Cryptocurrencies, like bitcoin, that enable users to pass money back and forth without the interference of a trusted third party, like a bank or national government, frankly aren't much use without a reason to spend or receive money in the first place. The argument that bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies don't have any intrinsic value rears its ugly head in those scenarios.
Truthfully, no currency really has intrinsic value, with the possible exception of gold or silver coins. The value of a currency is really tied up in what you can buy with it.
The road to widespread bitcoin adoption is long and winding. It's difficult to convince folks to spend a currency they expect to skyrocket in value. Likewise, it's hard to get merchants onboard with a currency that frequently changes value day by day, hour by hour. Inventory management alone is a chore with any currency that can experience double-digit percentage swings in a 24-hour period.1
Of course, moving to an all-Bitcoin standard would immediately eliminate that. Absent such a sea-change in global finance, peer-to-peer services can smooth most of the lumps out of the nascent bitcoin economy. Furthermore, peer-to-peer services can often deliver superior goods and services more cheaply than their centralized counterparts. Here's a brief scan of the big peer-to-peer projects currently operating today.
Ride-sharing companies, like Uber and Lyft, have already caused major disruption in the traditional for-hire driving industry. Now, these emblems of the new service economy stand to be disrupted in turn by peer-to-peer ride-sharing services.
Services like Arcade City aim to bring blockchain technology to the ride-sharing world. Even the relatively decentralized Uber corporation still maintains a central database of available drivers and routes all its mobile traffic and payment information through central services.2
Arcade City and other blockchain ride-sharing service providers hope to eliminate even this level of centralization, essentially handing the business over to drivers themselves. The concerns about pay and centralized standards endemic to platforms like Uber vanish since drivers basically can set up shop for themselves and solicit business and accept payments independently. Not only will this reduce the congestion on networks like Uber in crowded venues, it will hack away at the intermediary costs that make driving for Uber, Lyft, or similar services such a dicey business proposition.
Airbnb can be viewed as the first real disruption to the hotel industry in decades - perhaps centuries. It borrowed some of the peer-to-peer benefits of companies like Craigslist to challenge the capex-heavy hotel industry. With Airbnb, practically anyone could open their front door and start a motel or hostel.
Just like Uber, Airbnb has some centralized elements that could be streamlined or eliminated with blockchain technology. That's the point behind CryptoCribs, a decentralized version of Airbnb.3
CryptoCribs is structured around crypto payments, as well, potentially making it a vehicle for more widespread crypto adoption.
"Hosting on CryptoCribs has its own charm," the developers wrote on the project website. "It lets you earn something extra on the side, but it's about so much more than that. CryptoCribs only accepts crypto currencies and is building a global community of crypto nomads, who share a passion for the blockchain and decentralization. By hosting for us, you get a chance of learning more about crypto currencies and blockchain technology from people around the world and become part of a project that aims to decentralize living."
While decentralizing living might be a lofty goal, it's likely that the Hiltons of the world are paying close attention to projects like CryptoCribs.
Lending and Financial Services
Cryptocurrency is anti-bank. That's the cold, hard truth, straight from Satoshi Nakamoto's 2008 white paper that launched bitcoin on the world. Despite bank-focused cryptos, like Ripple - a very centralized and even debatable cryptocurrency - the general thrust of the crypto movement for the past decade has been about reducing the public's dependence on big financial institutions.4
To partially fill in that potentially gaping void, some cryptocurrencies are geared toward peer-to-peer and micro-lending.
Traditional micro-lending platforms cater to the devastatingly poor and unbanked in countries without the necessary infrastructure to support traditional financial institutions. Even though accepting microloans can be quite lucrative, the money raised still doesn't have the clout that a traditional bank loan offers with companies due to the inability to trace where exactly the money came from. It's treated as no better than cash - great for some transactions that can be paid outright, and close to worthless for down payments and other transactions that imply more money ought to be forthcoming. There are also concerns in some areas that large sums of cash quickly raised could have come from less-than-legal outlets, like drugs, piracy, or human trafficking.
Blockchain technology introduces transparency and accountability to micro-lending.5 The same way a bank can confirm the source of funds and where they're ultimately headed via its central processing, a blockchain can keep the chain of funds open and searchable. In other words, an acceptor of microloan funds no longer has to worry about where exactly the user got his or her money.
This all circulates back to the grand old open marketplace. Craigslist here is the main competitor to traditional buying platforms. It relies on peer-to-peer transactions, with Craigslist acting only as a portal for posting and replying to new ads.
Since Craigslist's role is already minimal, it was an easy leap to completely decentralized marketplaces, like OpenBazaar and 5miles.
5miles, in particular, should appear remarkably familiar to anyone who's ever hawked some unwanted junk on Craigslist. Listings are organized by price and location, and there's nothing that really jumps out and screams "crypto."
Behind the scenes, however, 5miles is entirely decentralized, operating on the CyberMiles blockchain.6 That means that transactions conducted on the 5miles site - like posting a new ad - are recorded on the CyberMiles blockchain. This cuts down on the notoriously scammy nature of "anonymous" sites, like Craigslist. Information about a given poster can be pulled up due to the transparent nature of the blockchain, including past deals. This is unalterable, unlike the light review sections of other similar sites. 5miles aspires beyond simple peer-to-peer transactions, as well. Its protocol is specifically designed to handle commercial and business-to-business selling, which could, in theory, revolutionize how B2B supply chains operate.
The Future Is Now
Cryptocurrency necessarily needs a marketplace in which to operate. The next wave of peer-to-peer applications should bolster the ultimate use case behind cryptocurrency and give individuals a wider range of options. Instead of being limited by what a given commercial distributor has on hand, an individual is free to explore the peer-to-peer options for everything from housing to toasters. Moreover, individual earnings potential can truly be unleashed. For the vast majority of the world, a job is the main source of income. This takes a limited skill set, essentially, and turns it into cash. An evolved peer-to-peer marketplace gives each person the opportunity to monetize their full potential. Having a job is great, but what if you could also earn money with your house, your car, your spare time, or your junk? All these things are greatly facilitated by blockchain technology.
1) 4 Reasons Cryptocurrency Still Isn't Mainstream, CNBC.
2) Arcade City.
4) bitcoin: A Peer-to-Peer Electronic Cash System, bitcoin.org.
5) Microlending Trends: Startups Look to Blockchain for Loans, Coindesk.
6) 5miles Launches Cybermiles Blockchain Project to Decentralize the Online Marketplace, Forbes.