I’m saying it now: 2018 is the year blockchain goes mainstream.

If you stay up-to-date with current news or have any interest in the tech industry, you’ve probably heard this term – even if you don’t know what it means.

Blockchain was formed in 2008, when it was defined in Nakamoto’s original source code for the digital currency Bitcoin. To put it simply, the technology has created the foundation for a new form of internet; it allows information to be distributed, but not copied (Blockgeeks). There are multiple blockchain platforms that already exist like Bitcoin, Ethereum and Hyperledger, and it has become a massive subject of discussion in 2017.

And that’s just the start – there’s much more growth to come in 2018.

In the next year, blockchain will move from a fringe subject – an area that “only the tech crowd knows about” – to the mainstream. Right now, execs from every industry are paying attention to how, where and when this technology will impact their market and company. That won’t stop anytime soon.

This technology is such a new space – some people are calling it the next wave of the internet – that there’s ample room to explore and expand in the coming year. PR will be a huge part of making this happen, as it can and will aid how the technology is brought to the masses. To do so, PR will need to find a way to bring everyone into the fold and demonstrate why blockchain is worth the attention in a simplified, everyman’s way – without trivializing the technology or shying away from the risks.

Let’s consider how much blockchain has grown in the past year. In the past year, we’ve moved from a place where no one knew what blockchain was to a new group of individuals that are truly blockchain whisperers. Even just from 2016 to 2017, blockchain technology has grown from a $210.2M market to a staggering $339.5M, and there are no signs of stopping anytime soon (Statista).

It’s important to note 2017 brought a lot of ups and downs on the blockchain front, particularly in the latter half of the year. For example, there was one point this fall when the bitcoin exchange had too many bitcoins – really (Bloomberg). But this happens to the best of us, and is expected with such a new, foreign technology. 2017 is behind us and the industry is moving forward. 2018 will be the year of blockchain – it’s the year where the vaporware will finally decrease and the people with a real business model will rise.

To make this happen in a thoughtful way, PR will need to work with their partners to drive education on blockchain’s value.

Next year, the technology will continue to grow in significance and in worth – for example, initial coin offerings (ICOs) have made an impressive impact in 2017, with $103M in funding raised in April, $232M in May and $574M in July (Forbes) – and they’re not done yet. But not everyone is aware of all of the potential around this technology, and there’s an immense amount of work to be done to demonstrate its value.

Enter PR and its ability to shine a light on exactly that.

In 2018, PR can help define what blockchain will mean to the “average” individual – aka, those who are not the techie elites or Silicon Valley residents of the world. People need to know why blockchain matters, who it will impact and how, and what it can mean for a day in the life of the ordinary American citizen.

As with any new and hot technology, a lot of riff raff will emerge – companies and “thought leaders” that have no business and/or expertise. PR teams will need to surface the best and brightest voices carefully and make clear why their guidance must be heeded. A company with ambition to reach the limelight should a) have a vision, b) understand the market, c) be involved in said market because they believe they are the only ones who can solve a problem, and d) be prepared to show that they’re capable and already executing on their vision.

It is also PR’s responsibility to make sure that blockchain companies and partners are demonstrating their individual value in the industry and highlighting their opportunities, challenges and successes. It’s the best way to ensure transparency, share relevant knowledge about the space and prove their own worth.

Since its creation, blockchain has built a thriving community that surrounds it. The community will continue to flourish, but PR needs to focus on multi-channel outreach and messaging to reach a larger audience.

Looking at 2018, there’s no shortage of industries circling blockchain. Banking, finance and regulation will be some of the most significant in relation to the new tech in the next year – but blockchain also has the potential to open the door to new possibilities for real estate, voting and cybersecurity as well.

If there’s one thing to remember from 2017, it’s this: keep your eye on blockchain. It’s not going anywhere.