Last month, with the global crypto market melting down and ICX prices plummeting, ICON came under a barrage of criticism from the community, some of it delivered in bracingly blunt fashion.

ICON was one of the worst performers of the bear market, some said. Others slammed ICON for failing to explain how its partnerships with private corporations and government entities would boost the value of the ICX token. Still others faulted ICON for failing to meet deadlines.

This post at Reddit by Douevencrypto sums up the frustrations of many in the community at the time.

The atmosphere had grown so toxic that ICON took measures to improve communication with the community – bringing on a new Head of Institutional Markets and Contributor Relations, taking a more active role in moderating its social media, explaining the relationship between ICON and ICONLOOP, and offering reasons and explanations for other matters of concern for the community, such as the delayed Part 3 of the yellow paper and the jump in ICX in circulation.

The question is, has the criticism been unfair?

Certainly, much of the criticism could be countered, some of it quite easily, as we’ll get into.

But was it unfair? That’s a much harder question to answer. Though one might be tempted to write off much of the anger in the community as FUD – and undoubtedly, some of it is – one could also view the concerns and frustrations as what inevitably happens when unusually dismal market sentiment across the blockchain industry meets insufficient communication. Questions should have been expected, given delays in development, poor price action and other issues. Failing to answer those questions in a timely or convincing manner didn’t help matters.

How bad is ICX doing REALLY?

Well, it’s not doing well.

At the time of writing, the price of ICX had fallen to $0.24805, down 98.11% from its all time high of $13.165 eleven months ago.

That percentage drop was the fourth highest out of the top 50 cryptocurrencies. Only Bitcoin Diamond, Bytecoin and VeChain have fallen more

At the time of writing, the price of ICX had fallen to $0.24805, down 98.11% from its all time high of $13.165 eleven months ago.

But is that the whole story?

Perhaps not. Though a 98% drop is indeed woeful, at least ICX holders have plenty of people with whom to commiserate. Of the top 50 cryptocurrencies, 28 recorded drops of 90% or more from their all time highs. Heck, only four posted losses of less than 60%. It’s a world of shit out there, to put it bluntly. Even if we were to grant that ICON made mistakes that did its token few favors, it’s hard to imagine the team having done anything to rescue its token price, at least in the short term.

Moreover, if you bought ICX during the ICO, you’re still making a pretty good return on investment. The price is still over 2x against the greenback and bitcoin, and 5.7x against Ethereum. If measured by current price against the dollar over the ICO price, ICX is one of the best performing tokens out there, as hard as that may be to believe after a 98% dip. If ICON were a traditional venture firm, investors would consider themselves fortunate to have made any money at all – let alone doubled their investment – after only a year. This is cold comfort to somebody who bought at the ATH, we know, but…

If measured by current price against the dollar over the ICO price, ICX is one of the best performing tokens out there, as hard as that may be to believe after a 98% dip.

Can’t hit a deadline to save their lives?

A common refrain is that ICON fails to deliver on deadlines. Even commenters praising the project say the team “suck[s] at keeping up with [its] deadlines.” In particular, critics point out that the company has failed to complete a DEX or publish the third part of its Yellow Paper, namely, the section explaining the ICON Incentives Scoring System, or IISS.

The criticism is not completely without merit. Some of the items on ICON’s 2018 roadmap, announced during January’s ICON Annual Summit, were delayed. Others, like the DEX, have yet to materialize. You can’t fault ICX holders for asking what’s up. 

Still, roadmaps are but rough guidelines, and as they say, no battle plan survives first contact with the enemy. This especially applies to a sector as new, as uncharted as blockchain, an industry where flexibility is a sine qua non. The inking of major deals with the likes of Samsung and Naver LINE forced the ICON team to reassign personnel and resources. Delays to roadmap items were inevitable.

Could ICON have communicated its reprioritization better? You bet. But it does seem more than a little unfair to lambast the company for building partnerships with major Korean corporations and government organizations, the kinds of partnerships that are critical to the long-term success of the project, both the B2B side and the public side. As former Deblock head of research Markus Jun argued on Reddit:

“That’s not to say that roadmap delays are fine. Ideally ICON would have had both roadmap adherence and these significant projects/partnerships or at least better communication with regards to delays, and this is something the team is aware of and is working on.

However, when ultimately considering long term value, a joint venture with LINE, a leading social messenger service in Asia, seems to me, indefinitely more useful to ICON’s mass adoption and legitimacy than a DEX being released 3 months earlier, especially since ICON’s former technical director is the CEO of this particular joint venture.”

You could also credit ICON – or cut it some slack, at least – for trying to be innovative. They could have been just another Ethereum fork, but no, they chose to built their blockchain from scratch. They’re building an entirely new consensus algorithm. And as ICON’s partnerships with major corporate and governmental players – or its third quarter achievements – suggest, those efforts are yielding far more than vaporware BS. They are producing, or will soon produce, actual real-world use cases. Delays in hitting roadmap milestones seem like a small price to pay for that.

Knowing who you’re talking to

In the wake of the crypto market tanking, complaints, rants, accusations and general discontent were probably inevitable. Not to put too fine a point on it, but nobody bitches about missed milestones when skyrocketing token prices are creating millionaires overnight.

Still, the ICON team could have helped itself a bit more. Though there were certain things that ICON could not say for business or legal reasons (for instance, how the partnership with Samsung or LINE would affect the price of ICX or the details of the token buyback), the team could have been more proactive in explaining to the community why it was reorganizing its priorities and how ICONLOOP’s business blockchain projects would eventually benefit the ICON ecosystem as a whole. Sure, traditional venture capital investors would have understood what was going on, but coin holders aren’t traditional capital investors. You need to hold their hand a bit more, to moderate their expectations while demonstrating to them that you’re in it for the long run.

Ironically, ICON’s communication problems are, in some measure, a product of the project’s success. In just a single year, the ICON team grew from 30 members to about 140, many of the new additions poached from elsewhere. Unsurprisingly, this has led to growing pains, especially on the messaging side. Many of these kinks will be worked out over time, or at least had better be with the bear market making communication more important than ever.