When Tim Berners Lee came up with the World Wide Web in 1993, the Internet did not belong in the server racks of large corporations, but in dial-up connections of numerous home and office computers of wide-eyed cyber enthusiasts who hoped to connect and share the cyberspace with one and all. The reality today, though not quite Orwellian yet, is not far from it as the internet providers and large corporations threaten net neutrality and with the change in structure of the underlying network over the long course of years, the Internet no longer remains decentralized, and those with the monopoly, cast shadows over its integrity.
In 2009, however, we saw the birth of something truly revolutionary: Bitcoin. Here it was, after many previous failed attempts by numerous good men and women, presented to us in the form an eight-page long whitepaper by an anonymous creator: a digital currency that was trust-less and had solved the double spend problem. How had it managed to solve this problem you may ask? Well, it used a clever idea called a blockchain, an idea that would make us rethink the way we had been doing things over the Internet and perhaps give us a chance to restore its decentralized status.
Blockchain 1.0, or the first generation technology provided a solution to conventional transaction limitations by implementing cryptographically-secure, peer-to-peer, digital transactions that are verified by a decentralized global network and recorded into an immutable public ledger. This was merely the beginning. Ethereum, the crypto-platform now dubbed as the advent of Blockchain 2.0, worked out the kinks in Bitcoin and the concept of smart contracts followed. By making its scripting language, Solidity, Turing-complete, Ethereum introduced the ability to build application-specific logic upon a blockchain network. This enabled new capabilities beyond transactions to incorporate state, business logic, and multi-party contracts to be stored and executed on a blockchain and written to an immutable ledger.
What followed was a slew of coins and tokens and decentralized apps, attempting problem-solving in a non-traditional manner and disrupting a host of industries, ranging from banking to real estate, from identity management to fundraising, from online advertisement to cloud storage. The world was suddenly up and taking notice of cryptocurrencies and blockchains. Many rejoiced, many opposed but none could be indifferent anymore. Cryptos were on prime time TV now, they could no longer be ignored.
Today, we stand on the cusp of a paradigm shift. There exist numerous blockchains, each solving its own unique set of problems, but they are all disparate. The key to a decentralized Internet is going to be connectivity and interoperability among these chains. This is where we require the third generation technology of the DLT: Blockchain 3.0 providing the independent, disparate chains a hub and spoke model to communicate. Essentially by federating data and value in a hub and spoke model like the internet, a networked, federated blockchain will allow compliant chains to communicate with each other, all the while allowing the creation of customized public or private blockchains that maintain interoperability with other blockchains, but allow publishers to choose governance, consensus mechanisms, issuance, and participation.
The implications of this will be manifold. With connectivity across chains, each node of a participating chain network can theoretically communicate with any other node on any other chain and thus the Internet can come to be as a decentralized, distributed network of nodes, free from interference or monopoly. Interoperability will help address scaling and data capacity problems but moreover, the tokenized economy given to us from the first two generations of blockchains will blossom to its fullest, as storage, social media, banking and all other application specific blockchains will be able to communicate and operate with each other seamlessly. Internet of Things will see distinguishing developments as a field, so will machine learning, ushering in a new era of collective problem solving with interconnected nodes working as a singular mind. In a way, the digital world will stand decentralized and yet be a global village. At the crux of this all will be the newest generation of Blockchain, built on the innovation ushered by its previous two generations.