Minister for Financial Services and the Digital Economy Jane Hume has countered claims that cryptocurrencies are a ‘fad’, while tech leaders and startup founders have likened the industry to the internet in the 90s — one that’s barely getting started.
Speaking at The Australian Financial Review’s Super & Wealth Summit, Hume reportedly said digital assets such as cryptocurrencies and NFTs have “captured hearts and minds” in Australia.
“Don’t be the person in 1995 who said the internet was just a place for geeks and criminals,” she said
Elsewhere, Seek co-founder Matt Rockman also likened today’s crypto sector to the early development of the web.
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Rockman is reportedly putting his money where his mouth is, investing in cryptocurrency asset management firm Magnet Capital.
“It’s very early days in crypto. There are a lot of naysayers out there and a lot of people don’t understand it,” he said
“It’s very analogous to ‘internet 1999’.”
The comments come in response to a speech from the RBA’s outgoing head of payments policy, Tony Richards, who suggested crypto investors are influenced by “fads and fear of missing out”.
Predictably, Aussies in the sector don’t see this ‘fad’ fizzling out anytime soon.
Crypto represents ‘web 3.0’
Blake Cassidy, founder of Aussie crypto micro-investment app Bamboo, agrees that crypto is comparable to the internet in some ways. In others, it’s very different.
Back in the 90s there were huge barriers to entry to the technology. People had to have computers and access to the internet, which excluded billions.
Now everyone has a smartphone and access to crypto markets, meaning uptake has been much more accessible and therefore much faster.
Crypto is also built around “an open-source movement”, Cassidy adds.
“Problems are being solved just once,” he says. That creates a culture of innovation and experimentation that wasn’t necessarily there at the dawn of the internet.
Karl Mohan, General Manager for the APAC region at Crypto.com, calls cryptocurrency ‘web 3.0’.
The first iteration of the internet was all about the sharing of information, he explains. Then we moved on to social media, with users creating content that was effectively owned, controlled and monetised by corporations.
Web 3.0 is not only cryptocurrency but the underlying blockchain technology, he says. It gives people control over their own data and identity online.
The revolution here is around the ability to have immutable data, Mohan adds, citing vaccine certificates as an example use case.
“If they were on the blockchain, it would be highly impossible to fabricate [them].”
Scratching the surface of blockchain capabilities
For Mohan, there’s no question as to whether or not crypto is going mainstream. A lot of the global banks, including Commonwealth Bank in Australia, are already offering crypto trading where they previously denounced it as dangerous.
What we will see is an uptick in adoption, and fast.
Certainly awareness of cryptocurrencies is going mainstream, Cassidy notes. When it comes to the possibilities of blockchain tech permeating everything we do in the same way the web does, “we’re still a long way off”.
In 20 years, this will be technology that will form the basis not only of our money, but of our payments and settlement, contracts, voting, data privacy, and how we interact with each other digitally, he predicts.
And as Mohan notes, in the early days of the internet, it was mainly used by universities sharing files, he notes. That was less than 30 years ago, and already it’s practically impossible to consider running any business without the internet.
With blockchain, we’re only scratching the surface.