(PDF) A Structural Analysis of Bitcoin Cash's Emergency

Which Are Your Top 5 Platforms Out Of The Top100? An Analysis.

There are currently a lot of platforms, more specifically, there are 35 platforms within the Top100 only and many do very similar things. How is one supposed to know how they differ? That was the question that I asked myself.
So, I decided to compare all platforms within the Top100. I noticed that they can be put into into 5 different categories. Note: A platform is a cryptocurrency that offers smart contracts at least.
  1. Dapps platforms - 12
  2. BaaS - 11
  3. Liquidity - 2
  4. Misc - 7
  5. Behemoths -3
Here are all platforms in an excel spread sheet in their categories with a description: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1s8PHcNvvjuy848q18py_CGcu8elRGQAUIf86EYh4QZo/edit#gid=268170779
In order to find out which one is the best platform in each market currently and made sure to be strict with every platform and point out their flaws.
Let's look at the 5 markets.

1) Dapps platforms

Dapps platforms are definitely a solid bet for the next years. Besides Ethereum, Neo, EOS and Stellar are probably the most known here, however, all 4 are simply extremely centralized and would need to completely change their architecture to become more decentralized. Until that happens, none of these platform can really be considered as a platform with good technology, since everyone can achieve high scalability by letting a few hundred nodes do the consensus algorithm. There is nothing difficult about that. The difficulty is achieving several million TPS with 100,000 nodes deciding consensus.
Cardano, Aeternity are the only ones that seem to be able to maintain excellent decentralization with high scalability, because they scale through side-chains/horizontally.
All platforms considered, Ethereum seems to be on the way there as well with its change to Casper.
  1. Cardano has a great team, has probably the most secure PoS that was peer-reviewed in a scientific approach, has their mainnet launched, has near infinite scalability through sidechains and offers broad usability of Smart contracts in a number of programming languages.
  2. Ethereum is a 2nd generation blockchain that allows the use of smart contracts and dapps on a smaller scope. Ethereum currently has bad scalability, though this concern could be alleviated by the soon to be implemented Sharding concept and its new PoS/PoW consensus algorithm Casper. Still, there are platforms with much more comprehensive dapp ecosystems, and much more scalability. However, Ethereum just closed a partnership with AWS. This is probalby the biggest partnership in the cryptosphere. Though, in order to be better than any of the top 3 platforms, it would need to provide Oracles, a lot more functionality for dapps, partnerships, decentralized data storage, cloud computing.
  3. Neblio is similar to NEO and a good platform, though it has a much smaller market cap.
  4. EOS has high scalability, though is much more centralized than Skycoin, Elastos and Cardano. However, it offers a lot of functionality for Dapps. EOS is overhyped. It is on the same level as Neblio, Neo, Aeternity, but not on the same level as Skycoin, Elastos, IOTA, Cardano.
  5. NEO is a very established platform in this category.However, Neo dapps scale on-chain and can thus clog the network quickly. For that reason, NEO had to pick a very centralized approach to maintain scalability and it looking to rely on hand-picked nodes to maintain scalability in the future, very similar to EOS also very centralized approach of 121 handpicked nodes.
  6. Stellar has similar goals as Ripple, only that it is more a platform than only a currency, so it does offer more functionality. . Stellar uses Byzantine Fault Tolerance in the consensus protocol, which ensures secure consensus can be reached (moving the blockchain forward) even if a large percentage of nodes are disabled or acting dishonestly. It also helps keep nodes distributed. Stellar is a good platform with tight involvement with banks. While it doesn't have as much functionality as all above platforms, it can probably carve out its niche by doing really good business with banks.
  7. Aeternity: We’ve seen recently, that it’s difficult to scale the execution of smart contracts on the blockchain. Crypto Kitties is a great example. Something as simple as creating and trading unique assets on Ethereum bogged the network down when transaction volume soared. Ethereum and Zilliqa address this problem with Sharding. Aeternity focuses on increasing the scalability of smart contracts and dapps by moving smart contracts off-chain. Instead of running on the blockchain, smart contracts on Aeternity run in private state channels between the parties involved in the contracts. State channels are lines of communication between parties in a smart contract. They don’t touch the blockchain unless they need to for adjudication or transfer of value. Because they’re off-chain, state channel contracts can operate much more efficiently. They don’t need to pay the network for every time they compute and can also operate with greater privacy. An important aspect of smart contract and dapp development is access to outside data sources. This could mean checking the weather in London, score of a football game, or price of gold. Oracles provide access to data hosted outside the blockchain. In many blockchain projects, oracles represent a security risk and potential point of failure, since they tend to be singular, centralized data streams. Aeternity proposes decentralizing oracles with their oracle machine. Doing so would make outside data immutable and unchangeable once it reaches Aeternity’s blockchain. Of course, the data source could still be hacked, so Aeternity implements a prediction market where users can bet on the accuracy and honesty of incoming data from various oracles.It also uses prediction markets for various voting and verification purposes within the platform. Aeternity’s network runs on on a hybrid of proof of work and proof of stake. Founded by a long-time crypto-enthusiast and early colleague of Vitalik Buterin, Yanislav Malahov.
  8. IOST: To improve speed and scalability, IOStoken uses a Proof of Believability consensus mechanism eliminating the need for an energy-hungry proof-of-work protocol, which stands as a barrier to blockchain scaling up for widespread adoption. With this system, a node is validated based on its past contributions and behaviors. Moreover, to increase fairness and to most fully embrace the decentralized nature of the blockchain, IOS uses a “fairness” algorithm that randomly distributes data to various nodes. It’s intended to support service-oriented goods and services with large customer bases. Decentralized applications and smart contracts, the hallmarks of blockchain platforms, are a priority for IOS as well.
  9. Request Network: Req payments can be used for online purchases, business to business invoices, escrow, advanced payments and eventually IoT payments between machines. Other than payments, the Request Network is also tackling auditing and budget transparency. Businesses have the ability to track invoices to audit payments as well as record transactions for accounting purposes. Governments, nonprofits, and other organizations can also use Request to bring transparency to their budget and expenditures.
  10. Rchain: Similar to Ethereum with smart contracts, though much more scalable at an expected 40,000 TPS and possible 100,000 TPS. However, Rchain has not launched ye..
  11. Ziliqa: Zilliqa is building a new way of sharding, so that 10,000 tps are soon possible by being linearly scalable with the number of nodes. That means, the more nodes, the faster the network gets. They are looking at implementing privacy as well.Rchain is an ok platform.
  12. Ethereum classic is the original Ethereum that decided not to fork after a hack for philosophical reasons. The Ethereum that we know is its fork.

