The Dilbert Strip for July 22, 2013 Dilbert comics ...

Notes on where the next rally may come from.

Originally posted as a reply, but reproduced here:
In time Ethereum as a platform can regroup and better itself, shaking off the ghosts - just as Bitcoin has done time and time again.
What it needs is a raft of useful DAPPs that provide tangible value to its users, ideally in an environment where the architecture itself is invisible. For example Facebook and Google are ultimately distributed through the transmission protocol HTTP (groundbreaking at the time), but the top and bottom layers are now so distant that nobody gives it a second thought and most people don't even know what it is. Ethereum needs to be the abstraction layer underneath genuinely useful services that can't run better on another platform, and then evaporate into collective unconsciousness as a robust foundation that few people outside of developer circles encounter 'in the nude' any more. When you can do something novel of value on Ethereum - and you don't know you're using Ethereum - then I'd say that's one of the maturity gates passed through.
I struggle to find great examples because in all honesty blockchain-based distributed end-user application computing is about the worst performance you could possibly get outside of using pigeons to transmit data, and decentralization alone is not a useful property of something like a social network or search engine. It may eventually find niches in such things as un-shut-downable online markets (dark and light), unstoppable non-realtime communication channels, or the big one; document transaction management signing - a mutlibillion dollar emerging market that I personally find Ethereum to be highly complementary to.
Useful DAPPs built on Ethereum will most likely be machine-machine interface elements more similar to APIs than human software applications, for use when routing of data through the blockchain is of specific value, such as legal notary archival. The first good enterprise-grade blockchain-based document caching and traversal solution for lawyers will bridge worlds and make millions - largely because Ethereum is useless as a client computer but unbeatable as an immutable ledger.
In addition to applications, Ethereum needs to support a diverse and successful portfolio of DAOs that within a short time frame can prove their worth as investment vehicles, returning greater-than-ipo returns to their investors without encountering technical problems. These might preferably be small DAOs with only tens to hundreds of investors, who can turn around real profit in under twelve months - think small Kickstarters and not venture capital - it's safer.
These DAOs need not necessarily be ownerless or without centralized oversight, nor would that seem recommendable. An example might be an automated web hosting company that can automatically buy excess storage or bandwidth from other nodes running in storage or data centers, and then rent it out on-demand to yet more DAOs who need web hosting or data provisioning for their business services - making a profit for its shareholders and paying for its own contract gas. One of the earliest descriptions of DAOs was that of DACs - totally automated robot companies that once released can provide far-reaching value. Think of how Ethereum could power the transactional backbone of an autonomous Amazon AWS-like operation.
As to the rally - In the non-virtual space Venture Capitalists invest significant seed money in new businesses with powerful business models. But it should be keenly noted that they almost never do so unless the business is already generating revenue or a marketable user base. They don't invest in ideas, they invest in demonstrated potential. (Relevant Dilbert). All smart money and savvy investors operate on similar principals. This is important so it's worth stating again: real money doesn't invest in ideas. It invests in demonstrated potential. So far Ethereum has demonstrated how to lose money, not how to make it as a business platform.
Now the first speculative bubble is almost over (maybe there are more, maybe not), I believe that the next time Ethereum The Token (ETH coin) will really accumulate true (non-speculative) value is when its ecosystem starts to deliver tangible and quantifiable financial returns for the DAPP developers and early investors of the DAOs to come - that's when we'll see real growth.
Up to now the platform has proved nothing save for being an overvalued and grossly overcomplicated money-transmission network, which is now suffering a trust and public image problem.
So what will spark a rally?
Well, now speculative confidence has evaporated and the only applied use-case has wound up, it will take the ecosystem starting to live up to its own idealistic hype of providing end-user value and genuine DAO returns to reinvigorate interest. As another user commented: "would you put your money in any smart contract now?" It will take a new generation of even braver investors to take the project back to its former glory.
In the short term ETH is now dwindling as just another post-bust speculative altcoin. The fork will obliterate the price in a lose-lose outcome and dark times are ahead for ETH token prices. But Ethereum was never about the token price - it was about the applications that can run on the EVM. So the token price may crumble but Ethereum's potential is unchanged from a week ago. It will just take real-world transformation of that potential into real results to spur the next wave of interest.
To challenge Bitcoin as a store of value and money transmission network? Probably never. To transcend its own hype and become trustworthy as a valued business platform? Perhaps 24-36 months.
One must also consider the remote possibility that the Ethereum experiment is for all intents and purposes finished, and its creators will learn lessons and move on to other greater projects. I reference Project Xanadu which was actually a more ambitious predecessor to the World Wide Web that, despite being the visionary creation of some very bright minds and light years ahead of its competition, was beset by problems and was eventually abandoned by the people who went on to build the WWW. Xanadu is what the web was supposed to have become, and in many ways even now the web fails to live up to the original goals - but most would argue that we have a robust and world-changing platform anyway.
Ethereum may not be 'it'. It may be too ambitious and its DAO ramifications too poorly understood. Maybe it's a little early. Maybe the time isn't quite yet, but perhaps through this turbulence something even greater will eventually emerge that can do only half as much but ten times better.
As William Gibson said — "The future is already here – it's just not evenly distributed"
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