Is Blockchain Really The Next Internet?
The Blockchain versus The Internet
The Blockchain is often touted as the next Internet. A technology so important that it will revolutionize the way we live our lives. There is no lack of interest in Blockchain amongst big technology companies, financial institutions, governments and even the members of the public. The impact of the Internet on our daily lives is now so complete that it would be impossible to think of a world without it. Canada and Germany have even declared the Internet as “essential for life.”
Yet, we are not at a stage where Blockchain has assumed a similar role. So what will it take for Blockchain to get there? What steps does it need to assume a similar significance?
Making things work with each other
The Internet of today is universal. We do not really have to think twice about plugging things into it. At the moment we have different Blockchains, some of which are open-source public Blockchains and we also have private Blockchains and the interoperability between Blockchains simply has not reached the level of the Internet. As an example, if a user of Blockchain A wanted to buy an asset on Blockchain B, it would be difficult in the present scenario. A common format like the Internet’s TCP/IP would make things considerably easier. Then there is also the sticky problem of how Blockchains will communicate with legacy systems of yore.
The need for speed
Blockchains still have the issue of moving sludge up the pipelines. As an example, Hyperledger can only handle around 1000 transactions per second. Bitcoin transaction rate per second is limited to seven. David Gilbert of IB Times writes in his article: “The problem relates to how transactions are processed on the Blockchain, the decentralized, distributed ledger technology that underpins Bitcoin.The average time it takes for a Bitcoin transaction to be verified is now 43 minutes, and some transactions remain unverified forever.” Blockchain systems need to evolve to instant or near-instant levels to reach ubiquity.
Blockchain cauldron has too many cooks
It is basically a question of too many cooks spoiling the broth. The more participants in a Blockchain network, the difficult it becomes to change things. We have seen splits and hard forks, we have seen an inability to change things because of the lack of consensus, etc. It can get quite unwieldy to maintain a network or to scale it up in order to stay relevant with the times. This is a question that Bitcoin will have to face in the future as well. However, on the Internet side of things, the evolution of governance has been done by a number of global bodies such as ICANN, the UN and others.
Who do we trust?
It took the Internet a while to emerge as a reliable platform. This, of course, has required the intervention of government and some legislative effort across the world. The established financial networks of today enjoy a level of trust among consumers, merchants, and bankers as well. Blockchain systems have yet to garner the same level of trust as these established players.
The stench of geekdom
The Internet, in the beginning, was a geek heaven – bulletin boards, terminal sessions, etc. The interface was simply not appealing enough for the common user. It was the World Wide Web that changed the Internet and made it more accessible to the average person on the street. Blockchain, unfortunately, still reeks of geekdom. We need an interface that will make Blockchain indispensable to everyone and we need it sooner rather than later.
As Dominik Zynis, advisor to Wings.ai, says with regard to Blockchain and the WWW:
“The World Wide Web democratized the content lifecycle (creation, distribution, rating, consumption). For example, we no longer get our news from two or three channels, instead, we get our news from friends and associates sharing on places like Twitter, Facebook and Snapchat. Likewise, Blockchain technology can democratize the money lifecycle; however, to do that Blockchain technology must enable and empower the unseen and unimportant.”
He goes on to say: “Just like companies like YouTube, Instagram, Snapchat and others capitalize on the long-tail of content creation empower cat owners to distribute cat videos, so too must Blockchain technology through projects like Counterparty creating PepeCash and BANCOR Network creating local coins enable the long-tail of coin creation.” While Blockchain is getting there, we are still far away from the day when it will be ever present. What we need is interoperability, simplicity, and standards that everyone can agree on. It is perhaps a matter of time.
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