Cryptocurrencies Might Not Evolve to Become As Usable As the Internet, MIT Computer Scientist Says

Omar Faridi
  • Cryptocurrencies may not necessarily evolve to the point that they become usable for the average person, MIT Media Labs director, Neha Narula said.
  • Reddit cofounder thinks crypto-related technology is quite immature and is comparable to the internet of the early 1990s.

Neha Narula, the director of MIT Media Lab’s Digital Currency Initiative, and Alexis Ohanian, a best-selling author and co-founder of Reddit, recently discussed the potential impact blockchain technology could have once it matures.

The "Dotcom Bubble"

While there may be concerns regarding the current state of blockchain technology as developers struggle to make them more secure, decentralized, and scalable, it is worth noting that the internet experienced challenges as well during its growth and proliferation such as the the “Dotcom Bubble.”

In the late 1990s and early 2000s, numerous companies tried to rebrand to something associated with “Dotcom” and launched new products in order to gain a competitive edge. Eventually, when the Dotcom bubble burst, several new and legitimate internet-based services became available.

After countless experiments with internet-related business ideas, highly popular and useful platforms were launched such as Facebook, YouTube, Wikipedia, photo sharing website Flickr, among quite a few others.

Commenting on the aftermath of the initial coin offering (ICO) craze of 2017, Ohanian said: 

Now is a good time because it's scattered all the hucksters and scenesters.

Alexis Ohanian

However, the Reddit cofounder and venture capitalist thinks the current state of crypto technology, awareness, and adoption is comparable to that of the internet in the early 1990s.

Netscape Navigator Helped Mass Internet Adoption

Ohanian, whose comments came during the WIRED25 Summit held on October 15th, added that the present state of development of distributed ledger technology (DLT) is comparable to how the internet was, before the launch of once-popular Netscape Navigator (a web browser) in late 1994.

According to Ohanian, Netscape made it a lot more intuitive, easier, and simpler for people to access the internet. He believes a somewhat similar breakthrough in the nascent crypto industry is necessary so that the technology becomes more user-friendly and practical for the average user to adopt.

Narula, a Dartmouth College mathematics graduate and computer science Phd from MIT, thinks that cryptocurrency related technology is in a much more primitive state. She explained that its developmental state is analogous to how the internet was in the late 1970s - well before the emergence and mainstream adoption of the TCP/IP protocol.

Crypto Developing "Faster Than I Ever Thought"

Notably, Narula said we should not assume that digital currencies will become as usable and useful as the internet while acknowledging that they are “developing faster than [she] ever thought [they] would.”

The former senior software engineer at Google also noted:

The internet developed in secret, a little bit. People weren't paying attention in the early days.

Dr. Neha Narula

Because businesses were not much involved in the technological breakthroughs that helped the internet evolve to its present state, academics and developers were not so pressured to meet deadlines, Narula said.

However, blockchain developers are under extreme pressure to quickly develop software as most crypto startups run on very tight budgets and are heavily focused on making profits. This is why “crypto winters”, or the bear market, can be beneficial for the fragile ecosystem’s growth as there’s a lot less pressure from investors, Narula noted.