Maybe Something Bad, Maybe Something Good...why a hybrid blockchain might be the right choice now. 16 Oct, 2018

Maybe Something Bad, Maybe Something Good...why a hybrid blockchain might be the right choice now.

Blockchain Apps. If you’ve spent any time investigating or participating in the blockchain community you’ll be familiar with the concept of a Dapp, or decentralized application. Broadly, a Dapp is an application that requires no central organization or authority to operate successfully. The users and providers of the Dapp are directly connected by a (hopefully) well-balanced flow of value (for example, a token-based economy) that incentivizes all participants to maintain and use the Dapp.

Bitcoin’s a Dapp. So is Ethereum, and any number of projects built atop the Ethereum protocol like Augur and CryptoKitties. Dapps are interesting, and I think over the next decade they’ll fundamentally change the way we relate to each other and use the networks that connect us. But I’m not here to discuss Dapps. Instead, I’d like to touch on blockchain applications. Bapps. What’s a Bapp? It’s an app with blockchain-enabled features or functionality that augment or replace one or more functions within a ‘standard’ application stack. A simple example is a wallet app containing or controlling assets — let’s say music tracks — secured by an ERC721 token contract hosted on an Ethereum-based blockchain.

Modern app development frameworks and environments make it relatively simple to develop the non-blockchain portions of such an application. Building a completely decentralized version — a Dapp — would introduce a number of complexities that make it prohibitive for many, if not most, use cases until our public blockchains surmount current scaling and UI/UX problems. There’s a middle ground, however. A blockchain is a kind of database (or distributed computer, in the case of Ethereum and its ilk) with properties we can leverage, even in modest ways, within our traditional application architectures. An app that stores and manages music tracks for users requires a fast database, so a public blockchain (currently) isn’t a good fit. But a private blockhain, operated by a trustworthy consortium, can provide a useful backstop to purchasing and trading — an immutable record, the final authority on who owns what, and how many.

Who is this ‘trustworthy’ consortium, you ask? Well, that depends on who, how, and why you choose the members. If you can find trustworthy entities that have skin in the game and real-world incentives both to participate and not to collude, that’s a pretty good start. Private chains are anathema to many in the decentralized ledger space, but let’s face it, most of the highly-performant solutions currently in the market already take this approach.

Why bother? At Greenfence we believe distributed ledger technologies and the tokenized economic mechanisms they enable will fundamentally change the markets we’re in, so we might as well get started now. The experience gained and codebase developed deploying and maintaining consortium ‘authority’ chains can be migrated to a fully-scalable public ledger when those finally emerge. And we’ll be well down the track to educating our users about the potential and pitfalls of a world where value and identity can exist in a new kind of network with properties and threats never encountered before.

As you consider developing new applications to attract and maintain your own user base, consider these questions: could a private/consortium blockchain add value, if only as a backstop to a more mainstream choice like MongoDB? Are there other properties immutability might afford that you can potentially expose to you user base over time? And finally, is organizational knowledge and codebase gained by operating in such an environment potentially useful in the future?

If you’re excited about the possibilities of distributed ledger technologies but frustrated with the current challenges of public chains, you might want to consider delivering your own Bapp.

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