Skip to Navigation

Feed aggregator

Is Blockchain the Ultimate Open Source Disruptive Technology?

Open Source Strategies - Thu, 01/05/2017 - 02:55

Is blockchain an even more disruptive technology than the web?  Could IOT be the best place for blockchain to take off?

Fred Wilson of Union Square Ventures has been talking a lot about the blockchain recently, so I decided to learn more about it.  I read the Marketing the Blockchain e-book, watched The Grand Vision of a Crypto-Tech Economy video and the video keynote of Overstock CEO Patrick Byrne at the Bitcoin 2014 conference, and did some more research on my own.  While far from an expert, I do see some interesting parallels to the adoption of open source software.  Here’s what I’ve learned — please comment and tell me if I’m wrong:

What’s the Big Deal about the Blockchain?

Blockchain is a distributed ledger system using crytography and open source software.  The goal of the blockchain is to allow anonymous and secure record-keeping.  Record-keeping not of the mundane, high speed data in databases, but more critical information like money, transactions, and identities.

But here’s the big thing: instead of those records being kept in one central, allegedly secure place, it is kept distributed in a peer to peer way, while also being (allegedly?) secure.

Ok, that’s nice.  So what?

Now stop for a moment.  Think about this: What does every institution in our society do?

What does your bank do?

What does the Federal Reserve, European Central Bank, Bank of England, or any other central bank do?

What does your local registrar/recorder do?

What do eBay, etsy, Paypal, uber, airbnb, Facebook, Amazon, Yelp do?

What does every business, big or small, do?

They all keep records in a central, allegedly secure, place.

So what if there was a technology (open source no less!) that could replace every single centrally kept source of information with a peer-to-peer distributed alternative?

The internet is a big deal because it fundamentally replaced centralized information repositories such as newspapers, TV, and encyclopedias with distributed, peer-to-peer alternatives.  If the blockchain could replace all these other parts of our society, right down to our monetary and banking systems, wouldn’t it be a 10x, 100x, 1000x more powerful force for change than the internet?

IF.

Could it Really Happen?

Blockchain enthusiasts would tell you that it is already happening: Openbazaar is out to replace eBay, Amazon, and etsy.  Steemit is out to replace reddit, twitter, and Facebook.  And then, there’s bitcoin, out to replace your money with a digital currency outside the control of any government!  Not only is it accepted at Overstock now, but there’s actually an impressive list of places that take bitcoin for payment, including Expedia, Microsoft, Whole Foods, Dell, Home Depot, and Sears.

But here’s the catch: These places are accepting bitcoin based on its spot exchange rate to mainstream currencies.  For example, when you checkout at Overstock, your shopping cart is quoted in dollars, and then Coinbase will quote you a bitcoin price based on the current bitcoin/dollar exchange rate.  This bitcoin price is good only for a short period of time (10 minutes from when I tried it.)

So in reality, “accepting bitcoin” today is like accepting the Discover card.  It’s certainly a necessary step if bitcoin is to go mainstream, but it doesn’t mean that bitcoin is replacing established currencies.  For that to happen, we’d actually have to see an economy that’s priced in bitcoins.  This means a group of people must be willing to take a relatively fixed amount of bitcoins for their goods or services, instead of pricing them in dollars, euros, or another established currency.  Usually, that means other people must be willing to take their bitcoins in turn.

For example, you might bill $100 per hour for your services.  You probably wouldn’t change that rate as the dollar fluctuates from $1.05 to $1.2, $1.3, or even $1.6 to the euro.  Would you similarly accept 0.1 bitcoins instead of $100 per hour, whether 1 bitcoin was worth $700, $1,000, or $1,300?  That depends on what you can do with it, doesn’t it?  If you live in the United States and pay rent, buy groceries, and go to restaurants and movies with dollars, it won’t matter to you what the dollar to euro exchange rate was, because all your expenses are still (more or less) the same in dollars.  Similarly, until you could buy all sorts of stuff at relatively stable bitcoin prices, you’re taking quite a risk fixing your price in bitcoins.

Hence we have the classic adoption problem for new technologies: Until we get a large group of people to adopt it, most people wouldn’t want to adopt it.

Lessons from the Quiet Revolution

Most blockchain advocates deeply believe that a de-centralized economy is a fundamental virtue, but they also realize that the rest of the world won’t care.  They know that for the blockchain to take off, it must be an invisible part of the apps that power regular people’s lives.

Which sounds just like open source software: Most open source developers believe that software freedom is fundamentally good, and software copyrights and patents are fundamentally evil.  Richard Stallman’s The GNU Manifesto could practically be translated into a manifesto for blockchain just by changing some words.  Yet that’s not what drove the adoption of open source software in the end.  We did not, as a society, all rise up to overthrow the shackles of commercial software.  Instead, open source is a quiet revolution: When you open your smartphone, check some reviews, surf the web, play a game, or buy something online, you’ve probably used at least a dozen different open source technologies.  But most people don’t even know what “open source” means (although it sounds nice.)