2) BaaS (Blockchain-as-a-Service)

BaaS take a different route to adoption than mere Dapps platforms. They are also dapp platforms, but focus on businesses (B2B) instead of end-users (B2C) within the cryptosphere. They sell their blockchain services to companies, who then can build their own customizable blockchain as a side-chain to the BaaS without hassle and worry about technology or blockchain architecture. This is all handled by the BaaS company already and the customer only needs to change a few variables and they have their own blockchain. Side-chains are interesting, because they allow virtually infinite scaling, since there can be an infinite number of side-chains that only communicate with the main-chain occasionally and handle the majority of transactions on their own chain. This is also called horizontal scaling.
The success of a BaaS platform largely depends on its ability to close partnerships to sell to large businesses and having the best usability. The more contracts they can sell to businesses and institutions, the more valuable it will be. For that reason, the BaaS with the best ability to form partnerships and do sales will win this market. Technology isn't as important here. Of course, the platform has to work without bugs, but having a platform with outstanding technology, average usability and average marketing will lose against a platform with average technology, great usability and great marketing.
  1. VeChain is a Singapore-based project that’s building a business enterprise platform and inventory tracking system. . While it is not really competing with the above mentioned platforms, any of them can build supply management tools into their platform and compete with VeChain. However, VeChain has very strong partnerships. This gives them some protection of any of the above mentioned entering the market. Examples are verifying genuine luxury goods and food supply chains. VeChain has one of the strongest communities in the crypto world. If you are looking for something more high risk, high return, have a look into Ambrosus and Devery(Eve). Both also seem to be good at building partnerships, which is the most important characteristic for a supply chain platform required to succeed.
  2. Icon is called the Korean Ethereum. However, it specializes more on building customizable blockchains for banks, insurance providers, hospitals, and universities, since it's a BaaS. Icon has a focus on on ID verification and payments. Icon is ery close behind Vechain, because with Samsung and Line.
  3. WTC is a supply chain management platform, similar to Vechain, however, with fewer partnerships.
  4. Komodo’s open-source platform is for doing transparent, anonymous, private, and fungible transactions. They are then made ultra-secure using Bitcoin’s blockchain via a Delayed Proof of Work (dPoW) protocol and decentralized crowdfunding (ICO) platform to remove middlemen from project funding. Offers services for startups to create and manage their own Blockchains. While it doesn't have as many partnerships as other BaaS, it is the only BaaS that offers privacy so far. However, that's. it such a bug competitive advantage, since it can be replicated rather swiftly.
  5. NEM: The NEM blockchain powers what they call the Smart Asset System. This system is intended to be an open, customizable blockchain solution for any number of use cases built on top of simple, powerful API calls. NEM started as a NXT fork and introduced a new consensus mechanism called Proof of Importance (PoI), designed to reward users’ contribution to the XEM community. It is roughly based on proof-of-stake, but it also reflects how active a user is in transacting with other users. POW rewards powerful computers and also requires excessive amounts of energy. POS gives an unfair advantage to coin hoarders. The more coins they keep in their accounts, the more they earn, meaning that the rich get richer and everyone has an incentive to save coins instead of spending them.
  6. Ark is a fork of Lisk, which is doubling down on a smaller feature set than Lisk. Ark is a good BaaS, though it doesn't have many partnerships. Furthermore, they haven't launched their platform yet.
  7. Dragonchain: The Purpose of DragonChain is to help companies quickly and easily incorporate blockchain into their business applications. Many companies might be interested in making this transition because of the benefits associated with serving clients over a blockchain – increased efficiency and security for transactions, a reduction of costs from eliminating potential fraud and scams, etc. Dragonchain is a good BaaS, though it doesn't have many partnerships. However, it was funded by Disney, so it might be able to get partnerships more easy.
