There has been widespread scepticism surrounding the Blockchain, with some calling into question its very usefulness. It has been ten years since the birth of Bitcoin, its first manifestation. And over the course of that decade, there has as yet been no blockchain-based application which has undergone mass adoption.
Bitcoin may qualify as the exception to that last statement, but even here the number of users worldwide is placed in the low millions, perhaps twenty according according to one estimate. There is as yet, however, no blockchain Facebook, no blockchain Amazon, no blockchain Uber.
But the scepticism surrounding blockchain technology can easily be dismissed through its closest analogous equivalent – the internet. More specifically, we can focus on the development of TCP/IP which underpins the vast majority of communications that pass around the world’s computer networks.
The truly revolutionary aspect of TCP/IP was its implicit quality of network neutrality – the idea that nodes sitting on the network should not discriminate about which packets to transmit. It was at that point that the world’s plethora of networks were slowly nudged away from closed systems towards a larger, globally connected eco-system.
Even at this stage, it was still difficult for most to conceive of the utility that TCP/IP offered up. Sure, there was now a protocol which allowed those that had been exposed to this new innovation – usually in academia or in the US military – to communicate in a revolutionary new manner that offered global reach.
But communicate what exactly? TCP/IP was a protocol only, and it was left to the tech-savvy to figure out how they wanted to make use of it.
It wasn’t until the advent of HTML – the language which continues to power today’s web – that everything began to change in earnest. Suddenly, our browsers became a window onto what was literally a world of knowledge: web-pages stored on servers that were linked by what became the world’s most impressive co-operative network.
But to participate in this brave new world-wide web, you needed to build web pages which required specific technical skills, or at least the finances to hire them. Writing web-pages from scratch in HTML – as people had to back then – was not exactly fun.
Learning web languages, however, still represents a high entry barrier. So further solutions were explored that could allow the average person to create their own web content, and a new generation of innovators brought to market the suite of Content Management Systems that we know today: WordPress, Drupal, Joomla! etc. which reduced both the creation and management of websites to simple click-and-drag actions that democratised the whole entire space.
The Blockchain is currently in its pre-CMS phase. And it is likely that only with a WordPress-type democratisation of its capabilities will we begin to see real adoption.
Projects like Waves, Ethereum and Cardano have explicitly acknowledged WordPress-isation as their ultimate end goal. No-one is in a position to guess which candidate will emerge as the ultimate winner – the market will choose its winner(s) eventually but first the products need to appear.
If money talks, then the most likely candidate to take that crown will be EOS – to date the world’s most successful ICO – having so far raised in excess of $2 billion, according to some sources, to finance its development. It will likely be another three to five years before a winner will be called, but it will make for one of the most interesting tussles that the Blockchain phenomenon will offer up.