What drove this quiet revolution?  In retrospect, open source software has been most successful when three conditions are met:

  1. The market space has no dominant commercial incumbent.
  2. The market space was not deemed mission critical.
  3. Open source was the easiest, lowest friction option available.

For example, Linux, Apache (actually just the httpd web server), MySQL, and PHP (aka “LAMP”) were all successful because they were used for building web-based applications in the early 2000’s.  Commercial alternatives like Solaris, Microsoft IIS, Oracle, and ASP .NET were not dominant the way Microsoft Windows and Office or SAP were.  Funnily enough, back then websites weren’t considered mission critical by most companies, so it wasn’t a big deal to let the geeks try out some new technologies.  And it was much easier for those geeks to download and install LAMP and start making a website than go through the long procurement process with Oracle, Sun, or Microsoft.  So open source took off.

What Don’t You Like About Establishment?

Contrast this with the blockchain today, and we see that in all the niches we’ve talked about, there is a dominant player: Our currencies and banks, major corporations, and social networks are very much established.  Furthermore, they are very much mission-critical.  We get paid with dollars and know that we can pay our rent or buy groceries.  We put it in the bank and trust it’ll be there tomorrow, and we don’t have to worry about losing all our money if our hard drive crashed and we lost our bitcoin keys.  We trust the reviews on Amazon and eBay and know that when we buy something, the goods would get to us.  We trust that uber will send us a driver who is not going to hijack us, and the driver trusts that uber will pay them for our trip.

We may not like everything about them, but how many people are ready for a peer-to-peer, de-centralized alternative?  And if anything went wrong with that alternative, “who would I sue?”

So can we find some non-mission-critical applications where there are no dominant incumbents?

We might think that blockchain is a natural fit for places that fall outside the established monetary and banking system, for example in countries with failing currencies.  But the dominant incumbent currency in those countries is usually the US dollar: there are apparently more dollar bills in circulation outside the United States than inside for that very reason.

We might think that technologically, the blockchain is a natural fit for peer-to-peer transactions, like eBay or uber.  But those are very mission-critical applications.  There are plenty of eBay sellers whose livelihood depends on getting paid and getting good reviews.  They’ve learned how to get those through eBay and Paypal.  Would they trust that livelihood to someone else easily?  As for uber, it’s the driver’s livelihood and the rider’s life that are literally at stake.

And then there’s health care.  Here’s a great one: Our health care system is antiquated.  Records are not even kept electronically.  We don’t trust our doctors, hospitals, and especially insurance companies and government health departments.  There is no dominant incumbent.  Wouldn’t it be great to be able to keep all my health records in the blockchain, so I can share them with doctors and insurers and even other physicians at my choice?

But what if something happened to my health records?  What if they got stolen, tampered with, or simply lost?  It could be life or death.  Talk about mission critical.  So would most people trust Google or a peer-to-peer distributed ledger?

One interesting blockchain application is micro-payments.  Today’s payment networks, such as Paypal and credit cards, have a minimum threshold below which the costs are just too great.  It’s not worth it to send someone $0.05 electronically, but it is with blockchain.  So can we have an economy where blockchain is used to transact in such small amounts?  Perhaps.  I don’t know of anybody who does.

But what if micro-payments is paired up with smart contracts like Ethereum, which allows transactions to happen automatically based on rules.  And then tiny payments, perhaps even smaller than $0.01, could be sent between computers and devices as they connect and work together.  By 2020, we’re supposed to have 20 billion (according to Gartner) to 38 billion (according to Juniper) Internet-Of-Things (IOT) devices in the world.  Maybe all these devices could just accumulate small amounts of money for us on the side, and this could be a new, non-mission-critical field without an incumbent technology.  Hmm….

As you can see, I haven’t figured out a break out application for blockchain.  But then again, like I said at the beginning, I’m far from an expert–not even much of a beginner in fact.  If you think of something, please let me know in the comments.

 

How to Make Business Intelligence and Analytics Pay Off

opentaps Analytics - Fri, 07/29/2011 - 20:00
Many companies seem to follow a “Christmas morning toy” routine when it comes to business intelligence and analytics: See cool reports and charts “We want those!” Spend time and money implementing them “Wow, these are cool!” Move on something else and eventually forget all about the cool reports and charts Sometimes there’s also a “CNN...

