Crypto Terms Become Dirty Words as Bear Market Lingers

Companies are taking steps to mask their industry ties during a time of scandals and losses.

AccessTimeIconJan 11, 2023 at 8:54 p.m. UTC
Updated May 9, 2023 at 4:05 a.m. UTC

For years, drawing attention to your company could be as simple as adding a crypto-y word to your name or touting new cryptocurrency-related initiatives.

From Long Island Iced Tea Corp.’s infamous 2017 decision to rebrand itself as Long Blockchain Corp., which sent its stock soaring, to big-name companies touting Web3 and NFT (non-fungible token) initiatives, a sure-fire way to generate buzz was to yell about your crypto bona fides.

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  • But now, amid a brutal yearlong bear market, even bitcoin miners – which continue to play a central role in powering the biggest cryptocurrency – are shying away from using crypto words. It’s a sign that the scandals and enormous investment losses have taken a toll and suggests that for crypto to reach mainstream adoption, much more work is needed.

    “There's a general desire by companies to distance themselves from the crypto bubble of the last couple years,” D.A. Davidson analyst Chris Brendler said. “It makes it easier when you're dealing with more traditional-finance institutions.”

    The crypto name issue is particularly acute for crypto miners because they need lots of capital and thus must appeal to outside investors. Some of them have ditched “blockchain” from their names. For instance, last week, Riot Blockchain Inc., which is one of the biggest publicly traded bitcoin-mining firms, changed its name to Riot Platforms Inc. (RIOT) and referred to itself as an “increasingly diversified business.” Its stock had tumbled 75% in 2022.

    Applied Blockchain Inc., a miner and data-center operator, became Applied Digital Corp. (APLD) in November. “The company’s refreshed name more accurately reflects its mission, services and broader business offerings to serve customers that require large amounts of computing power for applications,” it said in a statement. Its stock plummeted 92% last year.

    It’s not just miners expressing dissatisfaction with crypto terminology. This week, the head of one of the largest crypto trading firms in the world, Jump Crypto, tweeted about the potential need to step away from some key terms.

    “The words cryptocurrency and smart contracts have set the industry back a fair bit,” Kanav Kariya, Jump Crypto’s president, tweeted. “How do we coalesce around new terms that explain to folks that most tokens aren't intended to be currencies and that on-chain programs/apps aren't intended to be legal contracts?”

    At CES 2023, a tech trade show in Las Vegas held this month, panelists at different sessions showed enthusiasm for the potential of the metaverse, but were not so enthused about industry terms.

    Brian Weiner, CEO of entertainment industry ad and marketing firm The Illusion Factory, said he was stepping away from the term “NFT” and using “digital collectibles” instead because of the negativity associated with NFTs. The idea, he said during his appearance at a panel whose description had included the term “NFTs,” was to “dejargonize” the technology and focus on the experience rather than on how it works.

    During another CES panel, called “Metaverse Media Leadership,” Ted Shilowitz, futurist for Paramount Global, said that while he was “very pro and very bullish on Web3, blockchain underpinnings,” he was very “negative about the terminology of the metaverse,” going so far to claim that the inventor of the term, Neal Stephenson, “will agree [that] the terminology has replaced the reality of what’s going on.”

    Toby Bochan contributed reporting to this story.


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    Aoyon Ashraf

    Aoyon Ashraf is managing editor with more than a decade of experience in covering equity markets

    Eliza Gkritsi

    Eliza Gkritsi is a CoinDesk contributor focused on the intersection of crypto and AI.