Prediction platform Augur is fast attracting fans, at least if new data is any indication.
Revealed exclusively to CoinDesk, figures from Predictions.Global, a website that allows users to view Augur markets without installing the app, show the platform saw a spike in "open interest" from Sunday to Monday. A metric that denotes how much is being risked on the outcome of real-world events, open interest leapt by 51 percent to more than $325,000 over the period.
That news comes less than a week after Augur's launch, at which time it quickly (but briefly) became one of the top 5 applications on ethereum. One of the first large-scale applications to be deployed on the world's second-largest blockchain, it's believed the market could one day become a large-scale vehicle for the crowd-sourcing of human knowledge and expertise.
Still, while it's early days for that aim, the data makes clear Augur has enjoyed rapid growth in the sum of money users have put on the line, and that the number and variety of markets is increasing. Predictions.Global's data also underscores the speed at which Augur markets are attracting funds.
Open interest surpassed $100,000 on July 11 – the first full day of betting – then rose to $200,000 on Sunday and $300,000 Monday.
In this way, the figures add to the growing data on the new product, most of which paint a similar picture.
Another data provider, DappRadar, which measures the total transaction volume passing through Augur's smart contracts (rather than open interest), has found over 3,000 ether has traded on the platform since launch (worth nearly $1.5 million at the current exchange rates), with more than one-third of that total trading within the past 24 hours.
God and ether
Still, in other ways, uses of Augur are arguably becoming more diverse. Predictions.Global's data shows a steady rise in the number of prediction markets created by Augur users, to nearly 320 at the time of writing.
To be sure, money at stake is heavily concentrated in a small number of markets, and most have seen no betting activity at all.
A single market – for whether the price of ether will exceed $500 at the end of the year – accounts for around half the open interest on the platform (nearly $150,000) and drove most of the increase in open interest over the past 24 hours.
And of course, as one might expect from an open, decentralized platform, users have offered some frivolous predictions.
For example, more than one market solicits bets on the existence of God, to be determined (in one case) by news media reports before January 1, 2020. (Interestingly, the app shows that someone is willing stump for a "yes" on the God question, if they can find someone to take the bet.)
The variety of markets that have sprung up is notable, too.
"We've seen terrific US dollar volume, terrific market creation growth, innovation in the types of markets created and their characteristics in terms of how folks are starting to use the platform," said Ryan Berckmans, co-founder of Predictions.Global.
He specifically pointed to Liquidity Health, a user that has created markets for the spread of epidemic diseases such as human-borne Nipah virus. Liquidity Health's goal is to "fight disease with better predictions," according to its Twitter account.
While skeptics might worry that it's creating a financial incentive to spread viruses, Augur co-founder Joey Krug told CoinDesk that such applications of the platform are "actually really interesting" and could provide "a lot of useful information."
"I'm less concerned about a person trying to spread a disease to make money off of it."
Other creative uses of the platform have emerged, including an attempt to introduce accountability to the ICO space. MedCredits, which plans to raise money through a token sale, has created a market to bet on whether it will adhere to its roadmap, releasing an application on ethereum's "mainnet" – or live blockchain – by October 15.
Around $5,000 is at stake, and the odds of MedCredits succeeding have climbed from 20 percent to 85 percent at the time of writing.
Users vs bugs
But while the data above might give the impression that Augur is thriving, there's one important metric that's less encouraging.
According to DappRadar, the platform's daily userbase peaked at 265 the day it launched, briefly pushing Augur past CryptoKitties in rankings of the most popular dapps. User numbers have declined since, and at the time of writing, the figure stands at 113 over the past 24 hours.
Krug offered a potential explanation, though he said it was just an "intuitive guess." People might have tried it during the first couple of days, but been discouraged by bugs, he said, which is reasonable to assume, based on complaints about Augur's user experience on forums and social media.
The Forecast Foundation has issued four updated versions of the app since launch, as well as working with the ethereum node provider Infura to improve connectivity.
As these bugs have been fixed, Krug said, it is possible that users – even if there are fewer of them currently – have become more comfortable that Augur is reliable, so they've put more capital onto the platform. The first markets are scheduled to settle this week, paying out users who bet correctly. If all goes well, that milestone could make users even more willing to stake their money on the platform.
The ultimate goal, said Krug, is for Augur to allow users "to create markets on essentially anything" without paying high fees to financial intermediaries. For now, high gas costs on ethereum and other technical limitations mean that goal is years away. But Krug is confident that the technical issues can be sorted out.
"Right now, what we're doing is looking up the exponential curve."
Crystal ball image via Shutterstock