Shepherding the Blockchain Ecosystem with Industry Chains

The following is a guest post by Lee Bailey from ShipChain.

The simple problem with “private blockchains” is that they discard everything you love about the decentralization revolution.

Instead of open, trustless, censorship-resistant systems, ad campaigns whitewash you with a deluge of “solutions to public chain pain points,” like faster block times, lower fees, and higher transaction throughput, while throwing the proverbial baby out with the bath water.

True decentralized ledger technology welcomes all participants and encourages a crowd to collaborate and self-govern.

What about Permissioned and Hybrid Chains?

In my opinion, decentralized self-governance is the single most important advancement in the history of societies since the advent of democracy — and yet, “permissioned chains” are boasting “proof of authority” as somehow an improvement. They claim identity verification as a novel selling point… as if account creation and private databases haven’t been de facto practices for decades of Internet history.

“Hybrid” blockchain companies will tell you that you can’t trust a public chain because “all of your data is exposed.” This is a gross mischaracterization. They will say you have to have an internal private blockchain that checkpoints into a public chain as a notary service — a technique that is indisputably effective, except for the fact that any internal system can discreetly checkpoint into a public chain for immutability assurances. Plus, the private blockchain element is a superfluous waste of internal resources when compared to traditional databases and storage methods.

Moreover, if every company decided to run its own blockchain, we’d lose one of the key benefits of blockchain technology: interoperability. We’d drown in a depressing sea of fragmentation — a thousand networks with various APIs and access levels that sadly look no different than today’s enterprise technology landscape.

A Necessary Process

And yet, the pain points with public chains ring true — decentralized public blockchain technology is necessarily slow and expensive, compared to just about any other storage solutions. The number of recent projects devoted to improving on these bottlenecks is staggering and the landscape is optimistic, but the fact remains that true consensus is a cumbersome process.

I believe that a core problem exists at the root of these issues; namely, all public smart contract blockchains are currently designed for developers to build their own DApps upon. This means that CryptoKitties has to share resources with EtherDelta, thereby compounding one another’s gas fees. Kittens raise the cost of sending ERC20 tokens, while trading on decentralized exchanges impedes the rate at which I can breed my digital cats.

Moreover, the low barrier to contract deployment leads to a dangerous degree of simplicity in forking existing projects — a boon to developers, but a bane in the form of user confusion and the potential for phishing scams to masquerade as authentic DApps.

Can We Have a Solution, Already?

The potential for Loom Network to solve these problems coincides with a new term I just coined: “Industry Chains,” or the more lengthy “Open-access Industry-specific Distributed Ledgers.” Basically, the idea is simple: to create a purpose-built DAppChain with certified official smart contracts for any given industry.

At ShipChain, creating a logistics and shipping blockchain has been our plan all along. We’ve been building our smart contracts on Ethereum mainnet while waiting for sidechain technology to mature — and now, thanks to Loom, we’ll be able to deploy these same contracts to a Loom DAppChain that’s built on open access principles and censorship resistance (once our industry chain is fully live)!

Since Loom uses DPoS elections to pick validators, the network will be truly decentralized — anyone can “run for office” to be a validator, and a community vote determines who runs the network.

The network can lock down contract deployment so that the system remains purpose-built and eliminates fragmentation. When we want to release new versions of a smart contract, or when a developer builds a plugin and submits a proposal to be included on the sidechain, a community vote could be used to approve contracts prior to deployment.

By combining these techniques, we can allow the industry as a whole to shepherd the ecosystem and decide what is best for everybody.

Who Else Does This Benefit?

But that’s just ShipChain — who else should run an Industry Chain? It could be any industry that suffers from software and network fragmentation, that has the need for a distributed ledger (but doesn’t need to share resources with FinTech and gaming applications), and that shares common primitive logic across the industry that should be built into smart contracts.

Most blockchain companies today are working on problems that satisfy this requirement. But when everyone works on their own blockchain for their own applications, nobody’s software will interoperate. I am terrified that hyper-fragmentation will soon make this whole decentralization revolution unusable from a business perspective.

That’s why at ShipChain, we’re in the process of creating a 501c non-profit foundation dedicated to supporting the Industry Chain and to fairly serving the interests of anyone moving anything to anywhere on Earth (and beyond)!

Loom is already leading the way by building GameChain and SocialChain, and I think that’s a great start. Someday, I hope to see InsuranceChain, BankingChain, MedicalRecordChain, AgricultureChain, PreciousMineralsChain, AutonomousVehicleNavigationChain, GeolocationChain, and more (but hopefully their marketing teams are more creative with naming than I am).

Conclusion

The bottom line is, Industry Chains are still public chains, but they can solve the problems of high transaction costs and slow speeds due to resource sharing with unrelated applications — and they can do it without the ecosystem fragmentation caused by too many projects that don’t agree on standards.

Industry Chains let the industry itself decide what is good for the network, and what kinds of software upgrades and contract features should be deployed. For anyone who believes in all the promise of blockchain — but who suffers amongst all the pain points of deploying DApps to the current public chains — it is becoming more and more evident that Industry Chains will pave the way for future blockchain innovation.


Loom Network is a platform for building highly scalable DPoS sidechains to Ethereum, with a focus on large-scale games and social apps.

Want more info? Start here.

Fan of blockchain gaming? Check out Zombie Battleground, the world’s first desktop and mobile card game that runs fully on its own blockchain.

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