Today we take a look at some of the more interesting and fruitful projects inspired by cryptocurrency and the blockchain to bear encouraging results this year, in a reminder that even in down market years, some terrific development is still going on by brilliant teams trying to revolutionize technology and improve life experience as we know it.

2018 is on track to end as one of the worst years for bitcoin and cryptocurrency on record, but that doesn’t mean there wasn’t a lot of innovation going on in the background of all the negative clamorings that seemed to dominate everybody’s attention. Long periods of bear market activity are when the truly great and innovative projects are sussed out from those less so or that only exist because they are seeking to ride the trend.

By now, it is pretty well established that in the last quarter of 2017, the crypto market as a whole was overvalued, the result of a frenzy that was artificially propelled by price manipulation in bitcoin. Large swaths of FOMO (or “fear of missing out”) driven investors all piled into cryptocurrency-related investments without much consideration for the long-term prospects of different projects. It’s safe to say that a lot of blockchain-based ventures gathered a lot of capital they perhaps wouldn’t have earned under normal circumstances, some of these may or may not include:

  • the fraudulent Floyd Mayweather / DJ Khaled endorsed Centra Tech ICO ($32 million lost)
  • the largest Ponzi scheme – crypto or not – since Bernie Madoff, Bitconnect ($500 million lost)
  • the rise and fall of several notable Bitcoin forks:
    1) Bitcoin Gold (BTG) – victims of a successful 51% attack,
    2) Bitcoin Diamond (BCD) – maliciously-designed Electrum wallet clients stole BTC from its users,
    3) Bitcoin Private (BTCP) – recently discovered to contain an extra 2 million coins previously unaccounted for, and
    4) Bitcoin SV (BSV) – technically a fork of a fork which never really had plans to be its own coin and has plummeted in price since its inception.

Indeed, roughly 80% of all ICOs launched in 2017 were thought to be fraudulent (or at least have aspects that could be construed as fraudulent), meaning that billions of dollars have gone towards lining the pockets of swindlers over the past 2 years alone. However, there were also dozens of legitimate projects flying under the radar, quietly building themselves without exhibiting any of the flash or the glamor of bigger, attention-grabbing projects.

While it’s true that very few coins escaped the grips of this year’s bear market, there were many that had enough conviction to continue development in the face of adversity, strong enough in their belief that they could succeed in adding something worthwhile and that they would eventually be successful. In short, 2018 wasn’t all bad, and we’re going to prove it to you now. For the remainder of this article we will discuss some projects that we found to be particularly noteworthy, potentially even “diamonds in the crypto rough.”

 

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#1. Decentraland (MANA)

What it is: a token used to purchase “virtual land” and services within an Ethereum-based virtual world.

Having completed its ICO back in the 3rd quarter of 2017 (in which it raised over $26 million), Decentraland really started to pick up steam throughout 2018, with its native currency MANA being one of a handful of tokens to fare positively against bitcoin over the year and end the year with a token price significantly higher than its ICO price. Decentraland is one of the first and foremost blockchain-based virtual real estate platforms. Though much of its design and functionality is still in the beta stages, it has plans to create a 360 degree, highly customizable virtual world in which users can develop applications, run businesses and interact with others powered by smart contracts on the Ethereum blockchain.

The project first got started in 2015 when a bitcoin-like Proof of Work algorithm was first used to allocate “land” based on a pixel-formed grid to participating miners. In August 2017, the platform-native MANA token was distributed to purchasers during a contribution period, which allows users to claim parcels of digital land and communicate with one another. By the end of the year, claims to land within the Decentraland VR environment began, and a number of “land auctions” were conducted throughout the year.

The MANA token has already enjoyed an immense amount of success during the short time it has been in existence, surprisingly doubling as one of the only profitable or “safe haven” crypto investments in 2018. Decentraland virtual land auctions have consistently sold out, with every individual parcel of land being sold (for MANA, which is subsequently “burned” or taken out of existence by the Decentraland team).

What is driving the project’s success? Behind it is a highly-motivated team of individuals working to create a virtual environment that runs on open standards. Physics engines, sprites, gameplay mechanics and Ethereum DApp interfaces are all being fashioned in a well-coordinated manner that will allow any developer to design buildings, objects, avatars and vehicles that can co-exist within the Decentraland grid.

The team has been making great strides, and sure enough, Decentraland’s vision of a decentralized, virtual world is slowly coming together one piece at a time. It is truly one of the few multi-million dollar ICO-funded projects to be able to follow through with the plans outlined on its roadmap while rewarding early investors with profits in the meantime.

 

#2. Endor Protocol (EDR)

What it is: a token that allows access to blockchain-based, artificial intelligence-driven predictive services, based on encrypted data sources.

Besides having a cool name, the Endor Protocol is a notch above most other blockchain projects from an intellectual and academic standpoint. Endor is the first fully automated, open protocol for data-based prediction services. Its goal is to help companies make informed, data-driven decisions that can guide their business operations. For a fee paid in the form of EDR tokens, companies (and eventually anybody) can ask the platform questions (for example, “Will the price of token ‘x’ end the week up or down in value”) that are answered by data driven artificial intelligence.

The data collected by Endor is completely secure and uses client-side encryption, which means that the Endor blockchain itself does not have access to the contents of user data. The AI will aggregate the encrypted data to identify patterns, make accurate predictions and provide solutions to complex social and marketing problems, according to a science known as “social physics.”

The functions of the Endor Protocol are all executed by a series of smart contracts deployed to the Ethereum blockchain, which allows for the secured transmission and access of encrypted data. Anyone can submit data to be added to the Endor database, which is first crunched and extracted into “behavioral clusters” to verify its legitimacy, and upon its successful entry, submitters are rewarded in the form of EDR tokens.

