ICON: A New "Icon" In Smart Contracts, Or a Project Lost In Translation?
A $4 billion Korean blockchain conglomerate has released their own cryptocurrency, and they are calling it ICON. ICON has its sights set firmly on Ethereum and some are even calling it Korea's answer to both Ethereum and Neo.
Since the launch a few months ago, ICON prices have increased significantly and interest in the platform is building. But what is ICON, and what is the team behind it trying to do exactly?
ICON – The basics
ICON is a multifunctional blockchain project that will be able to support ICO's and allow other industries to operate their software on top of it. Additionally, ICON will supposedly allow for easier cross-blockchain exchanges, even if the two blockchains do not speak the same language.
This information was very difficult to put together, however. Why? Simply put, the official website is a complete mess full of jargon and buzzwords. The white paper, for example, is a desk crushing tome of 43-pages that is written in such complicated language that you would need a Vulcan interpreter to decode it.
The website fails to offer a single concise summary about what ICON is actually for, or even what it will supposedly do.
Lost in translation
Here's an excerpt from the white paper that is attempting to explain what ICON will do:
"Through ICON, communities can go beyond and be free from traditional economic system and promote frictionless value exchanges with other communities, eventually resulting in maximum total utility of society. ICON is not limited to the real world, but it directly connects and communicates with the crypto world creating the most robust network that can scale without limits."
Even the site's FAQ page merely lists a glossary of some highly specific terms. It offers no simple answers to basic questions such as "what is ICON."
The white paper, while generally written to a fairly high standard, does also contain numerous grammar mistakes as it was likely translated by a translation firm from Korean into English. For instance, the white paper uses the phrase "cup of latte" which is of course incorrect. Specifically, the line is:
We live in a world where it is possible to buy a cup of latte at Starbucks with one swipe of a credit card.
The same type of error also exists in the previous quote used above, where it says "be free from traditional economic system". The entire white paper is riddled with mistakes like these ones.
Why should we care about grammar errors?
While it's not going to make or break the project, it shows a certain degree of sloppiness that should not be ignored. This company clearly has the resources to hire a professional editor to go through their documentation, but they choose not to do so. This says a lot about their corporate attitude.
With that out of the way, our best summary of ICON is that it's in many ways an Ethereum competitor. But it also claims to offer a few tricks of its own in the form of cross blockchain exchanges and a number of business agreements with various Korean agencies.
Who is behind ICON?
ICON was created by a Korean company called Dayli Financial Group which is reportedly worth $4 billion. Dayli is a blockchain-focused company that reportedly works with over 40 companies including those in the insurance, artificial intelligence, and financial service fields among others. Dayli is also the owner of Coinone, which is one of the top South Korean cryptocurrency exchanges.
Inside the tangled mess that is the white paper, several use cases for ICON are specified. These use cases are very specific and mention exact companies that ICON will develop or have a solution for. It is quite conceivable that these companies that ICON is working with are already working with Dayli Financial Group.
Basically speaking, this means that ICON is coming out the gate with a lot of support. South Korea has been a very important growth area for cryptocurrencies, and every day a very significant portion of trade volumes comes from South Korean exchanges. Some in the South Korean media and government have even referred to this as bitcoin mania.
The next big thing, or yet another Ethereum clone?
Back in the early days of cryptocurrency, basically every new coin that came out was a clone of bitcoin. That being, they were all currency-use specific blockchains that would all offer essentially the same thing. It was only a few years later that cryptocurrency projects with a few unique functions started to appear.
Then it was more than half a decade later when Ethereum appeared and finally offered what Cardano creator John Hoskinson calls the "second generation of cryptocurrency."
Following Ethereum's wild success, it seems that we are seeing more and more Ethereum clones (or blockchain projects that are trying to replace Ethereum and add one or two additional bells and whistles) trying to make their claims.
While ICON sounds interesting, it is quite likely that it will not be incredibly revolutionary. This is because ICON appears to be made by a wealthy conglomerate that wants to support its own vested interests and established partners.
What made Ethereum grow so quickly is that it was highly democratized and free for anyone to use and develop on. Secondly, it was the first one to the table with a highly viable product.
While other Ethereum clones like Neo and QTUM have seen some success, they are still nowhere near the market cap and brand value that Ethereum has. This does not mean that they are failures, but that they are not true peers.
As ICON is taking a highly corporate, and therefore highly conservative approach, this could quite likely hinder their growth. As well it could prevent them from replacing Ethereum as the number one platform. Again, this does not mean that they will fail outright, but it may limit their growth in the future.
It also goes without saying, but ICON is not doing a very good job of communicating with its potential fan base with its unnecessarily complex and coded rhetoric. Likely a softer and friendlier approach would be more effective at capturing the hearts and minds of potential investors and users alike.
It's possible though that the cold, machine-like communications from the team are just the result of their true intents getting lost in translation.
Disclaimer: These are the writer’s opinions and should not be considered investment advice. Readers should do their own research.