Already now, two main directions are gradually being defined, which over time are likely to become more and more separate from each other: decentralized public blockchains and managed private blockchains. Since their differences are fundamental, over time, interaction between projects of different directions will become less and less possible.
In the second half of 2018, there was a lot of writing about the good prospects for managed (i.e. private and public) blockchains. Indeed, solutions based on Hyperledger, Corda, Exonum and other managed blockchain projects can bring all the benefits expected of them. They will reduce the costs of the approval and decision-making processes, provide a safer environment for information exchange and increase trust between counterparties. At the same time, centralized decisions do not allow the anarchy of decentralized systems, leaving the making of key decisions not to a faceless community of anonymous people scattered around the world, but to a clearly defined group or organization that manages the blockchain.
It would be more correct to call such networks not blockchains, but private distributed networks with blockchain elements. Of the three main characteristics of Bitcoin and other public blockchains (immutability, decentralization, openness) in managed blockchains, in fact, only the first is preserved, and then conditionally:
The principle of openness of a managed blockchain (that is, the ability for any network participant to see the entire transaction history of all users) can be incorporated or rejected during its creation, depending on the functional features. However, corporate networks will always be characterized by a policy of delimiting access to information both reading it and adding to the system and making changes. Full openness is also contraindicated for state services, at least for reasons of protecting personal data of users, the presence of various levels of secrecy, etc.
All this means that the architectural and technical differences between public and private blockchains will intensify and, over time, may lead to their completely separate development, even if standards are adopted to ensure interoperability. At the same time, the exchange of technologies can become one-way all the successful solutions found by the developers of public blockchains can be used in private projects on the basis of open licenses. At the same time, corporate developments, no doubt, will be patented, and their third-party use will become possible only upon the conclusion of licensing agreements and corresponding royalties.
Probably the biggest disappointment for blockchain enthusiasts will be the abandonment of the dream of a “world revolution” that decentralization and transparency of information exchange are supposed to bring. Revolutions are made in the minds of society, and technology only helps to implement them. But public blockchains will not be able to overcome political barriers, while private technologies are used quite utilitarian.
In the corporate market, evolutionary processes can be expected from the blockchain, such as reducing costs and moving to a new level of interaction between counterparties, but truly revolutionary changes are unlikely to follow.
However, there will probably not be any conflicts on this side. If public services, due to open source code, are left in the care of informal development teams, as is the practice now, the development of private blockchains will concentrate in the hands of IT corporations, into which it will be difficult for new players to breakthrough. However, as is the case with Linux and many other open-source software, even free open source development is often sponsored by corporations and subsequently used in their products. In fact, this process is already underway: IBM, Microsoft, Oracle, SAP, Intel, Baidu, Cisco, Hitachi and other giants of the industry are participating in the development of private blockchains. From any serious independent players of the new generation who have become “unicorns”, only Bitfury with their Exonum project can be noted. But even this company, even if it manages to bring its product to the market, may lose the battle with the giants or simply be absorbed.
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