Greg Kidd — The 10 stories that will define 2019

The following piece is written by Greg Kidd, co-founder and CEO of globaliD.

With 2018 in the rear-view mirror, it’s once again time to look ahead to see what’s in store for 2019. But first, it’s worth recapping how we did with our 2018 predictions/

Predictions 1–4 focused on the theme of “the wheat versus the chaff” — the idea that with a preceding tide that raised all boats, we would eventually see a separation within the blockchain space between those that truly add value and all the rest. The resulting “crypto winter,” as it’s been called, suggests that such a shakeout for blockchain and ICO offerings indeed played out. And we may or may not yet have found a bottom.

Preditions 5–7 had to do with the backlash against identity politics, tech’s role in exacerbating social divisions, and the responsibilities of tech’s leadership. All of these themes played out right on cue.

Predictions 8–9 suggest that we are in the early innings for crypto and ICOs. Even as bitcoin turns 10, this is still really just the beginning.

Which brings us to our predictions for 2019:

1) Continued regulatory ambiguity around ICOs

As we look to 2019, the top observation is that regulation of the crypto industry by the SEC remains the biggest question mark as to whether there is a way forward in the U.S. for new forms of digital currencies that can used by everyone rather than just accredited investors.

Given the gridlock in U.S. politics, there will be no resolution in 2019 on the question of whether ICOs can launch in the U.S. without being treated as a security. The jury will still be out by year end so expect crypto winter to continue until there is bipartisan consensus that the U.S. is falling behind the rest of the world when it comes to supporting a pro-innovation regulatory environment that removes the ambiguity around how we treat digital currencies.

2) Evidence of the Trump-Russia connection

The Trump administration’s connection to Russia will become clear. The ensuing trail will lead us through Deutsche Bank, Paul Manafort, and Ukraine.

3) Digital wallets matter

Digital wallets that combine sending, converting, moving, loading, and spending of funds through virtual and digital cards will become table stakes for the most aggressive fintechs — players like Revolut, Square, Coinbase, Robinhood, WeChat, among others. In 2019, digital wallets will begin to matter.

4) The year of self-sovereign identity (SSI)

Self-sovereign identity (SSI) solutions will start to appear such that identity becomes more user controlled rather than left exclusively to de facto dominant identity providers such as Facebook — which have increasingly lost the trust of the public due to privacy and security breaches as well as the proliferation of fake identities and fake postings. In 2019, self-sovereign identity will start to gain traction as a mainstream rather than utopian idea and will attract serious attention from both newcomers and the establishment alike.

5) Our gadgets get boring / peak iPhone

In 2019, phones, laptops, desktops, etc. will become boring as additional features and functions no longer warrant enough incremental benefit to drive sales growth at historical growth rates. Apple and Samsung will have to find new waves to ride if they want to justify their growth multiples.

6) The year of ad-blocking

The relationship between browsers, cookies, ads, and search will begin to change as the impact of ad blockers start to make more of an impact. In 2019, will be fed up with the echo chamber effects of tracking clicks and predicting user behavior to such an extent whereby search results and advertising become annoyingly and creepily self-referential. Browsers like Brave and plugins that achieve the same ad-blocking results on legacy browsers will continue to gain traction.

7) Peak Facebook

In 2019, Facebook and Twitter monthly monthly average users (MAUs) in the U.S. and Europe will shift from stagnant to declining. More importantly, even the residual usage will be of passive rather than active engagement. Users will increasingly turn to instrumental platforms — such as pure messaging services — to get things done rather than rely on social programming infrastructure.

8) Visa and Mastercard double down on fintech at the expense of banks

Visa or Mastercard will approve the first globally issued debit cards so that companies like Coinbase or Revolut can distribute to their worldwide customer bases from a single point of distribution. In 2019, card networks will put their shareholders’ interests ahead of their bias toward protecting legacy banks against emerging fintech powerhouses.

9) China wins the trade war

In 2019, China will prevail in the trade war with the U.S., preserving much of its closed marketplace to services that would otherwise be competitively provided by U.S. tech companies in areas such as financial services and social media. Moreover, they’ll continue flooding the U.S. with manufactured goods that aggravate the existing trade imbalance between the countries.

10) Globalism’s “practical” comeback

In 2019, globalism will make a comeback — but in an evolved form that is sensitized to the concerns that populists have brought to the debate over immigration, income disparity, affirmative action, and cultural norms. Efforts will emerge to rebuild a centrist appreciation for community that is neither paralyzed by race-baiting fear on the right or identity politics on the left.

Follow Greg on Twitter