  8. LISK: Lisk's difference to other BaaS is that side chains are independent to the main chain and have to have their own nodes. Similar to neo whole allows dapps to deploy their blockchain too. Lisk is a good BaaS, though it doesn't have many partnerships. Furthermore, they haven't launched their platform yet.
  9. Stratis: Different to LISK, Stratis will allow businesses and organizations to create their own blockchain according to their own needs, but secured on the parent Stratis chain. Stratis’s simple interface will allow organizations to quickly and easily deploy and/or test blockchain functionality of the Ethereum, BitShares, BitCoin, Lisk and Stratis environements.Stratis is similar to Lisk, but also doesn't have many partnerships
  10. ARDR: Ardor is a public blockchain platform that will allow people to utilize the blockchain technology of Nxt through the use of child chains. A child chain, which is a ‘light’ blockchain that can be customized to a certain extent, is designed to allow easy self-deploy for your own blockchain. Nxt claims that users will "not need to worry" about security, as that part is now handled by the main chain (Ardor). This is the chief innovation of Ardor. Ardor was evolved from NXT by the same company. NEM started as a NXT clone.
  11. Bytom: Bytom is an interactive protocol of multiple financial assets ( digital currency, digital assets warrants, securities, dividends, bonds, intelligence information, forecasting information and other information that exist in the physical world) can be registered, exchanged, gambled and engaged in other more complicated and contract-based interoperations via Bytom.

3) Liquidity

There are really only 2 platforms in the Liquidity market, albeit the Liquidity market could be one of the biggest markets with insitutional investors entering the cryptoworld soon, since there is very little liquidity in Bitcoin. For example, say a pension fund wants to buy or sell $10B in Bitcoins. No single exchange has that many Bitcoins available and it would wreak havoc on the market. This wouldn't be a problem with Liquidity platforms, since they pull all order books together and back up market liquidity with FIAT money among other things.
  1. QASH is used to fuel its liquid platform which will be an exchange that will distribute their liquidity pool. Its product, the Worldbook is a multi-exchange order book that matches crypto to crypto, and crypto to fiat and the reverse across all currencies. E.g., someone is selling Bitcoin is USD on exchange1 not owned by Quoine and someone is buying Bitcoin in EURO on exchange 2 not owned by Quoine. If the forex conversions and crypto conversions match then the trade will go through and the Worldbook will match it, it'll make the sale and the purchase on either exchange and each user will get what they wanted, which means exchanges with lower liquidity if they join the Worldbook will be able to fill orders and take trade fees they otherwise would miss out on.They turned it on to test it a few months ago for an hour or so and their exchange was the top exchange in the world by 4x volume for the day because all Worldbook trades ran through it. Binance wants BNB to be used on their one exchange. Qash wants their QASH token embedded in all of their partners. More info here https://www.reddit.com/CryptoCurrency/comments/8a8lnwhich_are_your_top_5_favourite_coins_out_of_the/dwyjcbb/?context=3Qash is doing something completely different as the above mentioned. It offers liquidity in an illiquid market. Sell shovels during a gold rush.
  2. Loopring is similar to Qash, only that it functions as a dezentralized exchange, while QASH is more of an API without a user interface. It is a protocol that will enable higher liquidity between exchanges and personal wallets by pooling all orders sent to its network and fill these orders through the order books of multiple exchanges. When using Loopring, traders never have to deposit funds into an exchange to begin trading. Even with decentralized exchanges like Ether Delta, IDex, or Bitshares, you’d have to deposit your funds onto the platform, usually via an Ethereum smart contract. But with Loopring, funds always remain in user wallets and are never locked by orders. This gives you complete autonomy over your funds while trading, allowing you to cancel, trim, or increase an order before it is executed.

