We’ve Taken Another Step Towards Blockchain Usability 3 2995

Widespread blockchain adoption. It didn’t happen in 2018, but it still feels like we’re right on the cusp.

One of the biggest obstacles blockchain is still trying to overcome is accessibility. For all its great potential, we won’t see far reaching implementation until people can use it easily. How can blockchain take a form that’s approachable to the general, non-coding public?

For now, much of the world, including small business leaders who form the backbone of many nations’ economies, still doesn’t know what they’re missing.

Who Needs Blockchain?

Let’s say you own a small to midsize enterprise with a strong digital presence, but you’re tired of the problems associated with traditional internet. You can’t reach potential clients in China, content regulations are different in Europe, and payment across borders is cumbersome.

You’d prefer to have your data management distributed and open source instead of locked up in some centralized server that hopefully won’t crash. Switching to a blockchain system would solve all these problems, but you don’t have the revenues to hire a team of blockchain devs who can transfer your digital presence to dApps.

You’re not alone. World Bank estimates over 90 percent of the world’s private companies are not large enterprises, but SMEs like yours. These modest enterprises are responsible for over half of the world’s GDP and employment, and they’re particularly important in emerging markets where they create 4 out of 5 new jobs.

Making blockchain technology accessible for global SMEs is a necessary push in achieving widespread adoption. To do this, setting up on blockchain needs to be as easy as using Squarespace, WordPress, or GoDaddy.

Ethereum Provides a Platform, but User-Friendly Implementation Has Remained Elusive

For all the ICOs launched in the past couple of years, only a handful have devoted themselves to this particular problem. After an encounter with Vitalik Buterin five years ago, retired fintech engineer Joe Lubin realized that blockchain “has the potential to shatter the silos of power and re-balance the information asymmetries that disadvantage so many.” He developed ConsenSys, a support system for devs and entrepreneurs to build on Buterin’s Ethereum platform.

Ethereum is perhaps the first and certainly the biggest platform for such developments. But ConseSys isn’t quite aimed at the everyday user. While it pushes blockchain’s potential forward, it will take more to bridge the gap for the general populous.

Bringing Blockchain’s Potential to the Everyday User

Eric Tippetts takes things a step further with NASGO. Aiming to be the ‘GoDaddy of blockchain,’ NASGO offers toolkits geared towards artists, influencers, humanitarian organizations, independent businesspeople and SMEs. It’s a “decentralized hosting environment”, according to Tippetts.

It gets around regional internet censorship and “allows content to be seen in every part of the world, opening up blocked boundaries for communication and collaboration.” And it makes things intentionally user-friendly so clients don’t need to show up with previous skills in tech, finance or coding.

Putting Down Roots in Asia’s Emerging Markets

Just last month, NASGO took a step forward into the spotlight by partnering with BitForex, one of the top ten digital asset trading platforms in the world. The partnership went live after a signing ceremony in Nha Trang, Vietnam on January 11th, and Singapore-based BitForex began offering NASGO tokens (NSG) for exchange a week later.

Tippetts is ambitious, calling this only the first among many indexes that will begin listing NASGO over the course of 2019. NASGO already has more partnerships in China, Vietnam, Cambodia and Palau. These countries are looking at ways to expand their revenue base while embracing blockchain’s increased transparency and the protection it provides against fraud. As emerging economies, these countries also stand to gain by enriching their private sectors, which are made up primarily of SMEs, with empowering blockchain knowledge.

“Of all we are accomplishing, our most important mission for 2019 is to drive complete utilization of blockchain,” says Tippetts. “We are creating the infrastructure and widespread adoption that will allow the blockchain to achieve its highest potential in driving revenue for organizations all over the world.”

Usability is the Key to Blockchain’s Future, and the Reclamation of Our Data

With ConsenSys, NASGO and BitForex pushing the agenda of blockchain usability into 2019, the ‘new internet’ could be right around the corner. If history is any indicator, it’s only a matter of the 100th monkey catching on before we finally see the blockchain blow up that was prophesied throughout last year.

When we eventually cross that cusp, we can finally hope to have control of our data and transactions. We’ll be able to conduct small scale business and creative work more freely. And the world of banks and governments will have some adapting to do.

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I grew up in the Silicon valley under the technological mentorship of Steve Wozniak. I'm a proud member of the Choctaw Nation, I've lived, worked and traveled all over the world, and I now write in the Pacific Northwest.


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Why Is Everyone Talking About NFTs? Comments Off on Why Is Everyone Talking About NFTs? 170

In this writer’s opinion the NFT hype is warranted — but not for the reason most people are investing. 

For those who’ve been in the space since Bitcoin’s early surge, you’ll remember the Initial Coin Offering (ICO) boom of 2017. The crowdfunding vehicle, which mirrored an IPO on the public market, brought with it massive amounts of investment into the blockchain space that seemed to mirror Bitcoin’s rapidly increasing value. 

In retrospect, none of it made sense. 

With all the hype, the investment in the space didn’t match due diligence. As of August 2018, investors had lost nearly $100M in ICO exit scams, a major reason we no longer hear about ICOs. 

From there, crowdfunding through token sales was rebranded alongside SEC regulation as Security Token Offerings (STOs). Additional fundraising iterations to enter the scene are Initial DEX Offerings (IDOs) and Initial Exchange Offerings (IEOs).

