Bitcoin is just the first app to use blockchain technology

Understanding the value of the blockchain above and beyond bitcoin.


Editor’s note: Lorne Lantz is a program co-chair for our O’Reilly Radar Summit: Bitcoin & the Blockchain on January 27, 2015, in San Francisco. For more on the program and for registration information, visit the Bitcoin & the Blockchain event website.

I remember the first time I heard about bitcoin. It was June 2012, and I was invited to a bitcoin meetup. The whole time I was sitting there, I thought these were a bunch of computer geeks playing around with nerd money.

At the same time, I felt excited about the possibilities. If what the bitcoin believers were saying was true, it could become something very big. When I took a closer look, I realized why it could be so groundbreaking: decentralization.

Unlike other currencies and payment networks, bitcoin is not controlled by a bank, government, or financial institution. Instead, thousands of computers around the world verify transactions and manage a global decentralized ledger. This innovative technology is called the blockchain, and it provides a unique pathway that allows — for the first time — many computers that don’t trust each other to achieve consensus. In bitcoin’s case, they are achieving consensus on updates to the global ledger.

Right now, bitcoin has a poor reputation in the public because the majority of media coverage has been about Silk Road, Mt. Gox, and price volatility. However, people are slowly becoming curious to understand bitcoin and the blockchain. Some exciting new start-ups are discovering the incredible value in the blockchain and applying it to other technologies and services. For instance, why only decentralize a ledger? Why not decentralize passports, health records, or contracts?

Even technologist Don Tapscott, once a bitcoin skeptic, has now come around to the idea of blockchain technology.

Looking at the misinformation, speculation, and confusion about bitcoin and blockchain technology: it’s the same conversation we had 20 years ago with the Internet. In the early 90s, the only way you could check your email was through a command line prompt. Then, web browsers were developed, small websites were created, and…well, as you can see, a lot has changed since. It’s looking as though bitcoin is just the first app to use blockchain technology, just like email was the first app to use the Internet.

With so much promise for the future of bitcoin and the blockchain, O’Reilly has decided to hold a Radar Summit: Bitcoin & the Blockchain on January 27th, 2015, in San Francisco. The program will feature many great speakers, including:

  • Stephen Pair talking about how Bitpay has enabled merchants to accept bitcoin.
  • Reid Hoffman in conversation with Wences Casares, CEO of Xapo, a bitcoin company he invested in.
  • Vitalik Buterin explaining the Ethereum project, which will allow developers to build decentralized applications.
  • Adam Ludwin from showing how many developers are building on bitcoin today.

How will blockchain technologies evolve? When will the public at large start using blockchain technologies in their daily lives? I don’t know. What I do know is that at the Bitcoin & the Blockchain summit, we will learn directly from the people building these technologies, about where they think it’s all going.

Lantz also shares detailed information about Bitcoin and the blockchain in this video training course.

Cropped image on article and category pages by Ken on Flickr, used under a Creative Commons license.

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