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For all its blemishes and blowups, blockchain technology resembles an early internet that evolved from obscure to ever-present, Visa’s Head of Blockchain Cuy Sheffield wrote in a blog post on Wednesday.
“We see significant potential for blockchain networks,” he wrote on behalf of the financial services giant. “Blockchains today share some parallels with the early internet—particularly more than their fair share of skeptics, hecklers, and critics.”
Sheffield posited that Blockchain technology—in terms of its efficiency, associated costs, and ease of use—will likely mature over the next decade. Even though PayPal and BlackRock are recent examples of big firms wading deeper into crypto waters, Sheffield’s post captures an emerging tone among staid financial firms like Visa.
In the future, he wrote he anticipates Visa's payment network will involve more than "just multiple currencies and bank settlement rails, but also multiple blockchain networks, stablecoins, and CBDCs or tokenized deposits."
Sheffield’s post underscored Visa’s recent work in leveraging stablecoin USDC and Solana to provide a more “modern option” for clients to send or receive funds. It also highlighted blockchain’s potential to make settlements more efficient and improve the ease of cross-border transactions.
For those who never heard the synthesized chirps of the early internet, Sheffield pointed out that internet tech has come a long way since the days of dial-up, and the user experience has gone from “slow and unreliable” to a ubiquitous force.
“It was not uncommon [...] for opinion writers to scoff, panning the fledgling web as little more than an upstart tech project with no real future,” the Visa exec wrote. “This kind of take has not aged well.”
While not mentioned in Sheffield’s post, Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman infamously claimed in 1998 that “by 2005 or so, it will become clear that the internet's impact on the economy has been no greater than the fax machine's.”
In 2013, Krugman compared Bitcoin transactions to forking “over a paper bag filled with $100 bills in a dark alley” to someone else, and he said innovating in the greenback’s territory should be left alone.
Last week, Krugman called out “cryptocurrency cultism” as a tenet of public policy debates that “wealthy tech bros” tend to gravitate toward. He chalked up people’s interest in crypto to those who are “likely to think they understand money better than economists.”