At times the crypto industry can appear similar to the great melting pot or mosaic of wider societies like the U.S or Canada. Many different projects all work together and act independently to advance education and acceptance of the radically new technology. Other times, it is more similar to the drama found within a high school. Niche groups divided into their little tribes, highly suspicious of every other group, slinging insults and slurs across cyberspace at each other.
Despite these differences between crypto projects, there are overarching trends of tribes within each crypto project. They are easy to identify and often transcend the project itself. Furthermore, they more accurately depict a user’s approach to crypto and wider worldview rather than specific opinions on any crypto.
Here are five basic categories of crypto users found in most projects.
These users understand how truly revolutionary blockchain technology is and how it can fundamentally change how we live our lives. From the early cypherpunk developers that launched Bitcoin as a response to the fiat monetary system to the more recent core developers expanding what is possible in Web3.
These users are less concerned with the value of crypto in fiat currency. In part, because they often believe that a cryptocurrency like Bitcoin will overtake fiat as the global reserve currency, so they have already started pricing things in this frame of reference. They dedicate their time and energy to developing the space further and pushing the boundaries in terms of what is possible for smart contracts, DeFi, and expanding a trustless world where code becomes law.
Technologists also spend much time and energy strengthening and developing advancements on current blockchain projects. Core developers are responsible for advancing layer 2 protocols like the Lightning Network on the Bitcoin blockchain. This theoretically allows for near-instant, free transactions without sacrificing the core principles of the layer 1 chain they are built on.
This category of crypto users is less interested in the underlying technology and instead focuses on the price movements of the crypto projects they invest in. As the name suggests, they are speculators on the price movements and spend their time and energy trying to best gauge how developments in the space will impact the price point of the cryptocurrencies they invest in.
They are similar to investors from the traditional stock markets. However, with crypto, they have the added benefit of accessing a market of digital assets that operates 24/7 compared to traditional stock markets that follow a more orthodox Monday-Friday 9-5 schedule. Moreover, with increasing numbers of altcoins hitting exchanges daily, this group is one of the fastest growing.
The primary goal of a pure speculator is to maximize profit from the nascent crypto markets.
This category of crypto users believes that the project they are involved in is the one true crypto and dedicate themselves to the promotion and success of it against all others. Maximalists exist in almost every crypto project whether it is bitcoin maximalists, the XRP army, or the LUNA lunatics.
Maximalists can often descend into toxic maximalism. This can but doesn’t always have to be harmful to a project. While promoting the success of a project to fanatical levels can create blinders for users to be taken advantage of. For example, until LUNA’s bankruptcy filing (and even after), many of its maximalist community were still bullish on the algorithmic stablecoin and glorious leader Do Kwon.
On the other hand, Bitcoin has one of the most vigilant groups of maximalists in space. While some bitcoin maximalists believe that bitcoin is the only blockchain project worth their time and energy; other bitcoin maximalists operate as almost a standing army or immune response system against every other crypto project and bad actors looking to centralize or destabilize the project.
Bitcoin maximalists have been around since its launch in 2009, but their popularity exploded after the 2017 blockwars. Bitcoin maximalists will often attack other cryptos declaring them shitcoins, especially coins that have abandoned the proof of work consensus mechanism that underpins Bitcoin’s decentralization and security.
Libertarianism is deeply entrenched in crypto. The very nature of crypto projects like Bitcoin is to remove the reliance on intermediary services like centralized banks and governments. The Bitcoin genesis block perfectly summarizes this by including a Times article from January 3, 2009, titled “Chancellor on the brink of second bailout for banks”.
Bitcoin was designed as an alternative to the current system and to limit the reach of governments. It is no wonder that libertarians were some of the first adopters of technology. Early uses of bitcoin gave rise to black markets like The Silk Road, which offered the sale of contraband across the internet in exchange for bitcoin.
While bitcoin may be censorship-resistant and beyond government reach, it is still open software for anyone to see. This makes black markets an inferior option for crypto as crypto forensics will be able to track and potentially dox a user’s identity from their activity. Governments may not be able to seize a user’s crypto, but they can easily track its activity and enforce laws that are broken.
While traditional libertarians exist in the space, libertarian users have expanded to include cyber-libertarians and crypto-anarchists. These users more aptly resemble the early cypherpunk movement and are more concerned with the issue of privacy and cyberspace regulation than any particular government’s size.
This group of fair-weather fans is amongst the most populous and short-lived. They will be attracted to crypto when they start hearing about it in the mainstream media and decide to dip their toes in the water. But, unfortunately, they are among the most notorious for buying the highs and selling the lows and are often the people most harmed by the scams and rug pulls that proliferate the industry.
Tourists in the crypto space will be some of the least knowledgeable of the technology and rely on simple explanations. Often, these users will not know the difference between any crypto project and the next, be able to tell the difference between consensus mechanisms, or see the significance of what Satoshi Nakamoto started. Tourists tend to flock to flashy meme coins like Dogecoin and SHIB to make a quick profit.
Tourists do have their place in crypto and will be necessary if crypto is ever to see wide-scale adoption. They will often include friends and family interested in the space but do not have the time or resources to invest in learning about it.
Despite what category you may fall into, it is essential to remember that in most decentralized projects, there are many voices. Many people will speak about crypto, but few will speak for crypto.
It is important to understand the fundamentals of how the technology operates so you can accurately assess the long-term success of a project. It is easy to get swept up in the excitement of a new project, especially if you are new to the space. Please do your research and seek out multiple opinions on a project. There will be no shortage of them.