Battle of the Blockchains: What Are We Fighting For?

May 11, 2018

BLOG: Established blockchains and the underdogs are battling against each other for developers and users, slowing down advancements in the blockchain space.

The battle of the blockchains is heating up. As blockchain continues to prove useful (well beyond Bitcoin) in multi trillion dollar industries, there are hundreds of start-ups, as well as established companies like IBM and Google, embracing blockchain. We’re also seeing the emergence of blockchains with similar use cases that are fighting for mass adoption by both users and developers in order to be successful. Is there a way for Ethereum and newer blockchains like DFINITY, Tezoz and EOS to successfully coexist, or will one win in the end? As we bet on the future of blockchain in these still early days, the developer shortage, governance debate and network effect are all challenges we face.

The Developer Shortage

There is a severe shortage of developers that are versed in the programming languages used to build decentralized apps and write smart contracts. The proliferation of blockchains that serve similar purposes further amplifies the competition for the limited time of this very small group of experienced developers. To incentivize developers to build applications on top of new blockchains, newer projects are getting into bidding wars with established players, willing to pay rising costs and exorbitant salaries.

Network Effect

Similar to other technologies, take social media for example, the more people that participate in a blockchain, the more valuable it becomes. So in the same way companies have to incentivize developers to build applications, they also need to make sure they are accessible and appealing to participants, which is hard to do when new blockchains are getting started. This largely depends on future promise, and by creating a token that rewards growth early on, there’s a cyclical reaction that in turn attracts developers, early adopters, and investors.

Blockchain Governance Debate

In this fight over developers and users, there’s also a philosophical element to consider when it comes to on-chain governance. Because the coding in smart contracts is so complex, a bug in a smart contract can lead to massive amounts of lost tokens. A notable example of this is the Parity Multisig deletion that resulted in the loss of $100,000,000 of ETH. Some believe in the immutability of the network, that code is the supreme law and should never be changed regardless of what is lost. And others take a more pragmatic approach, saying the contract bug should be fixed, returning the funds. As we see more of these situations come up, newer blockchains like Tezos and DFINITY are building governance and voting protocols to avoid these debates taking place on blockchains with relatively ad hoc systems.

Democratizing Blockchain Technology

In this revolution, the challenges associated with rapid growth are complex, and there’s no silver bullet solution. But, there are ways to break down the barriers hindering the democratization of blockchain technology.

We need to make it easier to build decentralized apps. By giving people (coders and non-coders alike) more tools and resources to build apps faster and more easily, we can eliminate dependence on a small group of developers. This will allow projects to operate more efficiently when it comes to both cost and time. Taking this a step further, code-free app development will greatly reduce the costly vulnerabilities in smart contracts and make it possible to build apps and write smart contracts across blockchains. Imagine building a smart contract using natural language instead of a complex coding structure, and how much more quickly and securely this could be accomplished!

While the current challenges we outline above inspire a winner-takes-all situation, it’s too early for users and developers to place all their bets on one winner. It’s inevitable that some blockchains will fail, but at this point, making this revolutionary technology ubiquitous is something we can all fight for.

Kurt Pfluger
Chief Strategy Officer