Blockchain, the next Internet?

By Jo Vercammen (Orillia

The first time I encountered the technology was in 2012, when a friend introduced Bitcoin as the next big thing after the Internet.

Being sceptical at first, I started seeking answers about the possible gaps and pitfalls of the technology (Like any other). So I read the mythical paper of the even more mysterious Sathosi Nakamoto, finding the answers for each question that I had. Inspired by this, I was converted to the Bitcoin Church.

In 2013, Bitcoin became a hype and the community saw Bitcoin as the answer to each political and economical problem. For some it was the personification of Thomas Moore's Utopia. Bitcoin was the free haven for Buccaneers and social activists. But in the shadows of Bitcoin, the idea of building something more than just a currency was growing.  A Bitcoin 2.0, where projects like Etherium and Colored Coins where pitched.

By the beginning of 2014, the Bitcoin bubble exploded and by 2015 falling to about the 10th of the market cap that it had. While Bitcoin steadily tried to recover from its depth, Blockchain came more and more out of the shadows. It breached through the surface with the release of Etherium.

Now in 2016, Blockchain is the new Gin and Tonic. It's been preached as the greatest invention since the wheel and the solution to every problem, going from political to social-economical. For me, this sounds as a deja-vue.

Blockchain has potential to become the next big thing since Internet, but it still has to face the same demons that Bitcoin has:

  • Performance: At it's best, Blockchain can handle about 1000 transactions/sec (Hyperledger). Which is still insufficient for payment settlements. But slower performance is a consequence of blockchain’s decentralized nature and verification process.
  • Maintainability: the larger the set of participants in the network, the more difficult it is to make changes to the rule or protocol of the distributed ledger. The same applies to smart contracts. Fixing a bug to smart contract is quite cumbersome. At the moment it's not possible to update a smart contact. Yet, changing a contract without consent of the participants is not desirable.
  • The biggest challenge will be the interoperability of Blockchain between legacy systems and other distributed ledgers.  Where the interoperability can be organized in a public network, like the Internet is the glue between other intranets. This network can very well be Bitcoin, that already been coined as the public ledger.

For now, we’re merely at the beginning, but Blockchain will not be the disruptor that changed society from the Stone Age to the Bronze Age. The adoption will not be so disruptive that we all think.

It’s reminds me of the WorldWideWeb at CERN. Ted Nelson called it the worst technology ever with a lot of broken flaws. Yet, the technology grew from the unsecured stateless pages to the dynamical web applications we all know today and maybe Blockchain will solve the issues that Ted Nelson had of bidirectional links and version management that the WorldWideWeb still misses.

About the author

Jo Vercammen has a Master in applied informatics and has more than 10 years of experience as a business consultant in the ERP market. Bitten by the Bitcoin virus, he started Orillia BVBA to provide professional services around Blockchain/Bitcoin technology.

In 2014, Orillia was the first in releasing a network of Bitcoin ATM machines in Belgium. Currently, Orillia is focussing on providing solutions targeting specific issues in cash management and corporate treasury, all based on blockchain technology.