Blogging on anything related to cryptocurrency is a daunting prospect, as there is already a huge amount of coverage, the learning curve is steep and the space ever-changing. So am looking forward to some frank feedback on this….
I joined the Blockstack event in Berlin Friday, with speakers including Nick Szabo, Albert Wenger and Edward Snowden, and demos/talks from a dozen or so tokens and dapps including Filecoin and Cryptokitties. We also hosted own ‘decentralized landscape’ event at Balderton yesterday with a wide-ranging discussion.
Reflecting on both of these, and everything I have read in the past, I still feel we don’t talk enough about what decentralised technologies will enable in the ‘real world’ and what businesses will result. Much of the conversation is (quite rightly) technical and most of the rest is ideological, political, even religious. Most smart developers today are working on the infrastructure layer rather than end use cases.
This is my attempt to summarise the use cases I see for decentralised apps and tokens. I am not just looking at whether something is feasible, but also whether there could be meaningful benefits for many users. There are other benefits of a decentralized architecture: reducing the market power of GAFA/BAT; improving privacy; censorship-resistance. However these aspects have been covered extensively elsewhere. Personally I suspect that 95% of the world’s population won’t sacrifice convenience for privacy.
Let me know what I have missed. I have taken the broadest market definition here to include cryptocurrencies, tokens, dApps and private blockchains.
Use cases feasible with current technology (with examples):
- Speculative investment. (BTC, ICOs etc)
- A secure store of value. Particularly relevant in countries with high inflation, political instability and/or capital controls (BTC)
- Clearing and settlement for financial transactions [if can find a robust stablecoin and get critical mass] (R3, Clearmatics)
- Supply chain: process, escrow, provenance [if can find a way to link real world goods to blockchain in reliable way] (Centrifuge, Everledger)
- Aid delivery and tracking (WFP Building Blocks)
- Property registers [if can get governments to adopt and enforce]
- Digital rights (OSCoin)
- Digital collectibles (Cryptokitties)
- Voting (Aragon)
- Portable personal record including ID, medical record (Blockstack)
- Gambling (Etheroll)
- Illegal transactions and money laundering (Silk road)
Use cases feasible with a 1000x increase in scalability:
- Foreign exchange rails (Ripple)
- Microtransactions (Steem)
- Decentralized marketplaces ‘dUber’, ‘deBay’ etc (Openbazaar, Origin)
- Censorship-resistant store of information ‘dWikipedia’
- Payment rails (Stellar, Telegram TON)
Use cases feasible IF a decentralised architecture can reduce operating costs to something comparable to today’s cloud computing
(Personally I am sceptical on how feasible this is while remaining decentralized and secure, but I am not smart enough to say it is not possible)
- Mass market storage (Filecoin)
- Decentralised supercomputing (Golem)
- Decentralised social network (Telegram)
Please let me know what I have missed.
The follow on question for the above is whether they will allow specific companies to get big and profitable, or whether (like http:) they deliver huge goods to society but without making any one person rich. Something for a future post perhaps….