Bitcoin has mostly dropped out of the mainstream press since it dropped in value. Within the tech world though blockchain, one of the parts that comes together to make Bitcoin possible has continued to gain momentum.
Blockchain is the distributed ledger - it holds all the transactions across the network of users.
The past week for one reason or another led to multiple discussions about blockchain and its potential future.
One interesting tidbit was the idea that the Internet in its current incarnation lacks one key thing - identity. There is no way within the Internet standards that exist today to manage your identity.
This framing of the Internet is mostly coming from the blockchain community who of course can solve that problem. The lack of identity never stopped the Internet from being one of the most transformational inventions in history.
The real question is whether today we need identity built into the Internet. It would certainly solve many issues around who owns and has access to personal information, possibly it would also make ownership of content easier to understand. It would also drive certain groups further underground into anonymous networks potentially creating multiple Internets.
For better or worse, I believe it is coming anyway.
Right now there are blockchain implementations of identity which could eventually be rolled into an internet-wide protocol, but other than the early adopters I do not see anyone else signing up just because it manages identity. There is not enough value there.
It is early though and it provides a platform for further layers to built on top of it and create further value that further increases adoption.
So far we have seen blockchain versions of Twitter, WhatsApp, Ticketmaster and even a new browser with plenty more already coming.
The next Microsoft, Google or Facebook is likely being born, though most I believe will be mopped up by the incumbents and will wither.
Inside the community of startups implementing these solutions is a feeling that they are reinventing the Internet, the community has a very similar feel to that of the late 90s when the Internet was taking off.
There is a real threat to this next version of the Internet though.
In the late 90s, the standards that powered the Internet into existing were open. Increasingly, these new standards are being controlled by corporates rather than open standards groups.
The increased identity capability means governments are also likely to be able to take advantage and with it a desire for greater control.
The world is also shifting towards a more authoritarian frame, which could impact on direction. Hopefully, by the time these technologies get to mainstream adoption, we will be swinging back away from authoritarianism.
Today at least, the leading technology which could be the building block for this new Internet is Ethereum. It is 100% open source so it is possible for it to be extended and innovated upon by anyone. Blockstack is another that is 100% open source vying to be the underlying standard that everyone builds on top of.
Hopefully it will remain that way.