Beyond bitcoin: The future of the blockchain

by: Claire Cockerton

Twitter: @clairecockerton

Bitcoin was not the first cryptocurrency. DigiCash, a digital currency that employed cryptographic protocols to anonymise transactions, was launched by cryptography luminary and Cypherpunk forefather David Chaum in 1994, 16 years before the advent of bitcoin.

However, what makes bitcoin so revolutionary is the ground-breaking innovation that underpins the cryptocurrency’s architecture, the distributed ledger known as the blockchain. Bitcoin’s distributed ledger is distributed across millions of computers, recording every bitcoin transaction ever made in every copy of the ledger and effectively eliminating the need for financial intermediaries to serve as middlemen.

Bitcoin may rise, or it may fall. It might become a universally accepted digital currency, or it might go the way of DigiCash. But whatever happens to bitcoin, the blockchain will continue to redefine the payments sector for years to come. And it is not just payments; the impact of the distributed ledger will not be limited to the realms of digital currencies and anonymised payment systems. Huge sections of the financial services sector, and other sectors besides, could be transformed by this incredible innovation’s potential for disintermediation.

From decentralised financial exchanges that enable the trading of assets without intermediaries, to ‘municipal bonds 2.0’ that empower communities to fund local projects through decentralised bond trading; from micropayment technology that could harness the blockchain to foster financial inclusion, to Ethereum’s distributed ledger technology that could be used to create Smart Contracts; from Smart Property that redefines the role of notaries in the property sector, to decentralised, distributed electoral systems independent of any central authority; in this article we will explore the blockchain’s potential to decentralise, disintermediate and diversify large sections of business and finance.

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