Case 31: Blockchain Can Create An Ecosystem That Is Accessible By All
Up until now, this paper has presented the expansion in reasoning from Blockchain 1.0 to 2.0, which have made the technology usable for far more than just currency. All of the protocols and use-cases that have been presented have been specialised, attempting to offer specific and rich feature sets targeted toward specific industries or applications that are financial in nature.
There are however a group of developers that takes an opposite track: a blockchain network that intends to be as generalised as possible, allowing anyone to create specialized applications on top for almost any purpose imaginable. They focus on developing the building blocks for entire ecosystems that will come into existence in the future. These are massively ambitious projects, which will take years to come into proper fruition. This paper will therefore present two of these projects which show the most promise at the time of writing.
The first to be described is called Ethereum, which are built around the philosophy of an public ledger. This means they intend to create an ecosystem that is accessible by all. The second is the project initiated by R3CEV, intending to create a private blockchain solution they envision as a global fabric for finance.
Case Study: Ethereum
The best way to explain Ethereum is to view it as a platform for future ecosystems: It allows people to easily create the infrastructure to set up new services on the internet. Furthermore, any infrastructure created on Ethereum sits alongside everyone else’s creations, and can therefore interact with those other platforms in a guaranteed and seamless manner. Compare this with the last 20 years of internet development, which have produced innovative solutions and services built on top of other platforms. The likes of eBay and Facebook have made setting up a shop or marketing firm much easier, since you have an established platform allowing people to realize their ideas quickly and easily. Ethereum aims to provide something similar, which is why we categorize them as a value ecosystem.
Their initial work focused on defining a simple way to create smart contracts. They created a simple language which allows such smart contracts to run on the Ethereum platform, and are now pushing to take it one step further. Looking forward, they envision a future decentralized system; where anyone can unilaterally join and participate in, one in which all participants contribute to the running and maintenance, and where there exists no entity that can prevent participation or arbitrarily censor the content or usage. Suffice to say, Ethereum has grand ambitions.
Whether or not they succeed is yet to be determined, but their ambitions give a clear indication of what the blockchain technology might be capable of in the future. These value ecosystems are building the best digital system we can have for administering multi-user interactions without any need for centralized coordination or oversight, where all things of value will move freely between the various corners of the world.
Case Study: R3CEV
Differentiating themselves from many other blockchain startups, R3CEV started from scratch knowing that they were going to provide a flexible, holistic base layer with the specific functional requirements for secure, scalable enterprise use. This meant they would need to incorporate a set of non-functional requirements that globally regulated financial institutions must adhere to such as: compliance, privacy, reporting and reconciliation.
They also knew that if financial institutions and regulatory bodies were not involved and engaged from the beginning, then whatever solution that was created would likely: 1) fail to be viewed as an authoritative and legal record of truth and 2) fall short of adequately address their exacting needs.
R3’s strategy was therefore to make partnerships with 25 of the world’s leading financial institutions and create a collaborative lab which would create a common distributed ledger standard. Press releases have indicated that their first use-case will be deployable early 2016, and from there further improvements will be built continuously.