As time rolls along, something is beginning to become clear, the revolutionary impact of Bitcoin will go further than the creation of new digital currencies. More and more technologists are beginning to realise that the layer of authentication that Bitcoin rests upon, the blockchain, can be used in many other ways1. The impact of Satoshi Nakamoto will be much more far reaching than just on money!
In tech terms, venture capitalists and entrepreneurs are looking not only for a new disruption, but also for a platform. They have learned the lesson taught by Apple and everyone wants to have their own “ecosystem”.
In late 2015 Goldman Sachs applied for patents relating to the blockchain. It is interesting to think that an investment bank of their size is interested, but actually there are many large financial institutions that are investigating closely.
One reason for this is that there is a growing belief that the blockchain can replace stock ledgers – in other words, the holdings of company debt and equities could be recorded using this technology. This has the potential to cut out “the middle man” in financial services, so if stockbrokers thought that the internet had made their business difficult, they are going to have an even tougher time to come!
This all makes sense of course – a distributed and virtually impossible to fake ledger is a great advance for finance.
One of the newest innovations is namecoin4. Not only is it an alt coin, but it is also being established as an alternative to the current system of domain registration. By enabling a distributed domain registry (using .bit as the suffix) it makes it possible to sidestep attempts at censorship. It will be virtually impossible to take down a website that is distributed globally.
Obviously, this can be used for good and evil. There are probably many ways that criminals can use this to sell illegal goods, but as was seen during the Arab Spring, totalitarian governments have a history of trying to interrupt the internet access of their population. While this would not necessarily solve the access problems of the masses, it would make it much harder – probably impossible – for them to take down websites that they disagree with.
Namecoin certainly looks as though it would be another big step for online privacy and anonymity, especially when combined with Bitcoin.