I’ve worked with WordPress for 14 years (I’m now CMO at Angry Creative) at this point so I inevitably look at blockchain and blockchain-inspired projects from that perspective: that of the open web. In this 3-part series I’ll cover some of the broad trends in cryptocurrency and blockchain technologies while considering their potential impacts on WordPress—and those who use it.
(You can read my previous article on blockchain here.)
History of Cryptocurrency and Blockchain Technologies
Bitcoin’s genesis block (the first ever block in the blockchain) was generated in 2009, just six years after WordPress’ first official release. It was a revolution in digital money that combined new and old ideas about using cryptography in relation to wealth. It can also be seen as the trigger for a Cambrian Explosion of technologies now known as cryptocurrencies and blockchain.
Cryptocurrencies and blockchain went through a major market cycle in 2017 and 2018 (aka the crypto winter). That’s when I decided to take the red pill and find out what all the fuss was about. Looking back, that time was a wild west of Bitcoin price action, ICO (Initial Coin Offering) crowdfunding creating millionaires in days and a whole sackful of promises that blockchain could change the world. But the hype followed the BTC price through a major bear market and a lot of folks, often having lost money, became disillusioned.
The Fall and Rise of Bitcoin
People went to prison for securities fraud, high profile projects failed and Bitcoin’s price eventually retraced all the way from $20K to under $4K, leading many to declare that Bitcoin was dead. But the blockchain ecosystem did not stop—not even close. Bitcoin solved its high fees problem. Many projects guarded their treasuries carefully and have continued to build since the last cycle. Institutions from corporates to traditional finance to payment processors have acquiesced to the idea that cryptocurrencies are here to stay.
Over that same time, the web we use today has increasingly suffered from very real issues of mistrust, disinformation, piracy, plagiarism and broken economics. For example, think of the decline in revenues for many publishers, the open battles between Facebook and the Australian government, the Russian election meddling, and the accelerating impressiveness of deep fake technologies.
Before we dive in, a quick note on environmental concerns. Bitcoin and many other cryptocurrencies rely on massive amounts of computing power to secure the network. There have been valid and serious concerns about this, in particular relating to the use of non-renewable energy sources. Far smarter people than I have written about this in considerable detail. For now, I’ll just say it’s definitely an issue worthy of both discussion and action; it’s not as simple as the headlines make out.
Why This Content Series?
I believe that this new generation of crypto (and crypto-related) projects is here to stay, that it has the potential to help address some of the challenges with the web of today and that it’s not a question of if WordPress will be disrupted, but when, how and by whom. Will we disrupt ourselves and remain in some control, or wait to be disrupted by external actors?
I wanted to write this content series to exhort folks in WordPress to learn more about these technologies, think about how they can be valuable, and consider ways we can disrupt this incredible project ourselves.
Don’t limit your attention to the headlines or price action! By all means invest/speculate/gamble if you want and can afford to do so; investing small sums was the way I forced myself to pay attention to the space. But please go a step beyond. Read some white papers, look at the code and data, dip your toe into the communities (I’m using Ethereum as the example here for continuity rather than any other motive).
I think you’ll feel comfortable but excited. Crypto is open source; it relies on being open source. But it’s radically open source—all the data in the blockchain is also open to see. There are confluences in technologies too. Sure, smart contract languages like Solidity are as new as the protocols they are designed for but there’s also heavy use of React in creating dapps (decentralized applications).
I hope you’ll come along for the ride and that this content series will inspire the WordPress community to prepare for, weather and profit from the impacts of blockchain technologies on the WordPress project and community.
Read the second post in this series, 6 Blockchain-Inspired Projects that WordPressers Should Check Out.