losses for Bitcoin since August 2011, with the entire sentiment towards the industry taking a decidedly negative turn amidst the ongoing bear market. With Bitcoin still down 79 percent from its all-time-high of $19,700 in December 2017, the industry is looking for direction in the coming calendar year that is divergent from the price volatility of the currencies.
December’s bombshell announcement that social media giant Facebook–according to well informed sources–is in the process of developing a stablecoin for its WhatsApp messaging service kicked off a wave of renewed interest for blockchain and cryptocurrency. While the company has yet to come forth and confirm the development, the pressure is on for competitors Twitter and Google (the parent company for YouTube) to take greater interest in the use of cryptocurrency, an interesting twist given the blanket ban against crypto enacted by those three companies in early 2018.
While stablecoins lack the investment allure of traditional crypto assets like Bitcoin, they provide an arguably more usable form of digital currency. The precipitous drop in value for Bitcoin and altcoins throughout last year dampened the excitement for crypto that was generated during 2017’s bull run, leading to a realignment in investor values and crypto integration into existing properties. Stablecoins limit price volatility while providing users an alternative to fiat and grow industry exposure for crypto and blockchain.
However, stablecoins lack the full assurance of decentralization that has become paramount to the crypto community. Pegging a coin’s value to an external source like the U.S. dollar, while limiting price volatility, is still making the token beholden to policies which influence that currency.
As stablecoins become the trendy new technology to fill the void previously held by “blockchain,” Bitcoin and other traditional cryptos will find a home in digital asset investors and currency users turned off by the idea of an artificially determined value. Likewise, coins that prioritize anonymity, such as Monero, will provide a level of utility that Facebook will find hard to match in its stablecoin, with policymakers unlikely to stomach the prospect of the social media giant embracing both crypto and fully anonymous transactions.
Tokenization of real world assets also provides a strong use case for cryptocurrency going forward, making it unlikely that the industry will meet its end soon as some detractors have predicted. DX.Exchange, which operates out of Israel and Estonia, has piqued investor interest by allowing the trade of real world stocks like Tesla Inc. and Apple Inc. via digital tokens. By putting these assets on a blockchain separate from the stock market investors are able to trade at all times of the day, with the added advantage of being able to buy fractions of a share.
Even with regulatory concerns, the process of tokenization provides an indicator of the “bridging effect” occurring between cryptocurrency and the traditional markets. With industry giants like Facebook taking interest in crypto, and the advent of fintech adopting blockchain, 2019 should provide a much more promising year for cryptocurrency, one that doesn’t obsess over the falling market cap which cast a shadow over the majority of last year.