4) Misc

These are platforms that are focused on a specialized functionality
  1. Nebulas: Similar to how google indexes webpages Nebulas will index blockchain projects, smart contracts & data using the Nebulas rank algorithm that sifts & sorts the data. Developers rewarded NAS to develop & deploy on NAS chain. Nebulas calls this developer incentive protocol – basically rewards are issued based on how often dapp/contract etc. is used, the more the better the rewards and Proof of devotion. Works like DPoS except the best, most economically incentivised developers (Bookkeepers) get the forging spots. Ensuring brains stay with the project (Cross between PoI & PoS). 2,400 TPS+, DAG used to solve the inter-transaction dependencies in the PEE (Parallel Execution Environment) feature, first crypto Wallet that supports the Lightening Network.Nebulas is the only one doing what it's doing. This makes them very unique and a good investment.
  2. Centrality is a decentralized market place for dapps that are all connected together on a blockchain-powered system. Centrality aims to allow businesses to work together using blockchain technology. With Centrality, startups can collaborate through shared acquisition of customers, data, merchants, and content. That shared acquisition occurs across the Centrality blockchain, which hosts a number of decentralized apps called Scenes. Companies can use CENTRA tokens to purchase Scenes for their app, then leverage the power of the Centrality ecosystem to quickly scale. Some of Centrality's top dapps are, Skoot, a travel experience marketplace that consists of a virtual companion designed for free independent travelers and inbound visitors, Belong, a marketplace and an employee engagement platform that seems at helping business provide rewards for employees, Merge, a smart travel app that acts as a time management system, Ushare, a transports application that works across rental cars, public transport, taxi services, electric bikes and more. All of these dapps are able to communicate with each other and exchange data through Centrality. Centrality is the only one doing what it's doing. This makes them very unique and a good investment.
  3. Salt: Leveraging blockchain assets to secure cash loans. Plans to offer cash loans in traditional currencies, backed by your cryptocurrency assets. Allows lenders worldwide to skip credit checks for easier access to affordable loans.Salt is a good lending platform. However, there is also Elixir, a better investment with a 30x smaller market cap, but also strong technology. Elixir has such a low market cap, because they didn't have an ICO and they only focused on development and no marketing. As of last week, they started marketing.
  4. Aion: Today, there are hundreds of blockchains. In the coming years, those hundreds will become thousands and—with ,widespread adoption by mainstream business and government—millions. Blockchains don’t talk to each other at all right now, they are like the PCs of the 1980s. The Aion network is able to support custom blockchain architectures while still allowing for cross-chain interoperability by enabling users to exchange data between any Aion-compliant blockchains by making use of an interchain framework that allows for messages to be relayed between blockchains in a completely trust-free manner.
  5. Waves is a decentralized exchange and crowdfunding platform by letting companies and projects to issue and manage their own digital coin tokens to raise money.
  6. ChainLink is a decentralized oracle service, the first of its kind. Oracles are defined as an ‘agent’ that finds and verifies real-world occurrences and submits this information to a blockchain to be used in smart contracts.With ChainLink, smart contract users can use the network’s oracles to retrieve data from off-chain application program interfaces (APIs), data pools, and other resources and integrate them into the blockchain and smart contracts. Basically, ChainLink takes information that is external to blockchain applications and puts it on-chain. The difference to Aeternity is that Chainlink deploys the smart contracts on the Ethereum blockchain. Chainlink's main functionality is oracles, a functionality also offered by IOTA.
  7. QTUM: Smart Contracts on the Bitcoin blockchain. QTUM is a smart contracts for BTC, a very niche market. Furthermore, BTC might offer smart contracts itself soon and make QTUM obsolete. Hopefully QTUM will expand into more smart contracts functionality to become relevant again.
Nebulas with Indexing the Blockchain world and Salt with Lending are probably the 2 most interesting platforms here. Nebulas doesn't have a single competitor, though there are several competitors to Salt with a much smaller market cap and with similar development progress, ELIX.

