Brave new world

Author: Daniel Buchner (Microsoft)

Never before in human history have we had an open source, decentralized, distributed system of secure, worldwide, transaction reconciliation with the features of a blockchain. The impacts and opportunities blockchains represent are legion.

Blockchains possess key attributes that can potentially unlock development of new systems with characteristics that have been unavailable in traditional systems. Decentralizing trust is the most fundamentally transformative feature of blockchains. Everywhere around you are systems built upon the foundational assumption that there must be an owning party or group of arbiters you trust to act on your behalf, and do so benevolently. It may seems simple or trivial, but removing that assumption has far-reaching implications that could change the dynamics of human interaction, product development, and how we deliver services.

Areas of Interest

Some interesting areas of interest we would like to explore and discuss are:

Transaction Rate Challenges

As distributed systems, blockchains are limited in terms of transaction rate. While the Bitcoin blockchain can currently support a rate of 8-10 transactions/second, and other blockchains plan to raise that into the thousands, there are fundamental boundaries that may never be overcome. Some calculate, even with theoretical upgrades, blockchains will be hard-pressed to surpass per-second transaction rates beyond the low hundreds of thousands.

Adding middleware layers of blockchain-anchored trust may be the answer to the transaction rate issues blockchains face. Most non-monetary use-cases people seek to leverage blockchains for probably do not need their transactions to be stored on-chain. With blockchian-anchored trust layers (e.g. identity) it is possible to sign off-chain transactions backed by blockchain trust, that can be recorded and maintained by traditional, high-scale systems, all while retaining desired features and functionality.

Staying Grounded

At the heart of our explorations is a healthy skepticism. We balance a desire to seek out exciting new ways to develop systems with the realization that we are still in the formative stages of this new frontier in technology. We believe that together, hand-in-hand with partners and organizations like the W3C, we can find ways to better understand where blockchains fit and how they can be used to benefit the people, companies, organizations, and governments that seek to leverage their capabilities.

Blockchains are uncharted territory - let's explore this brave new world together.

My submission also viewable via Gist: