Bigger, Better, Faster, Same – Crypto's Builders Are Upgrading, Not Breaking Ground

Are folks already out of new ideas?

AccessTimeIconJul 26, 2021 at 5:41 p.m. UTC
Updated Apr 3, 2023 at 2:16 p.m. UTC

Everyone's building decentralized finance, even bitcoiners.

Jack Dorsey announced a new division of Square that was going to build an open financial infrastructure using Bitcoin as its basis. RSK and Sovryn have already been doing decentralized finance (DeFi) for Bitcoin for a while now.

Does anyone want to try to come up with new applications for blockchain technology any longer? It doesn't seem that way.

This article is excerpted from The Node, CoinDesk's daily roundup of the most pivotal stories in blockchain and crypto news. You can subscribe to get the full newsletter here

Bitcoin was a step change in technology because it proved that cash value can exist online in a purely digital way. Ethereum was a step change because it proved computing could be distributed trustlessly.

Nothing else has leveled up the internet since, at least as far as I can tell. Since Bitcoin and Ethereum, every project since has been an attempt to slightly improve what's already come so far.

This isn't so bad, but it's disappointing that all the new changes that are faster, better, smarter versions of what's been done already only seem interested in copying the applications to date as well (mainly DeFi and NFTs).

Some examples: The mood out of the Tezos ecosystem seems to be all about non-fungible tokens. That's a lot of NEAR's vibe these days, too.

Solana got a pretty nice DEX built and it too has moved fast into NFTs, with a little more of an intellectual property orientation, it seems.

Polkadot has appeared to be going more for the DeFi angle, which makes sense because the Polkadot and Ethereum communities go way back.

You get my point.

The only project that even claims to be breaking genuinely new ground is DFinity with its Internet Computer. I don't quite see it, but I'm also not completely dismissive of the idea that it might be. But, much like the other examples, it's not trying to run anything fundamentally different yet. When it went live, it announced applications in DeFi, social networking, infrastructure services and a provenance application – all nice lines of business but nothing we haven't seen before.

And, look, incremental improvements got TVs from bulky cathode ray tube sets to liquid-organic-dilithium-D^6-ODANG displays today, so it's not for nothing! There's a lot of value to be captured in the whole incremental improvement hustle!

But there's a point in a technology when it feels like blinders have fallen on its builders and inventors can't see beyond those limits.

Greatness isn't born of incremental improvements on what's come before.

With everyone but everyone building exchanges, DeFi and NFTs – that is, the same things as everyone else – this all feels much like the cities around the world vying to be "The Next Silicon Valley." None of them have done it and none of them will.

Even if technology's HQ relocates someday, it won't be because that place did Silicon Valley better, but because it found a paradigm-shifting formula.

Greatness isn't born of incremental improvements on what's come before. Greatness is born of changing what we believe to be possible, and I can't help but think that there is a bit more greatness to be squeezed out of this distributed ledger idea.


Please note that our privacy policy, terms of use, cookies, and do not sell my personal information has been updated.

CoinDesk is an award-winning media outlet that covers the cryptocurrency industry. Its journalists abide by a strict set of editorial policies. In November 2023, CoinDesk was acquired by the Bullish group, owner of Bullish, a regulated, digital assets exchange. The Bullish group is majority-owned by; both companies have interests in a variety of blockchain and digital asset businesses and significant holdings of digital assets, including bitcoin. CoinDesk operates as an independent subsidiary with an editorial committee to protect journalistic independence. CoinDesk employees, including journalists, may receive options in the Bullish group as part of their compensation.