There was a time when the internet existed without Google. It was a very different online world back then, dominated by bulletin boards, online user groups, and all-encompassing services like AOL. And yet, through a revolutionary means of searching for content online, Google engineers forever changed how we use the internet. They have managed to blur the lines between information gathering and social interaction.
Keen observers recognize that something very similar is happening with cryptocurrency. What began as a single monetary system known as Bitcoin has ballooned into an entire industry that encompasses monetary systems, investments, and blockchain development. And while crypto's impact on the rest of society has not been nearly as fast as Google's, that impact is no less real.
It is likely that regular MegaMoolah.com visitors think about cryptocurrency in terms of playing the Mega Moolah slot game at a Bitcoin casino. Some of our regular readers even use their digital coins outside of the gambling arena, to purchase goods and services. Some might even be investors. But few people truly understand the impact crypto is having on so much of what we do.
Below are three examples of how cryptocurrency is blurring lines that were previously well-defined. In much the same way Google transformed an internet previously focused on information dumping into one that encourages information sharing, cryptocurrency is changing the way we view all kinds of assets - both physical and digital.
1. Starbucks: Coffee for coin
Our first example comes by way of what is arguably the world's most well-known coffee chain: Starbucks. Believe it or not, Starbucks took an active role in promoting cryptocurrency when it made the decision to help get a U.S.-based exchange known as Bakkt off the ground in 2018. The coffee giant dove in deeper by agreeing to an equity deal with Bakkt early in 2019.
Bakkt is a digital asset platform owned by the same Atlanta-based operator of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE). It turns out that Bakkt's owner, ICE, owns and operates 23 exchanges around the world. It is no surprise that they created a digital asset exchange with a primary focus on investors.
Getting back to Starbucks, the Seattle-based company previously said there were no intentions to marry their operation with Bakkt's by accepting cryptocurrency as payment over-the-counter. In other words, Starbucks management indicated that their interest in Bakkt was separate from their retail operations. Well, guess what? Things have changed.
Crypto payments at Starbucks
According to Coin Telegraph, it appears as though Starbucks' latest equity investment in Bakkt includes a deal for them to start accepting Bitcoin payments for coffee1. How the system will actually work remains unclear, as do the coins Starbucks customers will be able to choose from. The one thing we can say for sure is that all crypto payments to Starbucks will be indirect.
By 'indirect', we mean that Starbucks will not actually have a digital wallet to receive bitcoins, litecoins, etc. Instead, payments will be transacted through Bakkt first. Coins used to pay for Starbucks coffee will then be instantly converted into fiat and transferred to Starbucks.
A similar system already exists in the U.S. state of Ohio, where residents can pay certain kinds of taxes with cryptocurrency. State government is not equipped to accept crypto payments directly, nor can it be as long as crypto is not regarded as legal tender. So the arrangement worked out with Ohio's payment processor instantly converts Bitcoin payments into fiat before being deposited into state coffers.
There used to be a clear line of delineation separating exchanges, payment processors, and receivers of crypto payments. The deal between Starbucks and Bakkt blurs those lines considerably. Not only will Bakkt act as both an exchange and payment processor on behalf of Starbucks, but the way they will process transactions will make Starbucks a pseudo-recipient of digital coins rather than a direct recipient.
2. The crypto-focused web browser
Next up is an announcement from the makers of the Opera web browser of plans to bring their software to iOS2. That plan is not a big deal in and of itself. What makes it important is the fact that Opera is positioning the latest version of its browser as a cryptocurrency-focused browser.
It turns out that Opera is not the first or only one to create such a browser. Brave is another web browser with a heavy focus on cryptocurrency. But what is a crypto-focused browser, exactly? It is a browser that does two things.
First, it has built-in technology for making crypto payments online. It is technology that facilitates the easy transfer of coins in a safe and secure environment, directly from the browser itself. In Brave's case, the technology includes blockchain-based tokens that make it possible for users to directly reward content creators by giving them Brave's tokens.
Secondly, a crypto-focused browser has the capability of running blockchain web apps in a browser window. In the same way you can use a standard web browser to run Google apps, a crypto-focused browser runs blockchain apps.
The browser as an app container
The lines being blurred by crypto-focused browsers are less understood by a general public that doesn't quite get how applications run. Suffice it to say that computer applications were, at one time, individual pieces of software that resided on a local hard drive or mainframe computer. As such, applications were isolated to local environments.
We got away from our heavy emphasis on local applications when the cloud burst onto the scene more than a decade ago. With the cloud came software as a service (SaaS) and the concept of running cloud-based applications in a browser. Still though, applications and browsing the internet were seen as two separate entities. The line between them is still pretty clear today. But for how long?
A web browser capable of running blockchain applications is a big deal. A browser capable of facilitating cryptocurrency payments without the need for external wallets, payment processors, etc. is equally huge. It represents a new way of achieving convergence between physical and digital assets with blockchain as the driving force. Indeed, the browser is becoming a container for blockchain apps.
3. Introducing Web 3.0
Finally, you may have noticed that tech geeks are talking about Web 3.0 more frequently these days. That is both good and bad. It is good in the sense that any indication of Web 3.0 being a real thing means that the internet continues to evolve to meet the needs of users. It's bad in the sense that the term itself does not yet hold any substantive meeting.
Cryptocurrency is changing that. In order to understand how, we need to first look back at the history of Web 2.0. When people first began using the term 'Web 2.0', no one really knew what it meant. There were lots of different opinions, but none of them held any substance backed by evidence. 'Web 2.0' became a marketing term more than anything else.
But then, after more than a decade of evolution, we ended up with a pretty solid definition of Web 2.0. We came to understand that the second iteration of the World Wide Web was encapsulated by social media. It was a web in which people were using the internet to interact with one another rather than just acquire information.
To put it simply, Web 1.0 was an internet focused mainly on getting information out there. Web 2.0 transformed the internet into a place where people could socially interact around the information they were being provided. That brings us to Web 3.0.
Decentralizing the Web
Those who believe firmly in the emergence of Web 3.0 see it as many different things. But at its core, the next iteration of the web will be built on the concept of decentralization. We have cryptocurrency to thank for that.
As you know, a key component in cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin and Litecoin is decentralization. Cryptocurrency platforms are built on blockchain technology and distributed ledgers that prevent governments and central banks from taking control. Control is maintained by each platform's community. That is where the web is headed.
Rather than the internet being dominated and controlled by giants like Google and Facebook, Web 3.0 will put it back in the hands of the community. It may take a decade to achieve, but that is the direction many experts think we are headed in.
Cryptocurrency has begun to blur the line between internet users and those who control it. It is blurring the line between social interaction and economic interaction. It is blurring the line between working while on the internet and working within it.
A new wave of freedom?
It has often been said by economists that political freedom and economic freedom are intrinsically connected. The idea is that a person is never truly free in a political or ideological sense until he or she is completely free economically. If that's true, cryptocurrency creates a path to more freedom for more people.
Could we be on the verge of a new wave of freedom based on an economic playing field made level by cryptocurrency? It is possible. We are already seeing cryptocurrency and the technologies and philosophies it's built on blurring lines that were previously well defined. There is no telling where it will lead us.
1) 'Coffee for Bakkt'? Starbucks Equity Deal Will See Crypto-Based Payments, Source Claims. Cointelegraph, https://cointelegraph.com/news/coffee-for-bakkt-starbucks-equity-deal-will-see-crypto-based-payments-source-claims
2) Opera is bringing its cryptocurrency-focused browser to the iPhone. TheNextWeb, https://thenextweb.com/hardfork/2019/03/05/opera-cryptocurrency-iphone-ios-ethereum/