Newsflash: Businesses Aren’t Very Intelligent

opentaps Analytics - Fri, 07/29/2011 - 20:00
A recent study by Accenture found: While 55% of businesses thought they were very good at understanding and segmenting their customers, but only 21% of those customers agreed. More companies chose “personal experience” over analytical data as very important in business decision making. When analyzing customers, companies focus on profit by customer and lifetime value...

Welcome to opentaps Analytics!

opentaps Analytics - Fri, 07/29/2011 - 20:00
Every time a customer buys (or returns) something from us, he’s telling us something very important about the product and himself. With opentaps Analytics, we wanted to create an easy-to-use tool for you to use that information to your advantage.  Want to know which products sell best?  Whether you need more help on Mondays?  Which...

Full Page Caching and related Session Issues in OFBiz/Opentaps

Amicon Tech Blogs - Mon, 01/10/2011 - 23:00
What is Full page caching? Full-page caching is the simplest and most straightforward dynamic caching mechanism. The user defines which page to cache and the server stores it in the cache disk space. In subsequent request for the page, instead … Continue reading →

Caching in Opentaps/OFBiz

Amicon Tech Blogs - Mon, 01/10/2011 - 23:00
In computer engineering a cache is a component that transparently stores data so that future requests for that data can be served faster. The data that is stored within a cache might be values that have been computed earlier or … Continue reading →

Infinite Scrolling is the new way of pagination

Amicon Tech Blogs - Mon, 01/10/2011 - 23:00
We all may be familiar with pagination using the next and previous buttons. But there are tons of websites like Twitter, Facebook, etc. that have come up with a new technique of infinite scrolling for pagination. In this post, we … Continue reading →

Loyalty Points in Advanced Ecommerce (Apache Ofbiz/Opentaps)

Amicon Tech Blogs - Mon, 01/10/2011 - 23:00
Loyalty Points in Advanced Ecommerce(Apache Ofbiz / Opentaps) The Reward Points features allows merchants to promote customer loyalty and increase sales by rewarding customers for their purchases and for referring other customers. Loyalty points program allowed companies to reward their … Continue reading →

Grinder Setup

Amicon Tech Blogs - Mon, 01/10/2011 - 23:00
This document describes how to setup Grinder for running system and performance testing against our web application. Grinder Introduction There are three main processes to are used to run tests across machine: Worker process: interpret Jython test scripts and performs … Continue reading →

Selenium Tutorials – To test OFBiz/Opentaps Ecommerce UI

Amicon Tech Blogs - Mon, 01/10/2011 - 23:00
Selenium Tutorials 1) Selenium IDE is an integrated development environment for performing selenium tests. Selenium tests can be written as HTML tables or coded in various languages like C#, PHP, Perl, Python and can be run directly in most modern browsers. … Continue reading →

XSS- Cross-site scripting in OFBiz/Opentaps

Amicon Tech Blogs - Mon, 01/10/2011 - 23:00
1. What is Cross Site Scripting? Cross-site scripting (XSS) is a type of computer security vulnerability (Susceptibility to injury or attack) typically found in web applications which enable malicious attackers to inject client-side script into web pages viewed by other … Continue reading →

Eclipse: Reset your saved SVN credentials

Amicon Tech Blogs - Mon, 01/10/2011 - 23:00
If you have saved your SVN credetials in eclipse and want to reset it then we can follow the below process - Check your subclipse settings: 1. If it uses JavaHL: Windows: USER_HOME/Application Data/Subversion/auth Linux: ~/.subversion/auth OSX: ~/.subversion/auth For a … Continue reading →

Opentaps: Important Links

Amicon Tech Blogs - Mon, 01/10/2011 - 23:00
You can go through the following links to experience the Opentaps environment: 1> About Opentaps: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Opentaps, http://www.opentaps.org/ 2> Opentaps Documentation/Wiki: http://www.opentaps.org/docs/index.php/Main_Page 3> Source Repository(SVN): http://www.opentaps.org/community/source-repository 4> Framework introduction and videos http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=46CDSZ-rnVw 5> Forum: http://www.opentaps.org/forum 6> Service Providers And Partners: http://www.opentaps.org/partners 7> … Continue reading →

How MiniLang is formed

Amicon Tech Blogs - Mon, 01/10/2011 - 23:00
How minilang can be defined? Its is simply well formed XML. Developers write XML that obeys a defined schema, this XML is then parsed by the framework and commands are executed accordingly. A local copy of the schema is included … Continue reading →

Comment on Hello world! by Mr WordPress

Amicon Tech Blogs - Mon, 01/03/2011 - 15:17

Hi, this is a comment.
To delete a comment, just log in and view the post's comments. There you will have the option to edit or delete them.

Syndicate content

Opentaps service provider erp crm   Site designed by IntegratingWeb with Drupal
© Open Source Strategies Inc.  Terms of Use