After the rapid growth of cryptocurrencies in 2017, including Bitcoin’s $11,000 bull rally at the end of November, the world is beginning to notice the technology that underlines their existence.
How to Blockchain
The idea of a blockchain is not new by any means, with bitcoin being its flagship proof-of-concept since 2009. The term blockchain refers to a distributed and decentralized ledger that is mostly used to track data of some sort in chronological order.
A blockchain works by assigning individual “blocks” that can hold a certain amount of data. Once filled, a block is then cryptographically linked to another block, all the while using a hashing function to reference them relative to each other. A series of these linked blocks forms a blockchain ledger.
Many computers around the world maintain an always-updated version of this ledger and continuously validate any proposed changes to it, which makes blockchain technology work a lot like a transparent database that can never be modified.
Given its novel approach to data security, blockchain adoption has been steadily rising over the years.
Critical Inspection and Adoption Attempts
That said, blockchains are not too different from any other new emerging technology, in the sense that any new development related to it, however vague or insignificant, is lauded with lavish praise and extravagance. While these incremental upgrades to a pre-existing technology are significant for its longevity, the constant coverage prevents many from appreciating, or even understanding, the sheer strength of blockchain technology by itself.
The rise of blockchain’s popularity comes at a time when investor interest in startups is also at an all-time high. As a result, new startups claiming to specialize in leveraging blockchain technology are a dime, a dozen these days.
But while startups are taking the prolific route, multinational corporations are only now beginning to explore this innovative sector. While VISA and MasterCard both have functioning blockchain networks, they are not currently available to be used by the general public.
Asian countries, in particular, have demonstrated a rapid growth in blockchain development. In September 2017, China banned Initial Coin Offerings (ICOs) and reportedly forced all cryptocurrency exchanges to stop operating in the country. Despite inhibiting the circulation of digital currencies, government and enterprise blockchain developments have been thriving months after the incident. South Korea is yet another market that is witnessing massive amounts of blockchain related advancement.
Trial and Error: A Maturing Technology
Interested participants can integrate blockchains into almost any system that currently relies on mutual trust and a central verifying authority. It is partly because of this widespread potential that investor confidence in the blockchain has surged in recent years. For instance, stock prices of one company shot up 400 percent immediately after it added the word ‘blockchain’ to its name.
It is unlikely that we will see the successful mass adoption of blockchain technology anytime soon. Much like the internet, we will probably see many companies undermine the technology before making significant headway and bringing it to the public.
This process, while excruciatingly slow, is an important one, for it is the hallmark of any technology’s maturity.
Similarly, the blockchain’s current evolutionary stage could span over the next year or quickly take up the better half of another decade. But once it reaches the point of mass adoption, there is no telling what ramifications it will have on industries worldwide.