Blockchains that Help Bridge the Gap Between Old and New
The world isn’t quite ready for blockchains. But there are projects that want to ease the transition, and make interacting with blockchains and smart contracts safe and easy.
Storing, using, and securing tokens is still far from user friendly for the average person. Technical users who have been around crypto since the rise of Bitcoin might not appreciate the level of savvy it takes to work with tokens — since dealing with private keys and VPNs comes naturally — but for most, it’s a disaster waiting to happen. Accidentally paste your private key instead of public into a web form? Your entire wallet will be emptied in seconds. Sign into an exchange from an insecure WiFi connection? Don’t be surprised if your find your account drained.
We need projects that can make using crypto easy. In 2011, before exchanges started sprouting up, it was common to buy and sell Bitcoin over IRC. Now, Coinbase allows you to buy BTC and ETH from a familiar banking like interface, and even insures accounts. This allows anyone to take part in the crypto market without advanced technical knowledge.
But there is more to crypto than just buying coin. You should also be able to spend it. Some websites like Overstock.com have integrated Bitcoin payments directly into the checkout process, which is a great first step, but it will be ages before this is common practice. Projects like Request.Network hope to make it easier to migrate existing payments, invoicing, and accounting solutions to the blockchain (as a blockchain equivalent of Stripe), which may further pull more eCommerce sites into the blockchain world.
Writing smart contracts is difficult too. Entrusting millions of dollars to a few lines of code is harrowing business. There have been more than a few situations where vulnerabilities were discovered in smart contracts, allowing hackers to drain vast sums of money into their own wallets. Events like these harm the entire ecosystem — headlines about users losing large sums of money due to a faulty contract does not build trust in crypto. Companies hire ‘blockchain experts’ to audit these smart contracts, but due to the young age of the ecosystem, there simply isn’t a large pool of talented developers with experience dealing with smart contracts, or a way to verify to the community that the audits have been performed.
The Quantstamp project aims to provide a trustless way to perform, store, and verify security audits of smart contracts. When a audit has been performed on a smart contract, an entry is created on the Quantstamp blockchain, and it can be viewed by end users. So, if a user is thinking about participating in an ICO for an unknown company, they can check the audit on the Quantstamp network and see for themselves if the smart contract meets their security expectations. They don’t need to trust an unknown ‘expert’, or gamble their savings on possibly vulnerable code.
Maybe one day, having the Quantstamp seal of approval will be expected. Users might shy away from unaudited ICOs, and hastily written smart contracts will no longer be such a large issue in the crypto ecosystem.
Blockchains have great power to change the way companies do business, and may lead to a whole new decentralized version of the internet as we know it. But it won’t happen overnight. Existing systems will need to be able to interact with blockchains, and projects like ChainLink hope to make this possible. ChainLink aims to provide a way to bridge the gap between smart contracts and the real world. Blockchains today can’t trust outside data. For example, a betting smart contract that releases funds depending on the outcome of a sports match might reach out to the ESPN API to retrieve the results of the event. What happens if that 3rd party API is compromised? Someone can effectively alter reality because of a single weak link. And the smart contract won’t know any better. It will release funds to the wrong person, with no ‘undo’ button.
With ChainLink, Oracles (‘sources of truth’) can connect data from outside APIs to the blockchain in a decentralized, trustless manner. Instead of relying on the results from a single source, an Oracle can be comprised of many. For the above example, the ‘truth’ would not just be the response from the ESPN API, but the aggregated response from ESPN, Fox Sports, Yahoo Sports, etc. It’s far more unlikely that multiple sources could be compromised, allowing previously centralized data to become decentralized.
These are just a few of many projects that will help the internet adopt blockchain technology. The crypto ecosystem is still young, and many see it as the wild west, but projects like these will move the industry forward and bring trust to a trustless world.