NFTs are having a similar moment to the immature and potentially reckless ICO market of 2017. The danger can be credited to a mix of hype and a widely unregulated environment with various points of entry and gatekeepers that are not incentivized to shore up fraud. 

As a result, many purchasers of NFTs are falling victim to a spectrum that spans undeserving projects on the mild end and outright scams at the extreme. Meanwhile, hackers are exploiting the unregulated environment. 

Just yesterday, $3 million in NFTs were stolen via an Instagram phishing scam. 

This writer, however, is still bullish on NFTs — just not the ones that are getting all the attention.

NFTs represent a concrete entry-point into the blockchain with a tangible utility and infinite disruptive implications. 

Here are a few.

Digital Assets as Social Proof 

As a Millennial, I personally have a hard time understanding the notion of owning and assigning value to a digital asset, but my kids don’t. 

I’ve written about how Gen Z has already adopted the concept of social proof in digital environments by assigning socially relevant value to digital assets like video game skins. 

As Gen Z ages and becomes an increasingly powerful consumer population, this experience will matter. Whether or not their purchase behavior translates to adulthood remains to be seen, but our kids are already leveraging digital assets in the metaverse to exhibit their position in the social hierarchy in the same way that my generation assigned value to Jansport-brand backpacks. 

Their concept of digital assets will be fundamentally different from ours, and NFTs are likely to benefit. 

But Why Are NFTs Relevant to Me Now?

Social proof is far from the most interesting use case for NFTs. 

In the near-term, NFTs can be utilized to store sale information of physical goods on the blockchain in order to eliminate nefarious actors in fraud-riddled industries like fine wine and art. 

Moreover, NFTs can disrupt any industry with a substantial secondary market. By coding royalties into the smart contract of NFTs, original sellers of wine, art and other trade-susceptible brands and industries can ensure they’ll capture a fee anytime an item is transferred. 

This solves a major problem for creators like photographers, artists and musicians that are notoriously underpaid in comparison to the value they create for brokers. It also has the potential to cut out middlemen like auction houses, record labels, and galleries to democratize the creator economy. 

Other Innovators Have Introduced Creative Use Cases for NFTs

Gary Vaynerchuk utilizes NFTs as tickets for events and other value-adds to his community. Forbes introduced a series of NFT Billionaires that will update alongside the real-time NYSE to gamify their user’s NFT experience in a way that’s brand-relevant. Foxies.art is using a gamified version of NFTs to fundraise blockchain education for women. 

The utility of NFTs is confined only by the imagination of our innovators. Whether or not NFT headlines today will remain relevant is yet to be seen, but one thing is certain: the disruption is only beginning. 

Fidelity to Offer Bitcoin in 401(k) Retirement Plans Comments Off on Fidelity to Offer Bitcoin in 401(k) Retirement Plans 49258

The move is the first for a major retirement plan provider and may signal more widespread adoption of the cryptocurrency. 

On April 26, Fidelity announced its intention to add a Bitcoin investment option to its 401(k) retirement plans. Employees of businesses that pursue the option will be able to allocate as much as 20% of their contributions to Bitcoin, all from the company’s main investment dashboard. According to reporting by the Washington Post, Fidelity said that at least one employer has already signed up for the option which will launch later this year.

“Fidelity’s leadership, especially CEO Abby Johnson, has been at the forefront of institutional Bitcoin and crypto integration for years and is no stranger to the space, with Fidelity’s private equity and venture capital arm being a major source of capital for crypto miners, crypto SPACs, crypto hedge funds and more,” says Eric Lamison-White, Director at STS Capital Group LLC, a cross-border advisory and investment firm. “It is completely in character for Fidelity to steadily and cautiously extend access to their working class customers as the regulatory climate becomes more productive.”

Critics suggest that the volatility of Bitcoin poses an unnecessary risk to a retirement portfolio. It’s a reasonable argument. At the time of this writing, the cryptocurrency’s price has fallen by more than 6% just today. Meanwhile, at $37,978 it’s a far cry from Bitcoin’s high of $68,000, representing more than a 40% drop since November 10th of last year. 

However, advocates of cryptocurrency’s long-term utility disagree.

“Cryptocurrency is a reliable, long-term store of value because it cannot be corrupted by central authorities,” says Lisa Carmen Wang, founder of The Bad Bitch Empire, a platform for female investors in web3. “We’ve already seen hyperinflation, bank failures, and other egregious disasters happen in the last few years, so trust in governments is at an all-time low. Crypto is inevitably volatile now because it is an early stage high-risk/high-reward investment, but for those who believe in the values of a decentralized economy, crypto is an attractive long-term investment that people should consider having in their portfolio.”

Regardless of your appetite for risk, the notion that savers will be able to easily manage contributions to Bitcoin in a respected retirement plan is meaningful.

As of last year, 63% of US adults that did not hold crypto were curious about it. Many people in the crypto-curious category don’t invest because they simply don’t know how. There’s a technological barrier to entry that can feel daunting. 

When you have major retirement plan managers like Fidelity making it easy to add Bitcoin to a portfolio through a dashboard users are already familiar with, we may see this group start investing in the asset class, moving digital currencies further along toward mainstream adoption.

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