Steem is like YouTube on blockchain, but instead of paying content creators in fiat currency, publishers use Steem to pay content creators in STEEM, the platform’s cryptocurrency, which is easily convertible to Bitcoin and Ether. Similar to how YouTube pays top content producers to create the platform’s best videos, publishers who use Steem can reward their top content creators and curators for publishing popular content.
To prove that Steem can be the future of content monetization, they built a social media network called Steemit on their platform. Steemit is still in Beta, but it has attracted over 920,000 users who publish more than 1.5 million posts each month. Steem has also paid content creators over $40 million in its digital asset, which are called smart media tokens, proving the platform’s viability to publishers everywhere.
According to the Institute of International Finance, global payments cost $1.6 trillion each year and usually take an average of three to five days just to settle. Brad Garlinghouse, a former executive at AOL and Yahoo!, knew he could solve this frustratingly prevalent problem with blockchain technology, so, in 2012, he founded Ripple.
The company has its own payment infrastructure, RippleNet, and through it, banks, payment providers, and digital asset exchanges can connect with each other to seamlessly transfer money, no matter where they’re located.
Ripple’s technology allows banks to settle cross-border payments in real-time, lets payment providers use Ripple’s own cryptocurrency, XRP, to lower liquidity costs, and enables corporations to instantly send global payments to their beneficiaries. Over 75 banks across the globe have implemented and tested Ripple’s technology with their own internal payment systems.
Chain is a blockchain development company that builds cryptographic ledger systems for the financial services industry. Their blockchain-based tools help banks, stock exchanges, and credit-card companies quickly and securely store, trade, and manage financial assets.
By setting up strategic partnerships with financial titans like Capital One, Citigroup, Visa, and Nasdaq, Chain has accelerated Wall Street’s adoption of blockchain technology.
Founded in 2007 as a mobile app development company, IntellectSoft has evolved into a software solution development company that provides custom software development and consultancy services in emerging technologies, like blockchain, Internet of things, artificial intelligence, augmented reality, cloud computing and more.
For almost 11 years, they’ve helped organizations design, develop, implement and maintain the latest software solutions in their businesses. Their blockchain experts also boost enterprise and Fortune 500 companies’ security by integrating distributed ledger technologies, identity solutions, and smart contracts into their processes.
Using Cloud Foundry, an open source cloud application platform, Altoros can build, test, deploy, and scale their customers’ blockchain frameworks easier and faster than other software development companies.
Throughout their blockchain consultancy process, Altoros helps enterprises evaluate the viability of their blockchain-based solution, design and develop the solution’s architecture, and maintain and enhance the solution for their client’s customers.
Celsius Network is like a blockchain bank — users can deposit, borrow, and earn interest on their crypto. For instance, you can hold your cryptocurrency in the network and earn up to 5% interest, use your cryptocurrency as collateral for dollar loans at a 9% interest rate, and short Bitcoin or Ethereum if you feel bearish about the crypto market. It’s like banking on blockchain.
In 2008, Leeway Hertz launched one of the first apps on Apple’s AppStore. Now, they’ve jumped into another new industry, blockchain, to help enterprise companies develop Blockchain applications, like distributed ledgers, smart contracts, and decentralized apps.
As a custom software development company with a proven track record in IT consultancy, they plan to be the leading blockchain developer for the biggest brands in the world.
OmiseGo is a Ethereum-based financial network for payment services, merchants, and financial institutions. Their public OMG network and decentralized exchange enable transparent, peer-to-peer transactions of any asset in real-time.
Digital wallet providers can also connect to the OMG network through their open source SDK to enable wallet-to-wallet transactions of crypto and fiat currencies and asset trades from different blockchain protocols. In August 2017, OmiseGO became the first Ethereum token with a market capitalization over $1 billion.
Blockchangers isn’t like most blockchain companies. Even though they help their clients understand and leverage blockchain technology through lectures, workshops, consulting, and development services, like other blockchain companies, they consult their clients based off the assumption that governments will regulate cryptocurrency one day, which the creators of blockchain aimed to fight against. This is the most realistic way to consult clients who want to use crypto and blockchain — the only way governments can fight cryptocurrency fraud is by regulating it.
Blockchangers also hosts Northern Europe’s largest blockchain conference, Oslo Blockchain Day, and their clients include PwC, DNB Bank, and more.
ChromaWay is a blockchain platform that provides smart contract solutions for real estate and finance companies. In 2017, they made headlines for building the Green Assets Wallet — a platform that connects green investors with potential investment opportunities — to help meet the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement.
After a group of Indian engineers founded Techracers in 2012, the blockchain solutions provider experienced so much explosive growth that they had to move its headquarters to the U.S. in 2017. They’re now one of the most robust blockchain solutions provider on the market.
For their clients, Techracers build customized solutions in every facet of blockchain technology, like ICO launches, smart contract audits, smart contracts development, cryptocurrency development, cryptocurrency wallet development, cryptocurrency exchange development, and private blockchain development.
The challenge was laid. Hands were shaken. The bet was placed.
Or so it appeared anyway.
At CoinDesk’s Consensus 2018 conference this year, Joseph Lubin, founder of Ethereum company Consensys, agreed to wager “any amount of bitcoin” with Jimmy Song of Blockchain Capital that within five years, the blockchain would have a number of working applications serving real users.
