Back in 1994, a few years before the internet would go mainstream, the company Netscape – which had created the first ever web browser – went public. At the time, Netscape’s stock price was more than $58 a share. The company’s IPO ended up raising $2.2 billion, which was the largest IPO up until that point. This was also the year when the term “dot-com” came into existence. The fact that “dot-com” was so widely used showed just how big the internet was expected to become. And it didn’t take long for the dot-com bubble to burst. Netscape’s share prices plunged from $58 a share to $
It’s been a tough year for crypto investors, but one investor compared the current period to the early days of the internet. In an interview with the Telegraph, Tim Draper, a venture capitalist and early backer of Tesla, Skype and Hotmail, compared the crypto market to the dot-com bubble of the late 1990s. He said: “We went from the telephone to the personal computer to the internet in about 20 years. The crypto community is like the infant internet. Right now we’re at the cusp and we’re going to move very quickly.” (Telegraph, 14 Jan. 2018)
As you may have heard, there’s an interesting debate going on about whether cryptocurrency is approaching a “Netscape moment” or not. For those that don’t know, the original Netscape browser was the first commercially successful web browser, and it was released in 1994. While it was initially free, it generated an enormous amount of revenue as people began to use it, which ultimately led to the browser wars of 1995 and 1996 (with Microsoft eventually winning the browser wars with Internet Explorer.) While Netscape was revolutionary at the time, it ultimately didn’t succeed as a company, and the browser was eventually discontinued in 2003.
This year marks the 30th anniversary of the appearance of the first web page on the World Wide Web, which means that it takes almost half a century to clearly recall the lightning-fast progress, the false starts and stops, the trial and error that ultimately gave us what is now the basis of life in the 21st century. In 2021, we’ll take the internet for granted, but it’s taken decades to get to this point. Over the years, barriers to its adoption have been broken down, and there are clear signs that this new technology will fundamentally change the way the world lives and works. Now, the meteoric rise of bitcoin (BTC), the crushing IPO of Coinbase and the appointment of Gary Gensler, professor of blockchain at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, as head of the SEC are clear signs that another technology is about to change on a similar scale: Cryptocurrency. Do these recent developments mean that cryptocurrencies are approaching their Netscape moment? In the early 1990s, the Internet consisted of a connection through a telephone modem to three basic services – AOL, CompuServe and Prodigy – that made up what we called the World Wide Wait, illustrating the headache of loading these basic sites. Those of us old enough to have been involved in the early days of the transition to the consumer internet remember well when things changed. In August 1995, Netscape introduced its flagship product Navigator to the public, the first browser that allowed anyone to use the Internet without having to pay for World Wide Wait services. At that point, the Internet became mainstream and created a craze that lasted until the dot-com boom in April 2000, creating a thought pattern among investors and consumers about the Internet and the World Wide Web. Related: Blockchain continues to evolve like the internet: Who will be a crypto-currency hotmail?
Crypto currency timeline Are we there yet?
It is difficult to see the certainty of tomorrow, or at least the future described today, when one is preoccupied with the uncertainty of the present. The technology as a whole may have no end goal, making it as mysterious and enticing as the world of cryptocurrencies. However, it is hard not to see the parallels between the current state of adoption of cryptocurrencies and the Internet as it existed in 1995. Despite several news cycles obsessed with booms and busts in prices, cryptocurrencies remain a playground for early adopters and geeks in terms of actual financial and technological use. Many institutions and professional investors are interested, but the vast majority of large financial institutions have not yet seriously considered it. Related: Institutional investors don’t accept bitcoin, but you do. I think 2021 will be the year that all that changes. The global pandemic of COVID-19 has led to the mass printing of paper money around the world. The cryptocurrency market has a capitalization of about $2 trillion, and bitcoin is in the news every day, perhaps with greater regularity and for a longer period than during the 2017-2018 boom. This new round of hype comes from a gradual increase in general awareness of cryptocurrencies since 2017-2018, with professional investors and institutions even more eager to dip their toes into the waters of cryptocurrencies, even if it’s just setting up an exchange-traded bitcoin fund.
