Partly cloudy: How blockchain can become a force of nature

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On Jan. 3, 2009, Satoshi Nakamoto mined the Bitcoin genesis block and launched the largest technological gold rush of the century. Bitcoin (BTC) was at once a software, a “protocol,” a network, a development team and a new thing called cryptocurrency. Simultaneously, cloud technology proved that abstractions and application programming interfaces could facilitate explosive scalability and product agility, removing all of the distractions that were prevalent in 90% of any application’s technology stack. 

Despite the onset of dozens of competitors that have appeared since Bitcoin’s inception, almost all have been vertically integrated and none have resulted in the same changes of explosions in products that the cloud has. Networks such as Ethereum and EOS broke that norm by providing a “platform” for several different public blockchain networks to emerge — but what lies beyond even that?

To answer this question, we need to identify what a blockchain is at its most atomic level. Bitcoin and its successors, such as Ethereum and EOS, provide several technical features, like peer-to-peer gossip networks, decentralized consensus mechanisms and cryptographically backed “ownership.” These are not necessarily novel technical features, having existed previously in the backends of many products that failed to create the level of value Bitcoin has.

Moreover, defining any blockchain by its purely technical features is a misstep that frames the technology as existing only for technologists. For people outside of tech, the most notable feature of Bitcoin, for example, is that it creates and operates Bitcoin, a digital currency that you can own,…

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