This year’s crypto market crash was the worst in the short history of the asset class. That much is true, simply given how many more people were affected in the wake of it as opposed to previous crypto crashes. But is crypto dead as a result? The answer is a bit loaded. What is certain, though, is that a fundamental change will be occurring in the crypto market for years to come.
The past two years have been great for crypto’s exposure to the mainstream. At this point, everybody and their mother has at least heard of Bitcoin (BTC-USD). Last fall, countless guides cropped up in response to this, telling people how to navigate crypto questions from family members over the holidays. Celebrities started flocking to non-fungible tokens (NFTs) through Bored Ape Yacht Club as well.
Throughout 2021, the market capitalization of crypto ebbed and flowed. However, investors can see exactly the point when crypto hit the mainstream via Dogecoin‘s (DOGE-USD) bull run early that year. At that point, the global crypto market cap shattered through the $1 trillion mark. It then proceeded to climb north of $2 trillion by the end of 2021, aided by BTC’s $67,000 all-time high, the booming success of play-to-earn blockchain games, the foray of NFTs into mainstream art and the speculative wonders of pupcoins like Doge and Shiba Inu (SHIB-USD).
Indeed, crypto seemed like an unstoppable force not too long ago. But there’s a major fault line in the industry which was oft overlooked as the asset class continued to make investors rich. Crypto was simply not made to exist like it did during the 2021 gravy train.
Crypto: Made for Transactions, Not Gains
When Satoshi Nakamoto introduced Bitcoin to the world in 2008, the pseudonymous programmer likely didn’t envision anything like we saw at the height of the crypto bull market. BTC priced in at well over $67,000 apiece and the “hodl” philosophy — buy the dip and never sell — took over. Now, Bitcoin whales collectively own nearly 46% of the coin’s total supply.
This is just not what Bitcoin was meant to be, however. Sure, the price of BTC was expected to go up some, but that was originally only expected to be through the growth of its practical use cases. At its core, BTC was designed as a mode of transaction for the unbanked. Bitcoin is an alternative to fiat, allowing users to operate outside of the control of central banks.
Of course, Bitcoin’s not the only crypto like this. Although made as a joke, Dogecoin operates to the same exact ends. Privacy coins like Monero (XMR-USD) and Zcash (ZEC-USD) do the same thing as well, with the added goal of making these transactions completely anonymous.
Ethereum (ETH-USD), the second-largest currency which saw its own price renaissance last year, operates on a different motive. However, ETH is not hell-bent on gains either. Vitalik Buterin and the seven other Ethereum cofounders launched the project with the intention of making a blockchain with a built-in programming language. This created an ecosystem of decentralized apps (dapps) which could be immutable and better-performing in contrast to the World Wide Web we know today.
Projects Continue to Innovate After Market Crash
Continuing down the list of top cryptos, investors will notice each project was built with a grand vision in mind — ones that never explicitly involve going up in price. Layer-1 projects like Cardano (ADA-USD), Solana (SOL-USD) and Polkadot (DOT-USD) are competitors to Ethereum, sharing the project’s dapp vision. Meanwhile, Tether (USDT-USD), Binance USD (BUSD-USD) and USD Coin (USDC-USD) can’t gain as stablecoins. The list goes on.
So, is crypto dead in the wake of this recent crash? No, not from an innovation perspective.
These projects aren’t phased by market volatility, because at the end of the day, they focus on grander visions. The trap investors get caught in when moving from stocks to crypto is believing that crypto developers care about coin prices the same way traditional companies concern themselves with shareholders and stock prices. This isn’t the case. In fact, it’s quite common for projects to forbid talking about price speculation on official channels.
Developers haven’t ceased innovating since the crypto crash. Investors are still seeing some massive rollouts and upgrades. Ethereum is on the verge of its biggest upgrade ever and Cardano is soon to follow with its own hard fork. Ripple (XRP-USD) is also working closely with banks on implementing a new worldwide banking communications standard.
Is Crypto Dead? To a Certain Demographic, Yes.
The question “Is crypto dead?” comes down to simple framing. Are you an investor looking to 10x your investment on some speculative token with no practical use cases? Are you buying an art NFT and banking on some celebrity to pick up their own from the same collection? If so, the answer to the “dead” question is probably yes.
The market crash is sending crypto into capitulation and the chances we see something like 2021 happening again are not very high. Put simply, the industry had caught lightning in a jar. Prices were already on the rise, more investors than ever were participating in the market, the pandemic had created extremely favorable macroeconomic conditions and — most importantly — there were no regulations.
Nearly every country is regulating crypto now, especially the United States. The U.S. Securities & Exchange Commission is massively clamping down on projects, particularly in the wake of the crash. Moving forward, investigations and legal challenges could hamper even the most innovative projects in the space. There’s not much room, then, for the more speculative plays to crop up and immediately soar like before.
Crypto investing isn’t completely dead. But it is certainly much less favorable to those only interested in speculative investing and the potential for massive gains. The recent crash brought an end to yet another speculative asset bubble; first there was the Dotcom bubble, then the housing bubble and now here we are. Obviously, web stocks didn’t disappear entirely, nor did housing. But they haven’t looked anything like they did at their peak hype. Neither will crypto.
On the date of publication, Brenden Rearick did not hold (either directly or indirectly) any positions in the securities mentioned in this article. The opinions expressed in this article are those of the writer, subject to the InvestorPlace.com Publishing Guidelines.u.