History doesn’t repeat itself, it just rhymes
It seems that cryptocurrencies must be inevitable – id est, vires in numeris. The mathematical school of Thales and Satoshi Nakamoto should also remember this old theorem of the empiricist Immanuel Kant: Nothing has ever been made straight out of the crooked wood of mankind. You can’t put the internet timeline on crypto-currencies and say: Aha! This is when it happens. Some implementation and development deadlines may be further accelerated, while others may be delayed. External events, such as a pandemic, can intervene. Initially thought to halt cryptocurrency markets and innovation, the initial financial panic and the need to liquidate caused the price of the main bitcoin to increase tenfold in the first year of the pandemic. Governments have exposed themselves to monetary danger through debt, and people are more immersed in the online world than ever before, clinging to the cryptocurrencies that dominate much of online life and discussion. Related: How has the COVID-19 pandemic affected the crypto-currency space? The experts’ response One thing is certain: If cryptocurrencies are to survive the Netscape moment, especially in the Western world, they will need the support and cooperation of the US government. Netscape’s time will come when the US government, particularly the SEC, will issue clear rules on fundraising, custody, know-your-customer policies, taxes, investments and transfer rules. It would be even better if the SEC announced that cryptocurrencies are not securities, but an entirely new asset class with its own rules. Related: US has already lost race to regulate cryptocurrencies to Europe by 2020 Gensler, who was recently appointed head of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, has made it clear that he sees potential and value in new digital currencies. He recently announced that there would be some sort of clear regulation in this area that could open the floodgates to billions of dollars of institutional capital. This would be a huge development that could stabilize the fluctuations of IPOs and bring down the price of bitcoin. Related: Crypto-currency-friendly people seek jobs in Biden administration The United States has become a leader in the Internet movement because, in our wisdom, we have allowed e-commerce companies to grow without the burden of sales taxes in state and local jurisdictions. This has enabled the industry to grow to the level it is today. Al Gore may forever forget the day when he praised the US government’s efforts to promote domestic networks and technologies through the High Performance Computing Act of 1991, but the fact remains that the US government’s pro-Internet policies have allowed the Internet to grow so rapidly. Mark Andreesen, who designed Netscape at the time and is at least partially responsible for the invention of the Internet as we know it, said the same thing. Today the US government is at a similar crossroads. Countries like Switzerland, Singapore, Malta, Panama and other market economies have already seen the light, and our collective hope is that those in power are willing to see the wisdom of allowing the cryptocurrency industry to thrive. Investor-friendly rules will keep the US at the forefront of innovation and technology (take note, Gensler). If the United States wants to repeat the history of the past 25 years, a history in which America has become a world leader in technological innovation, they must retrace the paths of their original policies in support of the Internet and pave the way for new cryptographic technology to gain a foothold, as Netscape has done. This article contains no investment advice or recommendations. Any investment or business transaction involves risk, and readers should do their own research before making a decision. The views, thoughts and opinions expressed herein are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect or represent those of Cointelegraph. Karl H. Silver is CEO of Permission.io, a provider of technology solutions for permission-based advertising. Charles previously founded RealAge.com, which used Big Data to connect individuals with advertisers based on their consent. Charles is also co-founder of Reality Shares, an SEC-registered investment advisor with five publicly traded ETFs, and Blockforce Capital, a multi-strategy cryptocurrency hedge fund. Charles is a graduate of the University of Michigan and is a former staff member of a U.S. Congressman.The question of whether or not crypto is in a bubble has been asked by everyone from the New York Times to Wall Street Journal. But while we hear a lot about whether the industry is too hot, we don’t hear much about whether it’s about to undergo a “Netscape moment.”. Read more about crypto dan and let us know what you think.
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