In August of 1991, Tim Berners-Lee brought the first public website online. It was a simple plaintext site describing a new project called “The World Wide Web”, explaining how to set up a server, create web pages and search for content. Two years later, the release of the Mosaic browser provided users with the first-ever graphical interface with which to browse the web. Within one year the number of websites increased by over 2000%. The seeds of the dot-com bubble had been sewn.
Web 1.0, as it would later be called, was a largely static experience. The focus was on delivering content, and building tools to allow users to find it. The internet giants of the 1990’s were search engines and e-commerce portals. The approach to this new landscape was still very brick and mortar; a more effective way to distribute your company flyers or catalog.
Still, the future was looking bright. Favorable economic conditions and an irrational exuberance towards this nascent technology set in motion a speculative mania, as investors blindly threw money at anything even remotely related to the internet. It was a time of hockey stick growth models, with companies operating at a loss in an attempt to get big fast, dominate their sector, and figure out the details later. Fortunes were made overnight. We were ushering in a new paradigm and anything was possible.
But as with all economic cycles, it had to end. In March of 2000 the tide broke, and as investors began to discover that exponential growth simply isn’t sustainable, the world watched as tech giant after tech giant collapsed and filed for bankruptcy. On October 9, 2002 the NASDAQ bottomed at 1114.11, down over 78% from the peak of the bubble. A combined 5 trillion dollars of market value was erased across the tech sector. The party was over.
Even in the aftermath of the dot-com bubble, the dreamers never stopped dreaming. In the early 2000’s a new vision of the world wide web began to emerge - one where content was dynamic and driven by users, where the focus was on interconnectivity and the fostering of community. This move away from simple content delivery, and towards direct user participation and curation of would later come to be known as Web 2.0. And it was about to change everything.
In 2006, Lev Grossman wrote that Web 2.0 would “not only change the world, but also change the way the world changes.'' Fast forward to today, and his prediction could not be more accurate. Social media’s profound impact can be seen and felt across all facets of our lives. It has shaped and polarized our political landscape, toppled oppressive regimes and brought light to atrocities in far away places. It has impacted our culture and our language, and even our core definition of self.
Many parallels can be drawn between the dot-com bubble and the recent ICO bubble of 2017. In both cases we saw the financial stars align to create a perfect storm of speculative investment and unsustainable growth, wealth generated and erased again seemingly overnight. Prior to the bubble the comparison was often made that the blockchain industry today is the internet of 1994. Furthering that comparison, perhaps today we stand in 2002, shaking our heads with the perfect vision of hindsight, bruised and battered and wondering what’s to come.
While blockchain may be the beginning of the Web 3.0, the decentralized web, we must not ignore the foundations laid to get us here or the lessons they offer. Who were the biggest winners of 2017? By a wide margin it was the exchanges - digital shovel salesmen who fared every bit as well on the way down as they did on the way up. If blockchain is to be the next iteration of the internet, the exchanges can be seen as our search engines. They are the gatekeepers, the tools we use to navigate the market and the first major point of exposure for new users.
Just as in the early days of the internet, when search engines came and went, so too the exchange space is a highly competitive one. Some will argue that it is already an over saturated market, and that the key players are so deeply embedded that it would be foolish to even try. But at Adara, we haven’t stopped dreaming. Where others see fierce competition, we see untapped opportunity. While existing exchanges find new ways to innovate in the same narrow band, fighting over smaller and smaller pieces of the same pie, we set our eyes on something so much bigger.
Adara is the next step in the evolution of cryptocurrency exchanges. We are revolutionizing the industry by bridging the gap between where we talk and where we trade. We are redefining the idea of markets as a zero-sum game, creating a system where the way to get ahead is not alone, but together. We are building tools to align the incentives of the entire ecosystem, to cast light upon the darkness and show that unified as a community, we are more than the sum of our parts.