5) Behemoths

There are 3 platforms that have not been discussed yet. However, they can do most what the above platforms can do and have the potential to steal the market of all above mentioned platforms. That's why I call them behemoths.
1.) Skycoin :Skycoin is building what Pied Piper is building in the series HBO's Silicon Valley, a completely decentralized internet that is not run by ISPs, but by IoT devices, making telecom providers like Comcast, ISPs who can control bandwith, cost, net neutrality, filters, access etc. obsolete and completely decentralize them. Skycoin offers what 36 coins are offering:
  1. 12 Scalable Currency (Bitcoin, Ripple, Bitcoin Cash, Litecoin, Dash, Bitcoin Gold, Nano, Bitcoin Diamond, Dogecoin, Digibyte, Decred, Bitcoin Atom)
  2. 10 Smart Contract and Dapps platforms (Cardano, Ethereum, Neblio, EOS, Stellar, Neo, Rchain, IOST, Ziliqa, Eth classic)
  3. 10 BaaS (VeChain, Icon, WTC, Ontology, Komodo, NEM, Ark, Dragonchain, LISK, Stratis).
  4. 4 Decentralized Storage (Siacoin, Maidsafe, Gybte, Storj)
If you think that the decentralized Internet will blow all other markets out of the water and will be the biggest invention of this decade, then Skycoin is your pick, because covers that and what 27 coins do.
2.) IOTA: With the launch of Q 1 week ago, IOTA is about to offer what 27 platforms within the Top 100 are offering (!) and they are probably looking to replace several more.
  1. 12 Scalable Currency (Bitcoin, Ripple, Bitcoin Cash, Litecoin, Dash, Bitcoin Gold, Nano, Bitcoin Diamond, Dogecoin, Digibyte, Decred, Bitcoin Atom.)
  2. 10 Smart Contract and Dapps platforms (Cardano, Ethereum, Neblio, EOS, Stellar, Neo, Rchain, IOST, Ziliqa, Eth classic)
  3. 2 Oracles (Aeternity, ChainLink)
  4. 3 Outsourced Cloud Computing (DBC, Aelf, Golem)
IOTA is at the same level as Skycoin and Elastos. However, SKY's flagship product is the Decentralized Internet and ELA's is the most comprehensive dapps operating system in the cryptosphere, which IOTA cannot really replicate in the near future, because it takes years of reseach and development. This protects ELA and SKY from IOTA for now.
However, it looks like IOTA can snatch up all the smaller, easier to replicate markets, such as cloud computing, oracles, smart contracts, decentralized storage, currency exchange and soon possibly also supply chain management, BaaS functionality, privacy, security identification since none of those are really hard to build. However, Skycoin and Elastos will probably focus on their flagships and leave IOTA to scoop up all the rest. It will be an interesting year.
3.) Elastos started out as a mobile operating system 18 years ago and has now moved towards a smart contracts platform, operating system and a runtime environment for Dapps. Thanks to side-chains they are near infinitely scalable and is thus also very decentralized. Elastos is offering what 36 coins are offering
  1. 12 Scalable Currency (Bitcoin, Ripple, Bitcoin Cash, Litecoin, Dash, Bitcoin Gold, Nano, Bitcoin Diamond, Dogecoin, Digibyte, Decred, Bitcoin Atom.)
  2. 10 Smart Contract and Dapps platforms (Cardano, Ethereum, Neblio, EOS, Stellar, Neo, Rchain, IOST, Ziliqa, Eth classic)
  3. 10 BaaS (VeChain, Icon, WTC, Ontology, Komodo, NEM, Ark, Dragonchain, LISK, Stratis).
  4. 4 Decentralized Storage (Siacoin, Maidsafe, Gybte, Storj)
If you are very convinced that BaaS solutions and dapps platforms will be the big winners for 2018, then Elastos is your pick as far as I can see, because it is probably the best BaaS and dapps platform with near infinite scalability and the best decentralization and thus does what 32 coins do.
3 Closing Questions
All of the above findings leave me with those 3 questions. What are your thoughts?
  1. Why invest in any of Dapps platforms (Cardano, Neblio, EOS, Stellar, Neo, Aeternity, Rchain, IOST, Ziliqa, Ethereum, Eth classic) when Elastos and Skycoin do everything they do, are much more decentralized and scalable through side-chain/off-chain/horizontal scaling and offer lots more functionality beyond that?
  2. Why invest in any BaaS (Ontology, Komodo, NEM, Ark ,Dragonchain, LISK, Stratis, ARDR) if ICX and VeChain offer everything what all of the above offer and already have 10x more partnerships than their competitors?
  3. It looks like out of all 35 platforms, only 5 are really strong: IOTA, Skycoin, Elastos, VeChain, ICX. While the first 3 seem to cover already almost half of the top 100, the last 2 really convince in the partnership department. What's the argument for investing in any of the 30 other platforms? Maybe that they can specialise on a specific feature set, however, is this really a convincing argument? The cryptoworld is harsh and if you can't keep up with competition, you'll be moved out of the market quickly.
submitted by galan77 to CryptoMarkets [link] [comments]