That’s probably a bet worth taking. Hundreds of millions of dollars have already been invested by some of the world’s biggest companies on the future of the blockchain.
JPMorgan has a blockchain program. Barclays’ Accelerator, a 13-week program for startups organized by one of the world’s biggest banks, has provided space and funding for a number of blockchain-based fintech companies. Businesses working on blockchain-based services include IBM, which is trying to build a tracking tool for shipping companies and retail chains, Eastman Kodak, which is experimenting with the blockchain to create repositories for stock images, and Spotify which wants to use the blockchain to manage copyrights. Investors in blockchain projects include Peter Thiel, Sequoia Capital and Andreessen Horowitz, as well as Google, Goldman Sachs, Visa and Deloitte. All of those companies and experts are betting millions of dollars that a decentralized ledger can do things that other forms of technology just cannot.
They’re likely to be wasting their money and their time … but not all of it.
Critics like Song tend to argue that much of what blockchain-based products are trying to do can be done without the use of a blockchain. A decentralized ledger might be able to help keep track of items flowing through a shared economy, such as apartments, boats and bicycles, but companies like Airbnb, Uber and city bike schemes have all done fine with little more than apps and barcodes. Triple-signed receipts are much easier to implement and meet the same security guarantees as a decentralized ledger with public key cryptography, proof-of-work, networking and database technology. A blockchain can replace escrow services, but would it be cheaper, more secure or easier to use than a bank account and a trusted third party?
Using the blockchain can also remove the versatility that makes startups so agile. New firms in Silicon Valley work long hours to shoot out minimum viable products before their seed funding ends. They refine those products, match them to audiences and show venture capitalists that they’re on the right track — that they can actually make something that people will pay to use — in order to win enough money to reach the next milestone.
Businesses that use an ICO to raise large amounts of funds, though, can behave more like investment banks. They start with lots of money, move slowly to develop their product, and if it’s truly decentralized, they won’t be able to change it when it hits the market. A blockchain could slow them down.
Those arguments are fair, and for anyone old enough to have lived through the early days of the dot-com bubble, they’re also familiar. The late 90s were a time when you could have launched a company selling elephant underwear but as you long as you called it an “internet business,” someone would turn up with a giant bag of money and a belief that you would all be rich.
And you would also have plenty of people willing to tell you that they were crazy and that the whole “internet” thing was overrated and would soon fade away.
Clearly, that didn’t happen. A large number of businesses, companies that never had a real product or offered a proper service beneath their URLs, were left exposed when the financial tide flowed out. But some companies did survive, and the ones that survived have thrived. Amazon is a multibillion-dollar business. So are Google, eBay and Paypal. They were all able to create products on the web that other people wanted to use — and were able to turn that use into revenues. None of them could have existed without the web.
That’s exactly what’s happening now. No one knew when Google started that it would destroy Alta Vista and eat Yahoo’s lunch. No one knew that eBay would leave OnSale in the dust or that a startup called Facebook would kill off Friendster. Investors certainly didn’t, which is why they spread their money around, hoping that some of it would stick to a business with a real product in an entirely new market environment.
The blockchain is ideal for keeping track of a currency and protecting it against fraud. We don’t yet know what else it’s good for. Until developers have finished their work, we won’t know whether it will become the underlying technology behind a rejuvenated sharing economy or whether it will only power banking services, making transactions cheap and almost instantaneous.
The blockchain has already underpinned a new currency. Investors are now betting that it can do something else, and they’re placing their bets on a bunch of new technologies. Most of those new technologies will fail. But some, a few, will succeed. If I were a betting man, I’d put some bitcoin on it.
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Many will be familiar with blockchain as the underlying enabling technology developed for Bitcoin, a cryptocurrency. Klaus Schwab, founder and executive chairman of the World Economic Forum, provides this summary in his book on the Fourth Industrial Revolution: “In essence, the blockchain is a shared, programmable, cryptographically secure and therefore trusted ledger which no single user controls and which can be inspected by anyone.”
Blockchain has the potential to become a powerful disruptive force. A survey of 800 executives, featured in the same book, suggests 58 percent believe that up to 10 percent of global GDP will be stored using blockchain technology.
Blockchain technology may provide several important features that could be leveraged for use in the creative economy:
- • Transactions are verified and approved by consensus among participants in the network, making fraud more difficult.
- • The full chronology of events (for example, transactions) that take place are tracked, allowing anyone to trace or audit prior transactions.
- • The technology operates on a distributed, rather than centralized, platform, with each participant having access to exactly the same ledger records, allowing participants to enter or leave at will and providing resilience against attacks.
The implications of such features reach far beyond blockchain’s original use in financial transactions. Any transaction, product life cycle, workflow, or supply chain could, in theory, use blockchains.
Defining value in creative work
While blockchain may allow for more transparent and dynamic pricing, such pricing mechanisms, based purely on market demand, may miss the subtleties of how creative works are also valued based upon their cultural, societal, or political value. This could lead to further commoditization of creative works. How blockchain can digitally ascribe these subtleties to creative works remains to be seen.
Blockchain holds enormous potential to break down barriers that could lead to more efficiency, greater accountability, lower costs, and increased remuneration for artists. To reap these benefits, however, the technology will need to be developed responsibly within the right regulatory frameworks.
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