I hear blockchain is a big deal these days. I’ve had it explained to me by about a dozen people in just the last week, but the hype on it is so high that it smells a bit overinflated.
To me it seems like the“virtual worlds” a few years back, when companies like Second Life were everywhere and every brand was trying to develop its virtual presence.
Blockchain is an infrastructure play and one that creates a more secure, more capable underlying framework for the accurate delivery of information by enabling both sides to acknowledge and confirm the data was moved from point a to point b, requiring both sides to “unlock” and deliver that info.
The implication for financial services is clear, but people are trying to apply it to advertising and other systems as well. This is a very valuable tool, but it requires a fundamental rewriting of the structure underneath the web to be implemented.
It also has challenges in terms of scale and the ability to deliver that information quickly — that is, in real time. These are fundamental challenges that will probably get resolved, but could impede the ability for blockchain to expand quickly.
When everyone is talking about something at the same time, it creates a signal. That signal can create wind in the sails of an idea, but it can also quickly expose the underlying issues. The wind can blow out the flame of the idea.
This is what happened with virtual worlds about seven years ago. For a time, every brand was trying to put itself in a virtual world to interact with consumers. That felt like the next big thing and it was everywhere — for a couple of months. Virtual worlds fizzled quickly, because the experience didn’t match the promise and access was limited to the geekiest of people who were interested.
You always have to ensure that the promise of your brand matches its experience. In this case, blockchain is a technical experience and your audience consists of highly technical people who love to poke holes in technology.
My fear for blockchain is that the hype will extinguish its own value quickly as more technical people uncover further challenges with the tool.
The folks who are responsible for talking about blockchain would likely benefit from having an open mind in how they approach its rollout. They should make sure to come up with use cases quickly grounded in reality, and also embrace the challenges, trying to reposition them as works in progress or things that will get settled over time.
Blockchain shows a lot of promise, but here’s to hoping the hype doesn’t overpower the benefit too quickly.