Blockchain’s future role and the people who drive it

This entry was posted on Wednesday, December 6th, 2017.

There is a great amount of hype surrounding blockchain technology. A British company, Online plc, saw its shares rise 394 percent right after adding the word ‘Blockchain’ to its official name. While blockchain technology was originally used only for cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin, businesses are finding other uses for the technology.

Beyond Bitcoin: The Various Uses of Blockchain

Brave, a browser developed by creator of Javascript and co-founder of the Mozilla Project Brendan Eich, blocks intrusive advertisements, but also funds advertisers with a Basic Attention Token (BAT) platform based on the Ethereum blockchain. With BAT, Brave can match relevant ads to users without trackers.

EverLedger uses Blockchain to check the transfer of diamonds for fraud by compiling a diamond’s features, such as a color and clarity, to compile a diamond’s ID, making it easier to certify than checking a paper certificate that could be forged.

In addition to facilitating secure cryptocurrency transactions, blockchain also has the potential to play a prominent role in cybersecurity. For example, DDoS attacks are projected to cause as much as $150 billion in damage in 2017. Not only are the attacks themselves costly, but DDoS protection firms charge victims a significant sum in order to absorb large amounts of data. Worse still, those firms will terminate the service if they judge a customer to be a losing proposition.

Enter Gladius, a blockchain-based DDoS protection firm, who plans to introduce an Initial Coin Offering (ICO) scheme, a system where companies can sell their first tokens in exchange for Bitcoins or Ethereum. Steve Morgan of CSO wrote that blockchain is being explored as a serious alternative solution to the problem of DDoS attacks. Since the technology is decentralized and ad hoc in nature, blockchain could deliver greater efficiency at a lower cost and reduce the number of potential points of failure.

While Blockchain is a technology that will open up many possibilities in economic and social systems, the technology is still nascent, and will take time for societies and economics to fully implement the technology.

Thought Leaders to Watch

With the technology in its early stages, blockchain has multiple influential thought leaders who are contributing to its future. Below are but a few examples:

  1. Satoshi Nakamoto

The individual who started it all by creating the first blockchain database that led to the creation of Bitcoin, a cryptocurrency and peer-to-peer (p2p) digital payment service. As of December 6 2017, one bitcoin is currently valued at $12,680.02. Nakamoto, currently valued at around one million bitcoins (or $6 billion), as of September 2017, published a highly influential whitepaper, titled Bitcoin: a Peer-to-Peer Electronic Cash System in October, 2008 explaining how the Bitcoin crytopcurrency system works.

Little is known about the identity of the inventor, although he claims to be a 37-year-old male living in Japan. Various individuals have laid claim to the identity, the most infamous example being Craig Steven Wright, an Australian computer scientist who claimed to be Nakamoto himself in a blogpost on May 2nd, 2016. That claim was backed up by notable blockchain pioneers such as Jon Matonis and Gavin Andresen. However, as time went on, Wright retracted his statement, unable to provide any verifiable evidence to back up his claim, such as Nakamoto’s GPG private key.

Nakamoto’s identity is still unknown as of this post’s writing, but it is nevertheless certain that without him, blockchain would not be where it is today.

  1. Vitalik Buterin 

Vitalik Buterin is a 23-year-old Russian-Canadian programmer who co-founded Ethereum, a blockchain-based software platform. He founded Bitcoin Magazine in 2011 and after visiting a couple of coding conferences, dropped out of the University of Waterloo in 2014, albeit with a $100,000 grant from the Thiel Fellowship, to pursue working on blockchain development fulltime.

While the Bitcoin blockchain is specifically purposed to track ownership of digital currencies, the scope of the Ethereum blockchain is wider, focusing on running the programming code of any decentralized application. Ethereum has its own digital currency, known was ‘Ether,’ which is used by developers to pay for transaction fees and services on the network in addition to trading.

Ethereum’s use extends beyond currency; the Ethereum Virtual Machine (EVM) is a Turing complete software that makes the process of creating blockchain applications easier and more efficient than having to build an entirely original blockchain for each new application. Hopes are high for Ethereum to pave the way for Web 3.0 development.

  1. Marc Andreessen 

What is the founder of Netscape doing in a post about Bitcoin, one might ask? Marc Andreessen is a Bitcoin enthusiast and has invested around $50 million in Bitcoin-related startups in 2014 to show for it. In 2016, his company, Andreessen Horowitz raised $1.5 billion to invest in technological breakthroughs.

Unlike most venture capital firms, Andreessen Horowitz operates by having its partners concentrate on behalf of its portfolio companies, which includes blockchain-related companies such as Coinbase, 21 Inc., GitHub, OpenBazaar, and Cyphercloud.

So dedicated is Andreessen in the Bitcoin project, that in 2015, he took to Twitter to emphatically defend the cryptocurrency from its detractors, saying that the fluctuation of Bitcoin’s value was the point of the cryptocurrency and that the “system continues working just fine.”

As aforementioned, blockchain is still in a nascent phase and it is only a matter of speculation as to how it will impact the future of mobile payments, online advertising and even internet security. How blockchain develops and how big of an impact it will have on everyday life will be up to individuals like Nakamoto, Buterin, and Andreessen and others.