Three years after the revolution of the intelligent contract that should have brought us international markets, completely free and independent of trust, it is time to see how far we have come and what remains of the great idea.
During its early beginnings, the Ethereum project was often introduced as "The World Computer" – a decentralized network that one day could replace the Internet as we know it. This "computer of the world" would allow anyone to host decentralized applications in, well, "Ether", without relying on centralized server farms that can be potentially eliminated or censored.
Three years older and wiser, we hardly come across this notion.
Although Ethereum and its ever-growing list of competitors are able to overcome the current problems of throughput and scalability, replace them with the old big internet, as we know it seems increasingly ingenuous and impractical.
The term "Decentralized Application", if used, refers more and more to a more modest view of purely financial / monetary applications that automate the flow of money and obligations.
Given the way in which software development normally progresses, this is probably the best. It is incredibly difficult to build a completely open and multi-purpose infrastructure. Knowing what is the precise development goal, it is necessary to optimize an effective product aimed at the consumer. If the main purpose of blockchains capable of an intelligent contract is to build a universal universal and generic computer, then the development efforts will seem to be great. If the goal is to provide solid global trade infrastructure without authorization, they will look completely different.
The Ethereum Foundation is, of course, painfully aware of this contradiction despite being tragically unable to do anything about it.
The computer in the world, at least for now, is dead.
However, restricting the infinite scope of the Ethereum project to the proportions of a practical product that can bring the huge potential of smart contracts to the end consumer would be too heart-rending – for followers and for the Ethereum project leaders.
Fortunately, the competition is less sentimental in this sense. The list of blockchains enabled to the smart contract seems to grow day by day, with the most interesting projects presenting themselves as "Blockchain as a Service (BaaS)." BaaS is a generic term that can mean many (often contradictory) things. but overall the BaaS approach tries to make it easy to grasp the practical benefits of blockchains without having to drown in a formally unverifiable code, written in languages that nobody understands.
Established mainstream players like IBM, Microsoft, along with many smaller startups, allow their users to digitize resources, create immutably conditioned payment contracts, and basically do everything that makes sense about Ethereum, without spending years in the nerd abyss of Ethereum forums, surrounded by a community that is always two months after Internet replacement.
mainstream players and many start-ups allow users to digitize resources, create immutably conditioned contracts and do everything that can be done on Ethereum, without spending years in the abyss of the Ethereum forums
The most interesting projects in this regard, however, can be found in China.
The Chinese authorities, even if interested in the blockchain as a concept, are not particularly amused by the subversive tone of the sector. If you want to survive as a blockchain project in the Middle Kingdom, it is best to build a system that complies with existing business regulations. It is interesting to note that this rigid regime has encouraged the development of products that can be used now, and not in a magical and completely decentralized future.
NEO and Metaverse are two early examples of this generation of blockchains. Both follow a similar philosophy: blockchains are designed to "automate" and "digitize" commercial and commercial relationships, with small ideological ramifications. The efficiency and ease of use are considered higher than full decentralization and without authorization.
In particular, Metaverse, with the recent release of "SuperNova", has taken a huge step in this direction.
SuperNova presents a sort of DNS system that allows users to create blockchain accounts that look like URLs or e-mail addresses, more than an arbitrary string of numbers. These addresses can therefore be linked to a private or corporate identity, which makes them, in terms of KYC and AML, more compliant than fiat bank accounts. At least according to Metaverse.
From then on, the creation of new digital assets (tokens), contracts and DApps, is something that can be done with the help of a simple graphical user interface. This process is painfully easy but has the price of being responsible for your actions. Once you have verified your identity, you can not go back. Everything you do on the blockchain will be remembered forever and your name will be printed. A dream for regulators all over the world, a horrible nightmare for most of the Ethereum community.
Is this how the Ethereum project ends? Made irrelevant by its own ambitions and its purism, to be set aside by ideologically neutral negotiating instruments?
Well, not so fast. The future release of "Serenity" by Ethereum could bring the project back with a vengeance. If the promises of Sharding, PoS and other technicalities designed to increase the throughput and scalability of several orders of magnitude will be realized, the World Computer could have only one second chance.
Aubrey Hansen is a freelance writer, a graduate of the Aarhus University and a passionate cryptic. He writes about blockchain technology, Fintech and cryptocurrencies. He studied the main developments in the encrypted world in the last two years.