Everyone is building a blockchain solution.
Ok, not actually everyone. But many have fallen in love with the Bitcoin code; some are copying it, and others are building on top of it.
The first copycats of the blockchain resulted in basically complete clones of Bitcoin. That’s how altcoins like Litecoin, Dogecoin and Namecoin came into existence.
A lot has happened since.
Investors have poured into blockchain startups over a $1billion. With close to $200 million of the investment being made in the first half of 2016. And the market cap of Bitcoin alone is hovering over the $10 billion mark.
The cryptocurrency has slowly moved from the fringes to the mainstream.
But the architecture of the blockchain solutions coming into the market is drifting farther and farther away from that of Bitcoin.
The caliber of the innovators is changing too. It is no longer only young developers working from their parents’ homes writing blockchain-related code.
Blue-chip companies also busy setting up their own versions of the blockchain. JP Morgan, Barclays Bank, Linux Foundation….the list goes on and on. Just a few years ago they wouldn’t want their names to be in the same sentence with Bitcoin.
Perhaps the most closely watched of the private blockchain endeavors is the R3. This is a consortium of close to 50 international commercial banks.
Another is Hyperledger. It is a project that Linux Foundation leads. And it has the support of close to 50 major mainstream companies.
The solutions these projects provide are many. Anything from data storage, land registries to asset management. Indeed, the blockchain technology promises to change every aspect of human society.
Doubts fed by short-term perspectives
There is an interesting part of the story. It hasn’t occurred to many players that all blockchain innovations are bricks to build one super infrastructure. A blockchain super infrastructure for the future.
Indeed, there is a push back on the so-called private blockchains from the bitcoin community. Some are questioning the wisdom behind them.
For instance, Andreas Antonopoulos has dismissed them as purposeless. Andreas is the author of Mastering Bitcoin and a blockchain evangelist.
“You can’t have the revolutionary nature of Bitcoin while stripping it of all the things that make it innovative and exciting,” he has said.
He believes that mainstream financial institutions “want to adopt the efficiencies without the decentralization, the low cost but with control, and the global nature but with censorship.”
But perhaps the person who has given us an insight of the future on this is Glenn Hutchins, the American businessman, and investor.
While addressing a roundtable technical discussion, which Brookings convened on January 14, 2016, to discuss the future of distributed ledger technology, he equated private blockchains to intranets.
Intranets to form the blockchain internet
“Private ledger (blockchain) is equivalent to an intranet,” he stated, “Remember when we first had the intranet? And you could send emails around your office but when you wanted to get out you had to use FedEx or mail? You could collaborate with people you worked with, but it didn’t transform things until everybody was connected in the seamless World Wide Web.”
Indeed, the internet/intranet analogy has acquired a life of its own. It makes sense think of the different blockchain solutions being worked on as intranets that will eventually join to form the world wide web of the blockchain.