The Endor team is made up of prominent data analysts and researchers, including individuals like data scientists and MIT faculty members Prof. Alex Pentland and Dr. Yaniv Altshuler. Having already been in business for over a year, Endor has a working product that has already been employed by major retailers such as Walmart, which means that this isn’t just another ICO product that is throwing a blockchain at a problem in an attempt to rake in tons of cash. It is a serious project that has been in development since 2014 and cleverly intertwines three pretty heady subjects: artificial intelligence, data mining, and the blockchain.

In late December, Endor found a new catalyst, app developer Algowave, which recently finished their first project using Endor’s prediction engine to power their real-time cryptocurrency predictions app. They concluded that results were delivered with an accuracy rate of over 80% — not too shabby. Based on the impressive results of the initial pilot, Endor and Algowave agreed to enter into a 24 month collaboration, and the markets responded resoundingly positively.

 

#3. HoloToken (HOT)

What it is: a token to be exchanged for Holo fuel, the native currency of Holo, a distributed, peer-to-peer version of the internet that is still in development.

The main idea behind Holo is to provide a way for internet users and developers to escape from overbearing corporate entities which dominate the functioning of the internet as we know it today. Control of the internet itself has become highly centralized, squeezing out competitors and potentially limiting the amount of freedom users have over their internet experience. Holo set out to basically re-invent the internet in a way that returns control over system governance and user data back to the user, thus leveling the playing field for application developers, the means to the end being Holochain.

As described by its developers, Holochain is a “data integrity engine for distributed applications.” Instead of using a blockchain, it collects information in a Distributed Hash Table, making it more similar to how P2P file sharing applications like BitTorrent run rather than Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies. Thus, it is considered to be “distributed” rather than “decentralized.” Holo fuel (what HoloToken will be swapped for upon completion of the Holochain main net) is earned by hosting data from distributed applications that run on the Holochain version of the internet. Application developers, who pay the hosts with Holo fuel, either obtain fuel through an exchange or through the main Holo fuel reserve account.

Holo fuel itself is distinct from classical cryptocurrencies as it does not run via a blockchain. It combines the idea of mutual-credit currencies that empower healthy ecosystems of flow and balance with cryptography for the purpose of assuring data integrity. Initially, its developers sought to create a type of cryptocurrency that was designed to be useful and comparatively stable for the advancement of growth in dynamic ecosystems, and not stagnant, unpredictable, or conducive to speculation. It is thus considered to not be a cryptocurrency per se but an “asset-backed mutual-credit crypto-accounting system,” and the first of its kind.

After the token swap process, the next step for the project is the shipment of hardware devices known as “holoports” which will allow users to rent out personal server space in return for Holo fuel, due to take place in Q1 2019. Holoports serve as nodes that support the Holochain network, each containing copies of applications that are broadcast to all users of the network.

The project gets its name from the “hologram effect,” where even if one piece of a holographic image is blocked or cut out, the entire image is still being broadcast. Holo is considered “holographic” because an agent not only signs transactions to their own chain, they also back up small amounts of data from the applications via the Distributed Hash Table (DHT). Just like with BitTorrent, if a user who uploads a file is cut off from the BitTorrent DHT, so long as there are other nodes hosting data for the file, the whole file is still available for download. This principle will apply to Holo’s provision of applications on its network.

If this all sounds pretty complicated, well, that’s because it is, but this is still only the surface of what is actually going on. The team behind Holo has been developing their vision of a distributed internet even before the birth of bitcoin and has been working tirelessly to bring it to fruition. Provided the idea gains mainstream attraction once it is fully up and running, it could very well be the basis for a brand new form of internet, and in that case, be potentially one of the most successful projects to come out of the cryptocurrency age.

#4. Tenta

What it is: a new website browser developed from scratch, for the privacy- and cryptocurrency-minded.

Similar to what Holo is doing for the internet, Tenta is doing for internet browsers. Billing itself as “the browser that doesn’t sell you out,” Tenta is a private & encrypted browser that vows to protect its users’ data instead of selling it to third parties. In a day and age where user privacy is seemingly no concern of the corporate internet giants, and where peer-to-peer, blockchain-driven network solutions are on the rise, Tenta has a lot to offer a new generation of internet users.

The Tenta browser is “Decentralized Web 3.0” and is ready for download on Android mobile devices now. There is no need for prior knowledge of how a blockchain works or anything that has to do with cryptocurrency in order to use Tenta. A user needs only to create a PIN code and a private, encrypted browsing experience becomes readily available. Users can access the internet from multiple locations in an encrypted fashion while keeping their data and history private behind a client-side stored PIN to which only they have access.

Among Tenta’s central components are built-in privacy tools, integration with blockchains, and user-specific connections to secured encrypted networks. It is specifically designed to be integrated with up-and-coming decentralized web systems with the goal of driving “mass adoption of blockchain protocols, dApps and decentralized networks” through newly-developed system of secured browsing. Its current crypto business partners include MetaMask, Orch1d and RightMesh.

Still in its beta version, Tenta is one of the more popular independent mobile web browsers available in the Google Play Store, having garnered a rating of 4.1 and over 4,400 reviews. All-in-all, Tenta is a new browser for a new era of internet, specifically geared toward those who are crypto-minded and/or value their privacy. In an age which hacks, security breaches, unauthorized user information sharing, and centralization of services is on the rise, Tenta is a unique alternative to just about everything else in existence, putting privacy and cryptocurrency at the forefront of a user’s internet experience for the first time.