What is Blockchain’s place in solving Real-World problems?
This article is the first in a series presented as a discussion of applied blockchain technology. The following is an overview of both blockchain as a general tool and its fit within application development. Stay tuned for follow-up discussions of specific problem domains and their applicability for blockchain solutions.
Blockchain apps have taken off in the public eye. Cryptocurrencies currently reign king, and for most, these are the only known application of blockchains, and are often considered one and the same. Despite this, some new categories of blockchain applications are beginning to gain traction beyond blockchain enthusiasts, most notably with the rise of Cryptokitties. With this traction has come a fair amount of hype, as well as plenty of examples of what could be considered blockchain for blockchain’s sake.
Because blockchain technology is still not widely understood, it can be difficult to distinguish the valuable use cases of blockchains from the questionable ones. To address this problem, this article will attempt to lay out a simple mental model for understanding the fit for real-world applications and blockchain technology.
But before evaluating that fit, it’s important to first understand who actually stands to benefit from the introduction of blockchain to a product.
Only the Developer Cares if it’s “Blockchain”
Ignore the technophiles for a moment. Most real-world users of applications at the end of the day are only interested in what an application does and does not do.
Blockchain, then, is only important in the way it helps or hinders an application in achieving its intended functionality. An app shouldn’t advertise that it was built on a blockchain any more than it would advertise it was written in Python.
Recognizing that blockchains are a tool and not a feature, we can start constructing a framework for evaluating blockchain fit.
Constructing A Framework for Evaluating Blockchain Fit
If blockchains are just a means to an end, then it follows that a simple pros-and-cons chart should suffice. The features and drawbacks of blockchains can be weighed against those of other candidate solutions for the problem and the best option will fall out naturally.