This week in Rai, uh… Nano.
What a week Nano has had. Earlier this week, Bitgrail, the largest volume exchange supporting Nano, stopped allowing withdrawals without verification. A lot of users complained about Bitgrail not verifying them despite sending documents days or even weeks ago. Bitgrail then announced they won’t be supporting users outside the EU, after two weeks. A lot of funds are stuck on the exchange even now. Of course, the price tanked (and then rebounded). After that, Raiblocks rebranded to Nano. Most people knew the rebrand itself was happening due to leaks, but there was no confirmation about the timing. Binance and OKEx have now listed Nano, which means the top two worldwide exchanges by volume have access to the coin for the first time.
I’m a big believer in Nano because it meets all my criteria for a good, long term cryptocurrency investment: solid team, solid tech, and a reason to exist. After many days of researching the shortfalls, one of which is why people would have the incentive to run Nano nodes, I wrote an article on that exact topic.
Here’s the various shades of disagreeing opinion I’ve heard regarding the rebrand:
- It’s a terrible name for SEO, people would get it confused with Ledger Nano, the hardware wallet.
- What about when trying to open a Nano wallet on the Ledger Nano wallet, what would someone have to google? 🤔
- The Raiblocks name had depth. “Rai” stones were actually giant stone wheels used on the Micronesian island of Yap as a currency, for hundreds of years. There’s a great article on Cointelegraph about the history of blockchain ‘going full circle’ so-to-speak regarding Rai.
- Nano is a very generic ‘normie’ name.
The rebrand brings in simplicity
Now all of these are valid points, but there’s a lot more upside to the rebranding than most people realise. First of all, the ‘genericness’ of the Nano name is a much bigger advantage than most would imagine. The largest, most successful brands in the world have simple, recognisable names. Apple didn’t mean anything before Apple Computers simplified their name to establish the brand. Netflix, Amazon, Google and Subway are often hailed as the top brand names around today. They exude a sense of purpose without undermining simplicity. So the first, most engaging argument for the rebrand would be Nano’s simplified, unambiguous pronunciation.
A simple name goes a long way in ensuring a brand stays alive, but there’s merit to the ‘too generic’ argument too. I’ve worked with several companies who have names like Alliance Tech or Custom EduSolutions. They were SEO nightmares, unengaging to end users, and ultimately meaningless names that failed to spark excitement. I’m not saying Raiblocks falls into that category, but if Raiblocks had rebranded to something like Smartblocks, I could see myself making this post from the opposite perspective.
Besides, are we just going to not address the fact that everyone read Raiblocks as RAILblocks the first few times?
Let’s take a look at the big picture of what Colin and crew are trying to accomplish with Nano:
- Feeless, instant and scalable transfer of value between anyone in the world
- Anyone with an internet connection and a device should be able to take part in the network, through lite wallets, desktop clients and mobile apps. Mobile use is a big step up for Nano.
- For Nano to scale to its true potential, it needs to expand beyond P2P transactions and be utilised by merchants and small businesses. Projects like Brainblocks are already helping that happen.
- It has to fit in the current climate of cryptocurrencies, ie. to find a niche that currently doesn’t exist. Nano will do this by slowly replacing LTC as the default arbitrage coin between exchanges.
A pure transacting cryptocurrency has to meet the widest standards of popular use. To be successful, it has to be recognisable, distinct and direct. This is the part that gets me excited about the name Nano, because it seems to meet all these criteria. Basically everything in the official Medium post regarding the rebrand rationale rings true.
So what’s so special about 2018?
If the past is any indicator of the future (and investors always say it isn’t), then 2018 is going to be the year when new technologies emerge, and crypto companies find themselves rooted into their specific niche. Regardless of whether it’s a bear or bull run, the underlying technologies will continue to develop if the Nano team continue to fulfill the promises on the roadmap. We’ve seen this throughout the rough bear markets of 2015-16 with the emergence of Ethereum as a platform. Technology never stops advancing, regardless of market cycles. I believe the rebrand puts Nano in a position that enables it to highlight the technological prowess of cryptocurrencies to the public in a much better light.