Updated FAQs for newcomers

TL:DR: Don't bother mining if you want to get rich yo. You're way too late to the party.
Welcome to the exciting and often stressful world of bitcoin! You are wondering what looks like a once in a lifetime opportunity to get rich quick. Of course you guys probably heard about this "mining" process but what is this?
Simply put, a bitcoin mining machine that performs complicated calculations and when deemed correct by the network, receives a block which contains 25 bitcoins (XBT). This is how bitcoins are generated. So your brain instantly thinks, "Holy shit, how can I get on this gold rush?"
Before you proceed further, I would like to explain the concept of mining further. Bitcoin is limited 21m in circulation. It is coded to release a certain number of blocks at a certain time frame, ie: this year the network will release close to 500,000 bitcoins. What this means is that the more people (or specifically the amount of mining power) mine, the less each person gets. The network tries to keep to this time frame through the process of difficulty adjustments which makes the calculations harder and this happens every 2 weeks. So every 2 weeks, you get less bitcoins with the same hash rate (mining power) based on what the difficulty changes are. Recently, the changes have been pretty staggering, jumping 226% in 2 months. You can see the difficulty changes here.
Now, why are these changes so large?
A bit of a simple history. Bitcoin's algorithm runs on SHA-256. This algorithm can be solved using many hardware, from CPU to GPU and dedicated hardware (Application Specific Integrated Circuits). When bitcoin first started, mining on CPU was a trivial process, you can pretty much earn 50 XBT (the block size then) every few hours between Q1 and Q2 of 2010.
In late 2010, due to the difficulty increase that is reducing the effectiveness of CPU mining, people started to harness GPU mining. Only AMD GPU's architecture design are better optimized for bitcoin mining so this is what the community used. Immediate improvements of more than 10x was not uncommon.
In time of course, GPUs reached their limit and people started to build dedicated. In the same vein as the CPU to GPU transition, similar performance increase was common. These ASICs can only perform SHA-256 calculation so they can be highly optimized. Their performance mainly depends on the die size of the chips exactly like CPU chips.
In general, think of bitcoin mining's technological advancement no different to mining gold. Gold panning (CPUs) vs pickaxes (GPUs) vs machinery (ASICs) and we are still in the ASIC mining race.
ASIC mining started with ASICMiner and Avalon being first to the market, both producing 130nm and 110nm chips. The technology are antiquated in comparison to CPUs and GPUs which are now 22nm with 14nm slated for Q1 next year by Intel but they are cheap to manufacture and with performance gains similar to the CPU to GPU transition, they were highly successful and popular for early adopters. At that point in time since there were less competing manufacturers and the low batch runs of their products, miners became really rich due to the slow increase in difficulty.
The good days came to an end mid August with an unprecedented 35% increase in difficulty. This is due to existing manufacturers selling more hardware and many other players coming onto the market with better hardware (smaller die). Since die shrinking knowledge and manufacturing process are well known along with a large technological gap (110nm vs 22nm), you get an arms race. Current ASIC makers are closing in on our technological limit and until everyone catches up, the difficulty jumps will be high because it is just too easy to get a performance increase. Most newer products run at 28nm and most chips are not well optimized, so it will be around another 6 to 9 months before we see hit a hard plateau with 22nm or 14nm chips. The estimated time frame is because manufacturing chips at 22nm or 14nm is a more difficult and expensive task. In the meantime most manufacturers will probably settle at 28nm and we will reach a soft plateau in about 3 months.
Now, you might ask these questions and should have them answered and if you have not thought about them at all, then you probably should not touch bitcoin until you understand cause you are highly unprepared and probably lose lots of money.