Right from Bitcoin, the vision of most of the blockchains have been to enable peer-to-peer payments without going through a financial institution. Since then there is this mad race where every business launching an ICO is trying to make its cryptocurrency transactional and achieve mass adoption.
However, as I mentioned in my last article, every business thinks that they are advancing the blockchain for masses by either inventing new “utility tokens” that power their platform, app or game; or coming up with new methods for the famous tokens to be spent more easily.
But in my view, to build a blockchain application that works with the masses, it needs to solve these four fundamental problems:
The everyday shopper does neither has the time, nor has the care about the cryptocurrency market. All they see, hear or read are the tantalizing click bait news on the mainstream media on “How Bitcoin price plunged 30% in 3 days” or “How this man bought his $3M house with Bitcoins”
This creates a general distrust when it comes to using cryptocurrencies for everyday purchases, and people tend to HODL (hold) these tokens more like assets.
Now I understand the irony here. As an ICO, while you want people to use your tokens as currency, you also (secretly) wish that the value of your token (w.r.t fiat) continues to appreciate.
While there is no one way about it, we had the same problem while thinking about our payment platform and ICO. And what we came up with is a two asset model leveraging the Stellar blockchain infrastucture. Essentially what we did is
- Created an internal “credit” token that records the value equivalent to the fiat a user deposits with us. (Something like how gift-cards or iTunes credit work). This allowed us to store the fiat value in a fixed value cryptocurrency.
- Created our ICO token. This token is intended to be the “protocol or utility token” which the payment network accepts.
- When a payment is to be made, we manage the “just in time conversion” from the credit token to the ICO token. Since the conversion happens from a crypto to crypto, it is free (thanks Stellar Distributed Exchange), and instant (e.g how you pay with debit card)
If it sounds a bit confusing, please check my detailed article Our approach to solve the Cryptocurrency Volatility problem
It would be safe to say that 99% of the world’s population today does not understand blockchain. Try convincing a regular shopper to buy a popular coin on an exchange, change it for some altcoin, get a crypto wallet, protect their private key, send the tokens to the wallet, pay to a public key… it’s not going to work
To make a cryptocurrency easily accessible, one needs to abstract these complexities and provide a seamless and familiar experience. If the user finds it complicated to acquire your token, its adoption will fail.
E.g If you are an app, provide mechanisms for in-app purchase, if you are a game or platform, reward users with your tokens for their activities. But whatever you do — Manage the process for them (just like you don’t care how your bank stores or transfers your money as long as you can see the right balance in your account)
Availability (or Acceptability)
This brings us to the classic phone or fax machine problem. To build a communication platform, a system must be available so that sender could send and the receiver can accept the communication method.
To build a popular payments platform, every shopper should be able to spend and every merchant should be able to accept your tokens. This is only possible when the system (method) is a) generally available, and b) like I mentioned before not complex. Just like the fax company, your business should provide the consumers the method (and equipment if required) and manage the process in the background.
For a blockchain technology to be successful in a payments environment, it needs to be highly scalable, fast committing, low cost and easy to integrate with existing financial and compliance systems.
However, what I find surprising is that almost every new token issued for the purpose of ICOs are created using Ethereum’s ERC20 standard, despite of that fact that the blockchain suffers from massive transaction backlogs and big swings in fees. Tokens issued on the Bitcoin blockchain have the same issues.
Hence at TillBilly, we chose Stellar. Stellar provides TillBilly a distributed payments infrastructure to build scalable and affordable applications
Besides the scalability and performance, Stellar also provides advantages such as
- Ability to do voting, dividends or awards all in the same network
- Ability to connect with existing banking and financial systems
- Multi-signatures for added security
I believe that for a blockchain application to truly achieve mass adoption, it needs to be so seamless that it’s practically “invisible”. At TillBilly, Blockchain for us is the infrastructure, and cryptocurrencies are the network packets that move through it.