Comparison of Blockchain verus the Internet?

Comparison of Blockchain versus the Internet?

Photo by NASA on Unsplash

In almost every conversation about blockchain’s role in society or path going forward, you’ll hear a comparison to the Internet. You’ll hear about how the Internet took 20 years to flesh out meaningful use cases, about how several companies sprung up during the Dot Com boom only to fade out as the few
significant startups survived, about how blockchain is an Internet of Value as opposed to information.

So what’s a full comparison of blockchain versus the Internet?

First, we know that both blockchain technology and the Internet describe protocols for connectivity. However, the type of connectivity differs. With the Internet, you now have the capability to connect to any one of your choices to securely share information.

The only people who need to see this information are the two parties involved in the exchange, and there only needs to be some path for information to flow between them.

With blockchain, you now have the capability to connect with anyone to securely share value, but the exchange of value must be observed by everyone on the network. If you didn’t have the public validating transactions, then blockchain protocols would be meaningless. Whereas, with the Internet, it doesn’t matter who else is on the network as long as each individual is able to communicate with its relevant parties.

Second, the way in which blockchain and the Internet manifested also differs.
The Internet was a project developed by academics. The first message over the Internet was sent was between UCLA and Stanford research labs. From the world of academia, the Internet arrived at the corporate and public worlds.

Blockchain, however, started differently.

A grassroots movement, Bitcoin was an open-source project between libertarian advocates first and foremost, and the first Bitcoin transaction was between anonymous Satoshi Nakamoto and Hal Finney, a cypherpunk and developer for the PGP Corporation.

From there, Bitcoin and blockchain started to move into the realms of academia and enterprise. Third, the social environment developed around these projects differs immensely because of both their origins and the eras in which they were born. During the Internet era, the concept of personal computers hadn’t even developed yet.

Companies springing up during this type focused primarily on corporations, leading to several “intranet” projects, analogous to private blockchains. With blockchain, we see the same patterns, but on a much larger.

In this era of connectivity and social media, information spreads much more quickly, as does haste.

Most projects target the general public instead of corporations, but these projects also come to fruition much less frequently. Many teams settle for an excellent marketing team, launch an ICO, and pray for no lawsuit.

In terms of use cases, it’s easy to see that the purpose of the Internet differs massively from blockchain, though they share parallels when it comes to the manner in which their use cases and ecosystem develop.

The Internet focuses much more on information exchange, while blockchain focuses on value exchange.

When thinking about a blockchain use case, ask yourself whether it leverages some value exchange, particularly that which cannot be handled by a single authority.

Blockchain’s innovation was not to enable distributed information sharing, but distributed record-keeping and decentralized exchange of value.

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Comparison of Blockchain verus the Internet? was originally published in Data Driven Investor on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.