Is blockchain still relevant in 2022?

Those of us that remember the dot com crash can hear echoes of “I told you so” as we watch the cryptocurrency implosion taking place over the course of 2022. Equally as salient is the evidence that while the bust was bad news, it was by no means the end of the internet, quite the opposite. The parallels can only be taken so far but thinking back to the miserable days circa 1999 does offer perspective for those of us that remain optimistic about the future of blockchain technology.  Those of you that follow Earthling might know that our application development team takes blockchain technology seriously as do our clients for whom we are building applications that implement blockchain. We feel it is our responsibility to defend the technology and to help our clients and followers understand our position, especially because we understand and respect the suspicion and confusion surrounding blockchain technology.  Challenges of Implementing Blockchain  Blockchain’s relative novelty as an applied technology brings its own set of challenges. The technology itself is still poorly understood and this can lead to it being used improperly. For example, blockchain may be chosen to solve a specific problem which it doesn’t solve particularly well, leading to the conclusion that it doesn’t have value.  You can think of it as trying to use a screwdriver to hammer in a nail – whose idea was it to invent a screwdriver anyway?  Likewise, poor understanding can lead to problematic implementation. This would be like trying to put together a bookcase and having a bunch of pieces left over. It may work initially, but over time, the stress caused by the missing pieces is going to make the bookcase fall apart a lot quicker.  Blockchain has not had time to grow and mature like other technologies that developers use on a regular basis. Many of us are familiar with products like Docker or WordPress that make starting up a project simple compared to what it used to be 10 or 15 years ago. Blockchain doesn’t have these tools yet though, so starting up a new project takes time, and many complex decisions must be made. For example: Which blockchain are you going to use? Which consensus algorithms work best for your use cases? Do you need a public or private blockchain? and so forth.  The lack of regulations over blockchain implementation and use is a controversial but, in our view, critical hurdle to widespread adoption of blockchain technology. Many enthusiasts push against regulations because they feel it will stifle the growth of the technology. However, without regulation, blockchain remains a suspicious technology and will continue to attract bad actors. Media coverage of malicious hacks and sensational cryptocurrency fraud degrades trust in the technology. Fortunately, governments around the world are taking note, with a growing demand for regulation that will enable the trust needed to let the technology flourish.  What Makes Blockchain Worth Overcoming the Challenges  Blockchain is causing us to reevaluate our traditional school of thought and look at old problems in a new light. Concerns around data security and privacy are becoming more urgent every day and blockchain offers us a new tool to protect digitally managed assets. Because all data on the blockchain is validated and encrypted before being stored, there is a pathway toward stable protections. And because multiple copies of the data exist at all times, it can be validated at any time, making it extremely difficult to corrupt the data.   As developers, the evolution and variety of consensus mechanisms ignites our curiosity. A consensus mechanism is the tool that blockchain uses to ensure that all the data in the blockchain is true and accurate. Unfortunately, the advantages of consensus has been offset by the downside – intense energy usage. Some consensus mechanisms require lots of computing power from various sources to validate data. The good news is that blockchain developers are tackling the environmental impact by exploring new consensus mechanisms able to validate data with far less computing power. There are now dozens of different consensus mechanisms with different focuses including: higher security, promoting equal participation involvement, and minimizing computing power.   Earthling’s Commitment to Blockchain  Finding reliable content on leading edge technologies is a challenge. This is doubly true for a technology like blockchain which has largely evolved as a sort of “rebel tech”.  But at Earthling we firmly believe that blockchain has immense potential as a legitimate business tool. One of the few designated sources of expertise on this technology is the Blockchain Council.   Earlier this year (2022) Earthling Interactive joined the Blockchain Council, primarily to gain access to training and certification for members of our apps team. A lot of professional development in the programming world consists of on-the-job training, and we’ve had the honor to work with a long-time client to help them build a blockchain application. However, there is also value in formal learning and the Blockchain Council offers one of the rare opportunities to participate in a designated program.  As of this writing, 3 of our developers have gained certification from the Blockchain Council. In addition to offering an official designation of expertise, participation in the certification program gave our developers an inside look at the Council’s approach to legitimizing blockchain for business use. In general, they felt it was a worthwhile program, and offered the opportunity to take a guided deep dive into the fundamentals of the technology. Unfortunately, the quality of the delivery was somewhat compromised, in part due to automated translation (another emerging technology!), and occasional poor streaming quality. But as advocates for a safe, regulated, accessible approach to technology, we believe it is vital to participate in the evolution of a proper and broadly accepted set of blockchain standards.