A few things people are missing out on
Where Bitcoin failed to be a transacting currency due to high fees, Nano can do exactly that. There are cryptocurrency use cases for buying Steam games, your Starbucks coffee and other low value items, but this can only happen if the fews are low, or even better, zero. The name Nano helps distinguish the feeless nature of the currency much better than Raiblocks would. 10 minute block confirmations have been replaced by milliseconds, giving more weight to the “Nano” moniker. Small business, restaurants and peer to peer transference especially benefit from no middlemen stealing your fees and time.
The other market that really needs Nano (and not the other way around) is the remittance market. Every day, thousands of freelancers need to take a 8-9% cut in fees through PayPal or take larger fees and wait a week for wire transfers. With a growing $500 billion remittance market, this is one place where the Nano brand can really change the game. What sounds more intuitive as a no-fee medium of cross border value transfer? Nano, or Raiblocks? In fact, one of the large branding success stories in this market has been big daddy Bitcoin, because it’s so intuitive to understand what it is (a ‘bit’ – digital storage token, and ‘coin’ – currency).
One missed opportunity that the Nano devs in my opinion have missed out on is the gigantic problem of environmental damage. Bitcoin frequently comes onto environmentalists’, and therefore governments and companies’ radar, for consuming too much electricity. I wrote about this in my previous Raiblocks article, and mentioned how a single Nano transactions takes about 100,000 times less electricity than Bitcoin. The cost to the environment with Nano is exponentially lower than almost any other cryptocurrency. The Nano brand can easily play into “low impact for the environment” if the devs choose to, and I hope they do, because we all know that there is a need for adoption of an eco-friendly cryptocurrency solution.
Addressing the shortfalls of the Nano rebrand
The search engine problem
As far as SEO goes, Google isn’t stupid. If a billion dollar market cap cryptocurrency emerges from the ashes of its maiden name, Google is going to recognise it. And it has! In less than a week, searching for the generic “Nano” term brings up the announcement about the rebrand on the front page. ‘Nano crypto’ and ‘nano currency’ also show what we expect. The only search term lagging behind is the ambiguous “nano wallet”, because of the NEM wallet, Ledger Nano S and the Raiwallet successor Nanowallet.io all competing for the same SERPs. Also, I noticed that the official nano.org website doesn’t really rank anywhere (I suspect because a lot of traffic, mainly for searching the chain, takes place on the old raiblocks.net website). With time and enough organic interest, SEO starts becoming a non-factor, though.
The genericness problem
Nano dropping their “unique” name to choose a more generic one may be construed as a negative, but remember that Nano isn’t a startup operating out of a garage. It’s a billion dollar+ market cap enterprise with millions of dollars of daily trade volume. When Google or Amazon started out (both in garages, mind you), they had to worry about differentiating themselves from their competition. Yet, they choose simple and generic names that still had meaning behind them. With the Raiblocks to Nano rebrand, the market conditions are very different from your average startup – it’s a top 25 market cap cryptocurrency that has enough users to generate organic adoption with the help of an easier, more simple name.
The price crashing problem
There will be a short term slump, and we’re seeing it right now for a multitude of factors: the Binance listing gave Nano a huge amount of liquidity, which always leads to a short spike, followed by investors liquidating their holdings. Then there’s the market crash in general (in part caused by the fake India banning Bitcoin news), and then the confusion over the rebrand. In a speculative market like cryptocurrencies, any intrusion or change from the mean, even a name announcement, leads to volatility. Still, like I’ve referenced before, good technology wins out despite bulls or bears – the market catches up with good technology in the end.
I could write several articles on cryptocurrencies that succeeded just because of their name (and supplementary branding.) Tron went 10x despite being a dubiously plagiarised whitepaper, because it had a cool, futuristic name and Twitter went crazy about it. Ripple was fun and different, with the fidget spinner meme playing in at exactly the right time. Ethereum sounds like something from the future, and I’m sure that adds some value of the ETH platform even today. The biggest example? Dogecoin. One of the most stable, longlasting cryptocurrencies actually survived much longer than the meme did. Branding is extremely important in the speculative cryptocurrency market, where even minute spikes in supply can have a multiplying effect.
When you start pricing in brand value, the network effect (Metcalfe’s law), and ease of adoption into a transacting cryptocurrency, on top of the fundamental technology, it really makes you think about the upside of a simple name change.