Reflecting on Ethereum's 2018 And Building A Colossal 2019

This blog post was published before LocalEthereum became LocalCryptos.

2018 was the biggest year yet for expanding the capabilities of Ethereum. It was also one of the most stressful and testing years for the community: not only for investors, but for dApp developers, core developers and Ethereum researchers.

Regulatory announcements from the SEC caused turmoil, confusion and often disappointment to token holders and traders. Scalability issues caused stress to client developers and put intense undue pressure on Ethereum researchers. Hacks and bugs caused mayhem as usual, and the market hit an all-time high, only to drop by 80% in the following months.

At the start of 2018, herds of new users entered the market as Ethereum made a reach to a mainstream audience. Sadly, the infrastructure, the lay-mans’ education materials, and the decentralized applications were barely ready to handle such a wide audience.

Amid the highs and the lows and turmoil in-between, teams like LocalEthereum’s were forced to quickly grow up in 2018. The boom forced teams to learn how to keep up and scale with a much larger audience, and the bear market reminded us to stay frugal and remain strategic and careful.

In 2018, many small side-projects matured into large applications with tens of thousands of users, full-time employees, and often millions at stake. The community finished the year with useful experience gained, smarter foundations built, and more optimistic developers and nifty applications than ever before.

LocalEthereum & 2018

We launched at the end of October 2017, so 2018 was the first full year for LocalEthereum. It’s been an enormous first year complete with bug fixes, fundamental platform changes, natural audience shifts, and no shortage of challenges.

At the start of 2018, there were less than 10,000 users. Heading into 2019, we celebrated January 1st with exactly 98,581 registered users. Throughout the year, LocalEthereum grew by 10x and helped people exchange more than $60 million worth of ETH.

Many might remember that we decided to launch without an ICO. Looking back, we’re proud of our growth over the year and the challenges we’ve overcome as a business started with only a shoestring budget and zero payroll.

In 2018, LocalEthereum transformed from a small web-app into a popular Ethereum onboarding machine. With the help of the fantastic community behind it, LocalEthereum has been shaped and refined into one of the most resilient over-the-counter trading platforms yet.

Here’s some of the things we remember from 2018:

  1. Ethereum went through its first major boom. In the height of the market while ETH prices soared above $1,000, LocalEthereum was processing 50 trades per hour and churning $8.5 million in monthly volume. To keep up with the unexpected massive demand, we quickly scaled our support staff and increased the performance of our servers.
  2. The CryptoKitties craze saw Ethereum transaction fees skyrocket. One viral kittens app was all it took to bring most Ethereum dApps to a halt. In response to this, we paid more attention to our smart contract optimisation and put new systems in place to make sure relay transactions always get through at the lowest possible cost and shortest delay possible.
  3. There was an organic shift in our audience. Popular countries and their behaviours began to reveal themselves. Naturally, countries with the most restrictions to freedom emerged as the most popular: Russia and China lead in volume, while Venezuela leads in user and trade counts. The new audience data helped us to refine our strategy and focus on where we’re needed most.
  4. Internationalization was forced upon us. At the start of the year, LocalEthereum was only available in English. Nowadays thousands of users choose to use the interface in Spanish, Russian or Chinese, and our support staff understand both English and Spanish.
  5. There were cracks in our software. Our initial codebase wasn’t perfect—there were small bugs and gaps that we missed prior to launch (nothing security-related). We patched issues such as UI-related annoyances and problems with running Ethereum nodes at scale. LocalEthereum’s software today is more robust and meticulous.
  6. The boom was shorter-lived than many expected. Many large Ethereum businesses—ConsenSys being the most well-known example—had to scale back their operations and lay off employees when Ethereum fell from its high to sub-$100. We’ve learnt to be frugal and effective with our balance sheet and not take bull-runs for granted.
  7. Scammers fought the other side. The techniques scammers employ to fool others are continuously evolving. Throughout the year, we’ve built new tools to detect and prevent new types of scams. Although the overall rate of trade disputes has steadily decreased, combatting fraud is still an uphill battle.

As the year progressed, so has the business. We’ve hired staff to keep up with customer support, lawyers to help us understand regulations, accountants to get our books in order, and marketers to reach new crowds.

In the final months of the year, we finished fitting an office space in urban Melbourne in preparation for our 2019 plans. Until now there was no HQ—everyone was contributing from home.

What’s in store for 2019

We’re always asking the community what they’d like to see in a furnished LocalEthereum. Our formula is to simply to listen closely to the community, talk to users every day, and learn peoples’ first-hand trading experiences.

In 2019, we’re beginning with a long list of planned improvements—some of which will be rolled out in January.

There are a lot of focus areas for the new year, including:

  1. Quicker iterations. Most of 2018 has been two people juggling software development, front-end design, bug reports, customer support, business development, analytics, marketing, and content. Now that we have more staff—and more to come—we’ll be able to iterate faster and not get bogged down.
  2. Ease-of-use. We’re unveiling massive improvements to the user experience, especially for people unfamiliar with peer-to-peer trading process. Over the next months, you’ll notice big changes to the user-interface and homepage that will make trading simple.
  3. Education. There’ll be a new section on LocalEthereum with clear guides, quick tips, FAQs, video guides, and an up-to-date list of new tactics scammers are trying.
  4. Open source. We’re going to commit detailed documentation and code to open source so anybody in the community can develop their own secure third-party client.
  5. Self-sovereign identity. One thing we’ve spent time researching in 2018 is a way to enable users to pass a kind of “KYC” check without submitting any documents to LocalEthereum. This will make trader-to-trader identity checks easier without compromising on our commitment to privacy.
  6. More decentralization. If you’ve read our technical whitepaper, you’ll know that LocalEthereum is a hybrid of centralized and decentralized components. We’re going to be replacing more centralized components with decentralized infrastructure in a way that won’t harm the user experience for newbies. Specifically, we’re going to move various metadata to Swarm, the distributed storage layer of Ethereum.
  7. Push notifications. SMS is ugly and so is e-mail. We’re going to introduce Web Push Notifications to the platform and optional sound notifications when you receive a new message or trade.
  8. Humanitarian efforts. Venezuela is the country with the most users and trades on LocalEthereum today. This is because the Venezuelan bolívar currency is hyper-inflating and its domestic economy is broken due to a totalitarian socialist government. We’re continuing to focus on Venezuela in 2019 to promote cryptocurrency adoption for savings and commerce, and will support, sponsor and collaborate with helpful initiatives in the region.
  9. Collaborations. We’re collaborating with other teams to find new ways to increase global economic freedom. Exciting announcements will be made in 2019.

Happy New Year to the LocalEthereum community. We’re grateful for your support and are committed to delivering the smoothest trading experience in 2019 and beyond.

As always, please reach out if you have any comments, feedback or suggestions. Find us on Twitter at @LocalEthereum or join the discussion in our active Telegram groups ( English or Spanish).