Earlier this year IBM quizzed around 3,000 executives from over 80 countries on the plans their company had for blockchain. Whilst 8% of respondents were already on the case and running pilots, and 25% were considering doing this, a whopping 67% were not even thinking about blockchain yet.
Similar results could probably be found for most new technologies in their early years, but they do nonetheless remind us of the work required for blockchain to 'cross the chasm', and the experiences of those early adopters will be crucial in convincing the reticent to jump on board.
In many ways, blockchain is analogous to the Internet in the sense that it's a foundational innovation. As such, its impact will take much longer than individual innovations because it requires many things to be in place for it to thrive and overcome the various political, organizational and technological barriers.
Crossing the chasm
Crossing the chasm was famously coined by Geoffrey Moore back in the 90's to describe the diffusion of innovation. It built upon earlier work by Everett Rogers in the 70s and describes the challenges inherent in taking a product that's popular with early adopters and making it acceptable to the mainstream.
If we look at the evolution of the Internet, there were a number of key aspects that emerged to make it the force it is today, whether that's the TCP/IP standards that underpin the network and allow devices to communicate effectively or indeed other protocols and standards including POP and HTML that power so much of the web today.
From this, you also have a number of robust governing agencies, including the IETF, ICANN and W3C. These help to govern many of the standards outlined above and ensure the web develops in a coordinated way.
Finally, the web crossed the chasm due to the growing number of 'killer apps' being developed for it. Early examples include email and the web browser that has done so much to allow communication and information sharing online.
So how does blockchain compare? We can already see that a number of different platforms are available, and whilst they are mostly based upon the original design proposed by Satoshi Nakamoto, they do nonetheless differ, largely due to the different applications they've been designed to support. The equivalent of the TCP/IP standard that underpins the Internet doesn't exist however.
Equally, in terms of governance the technology seems sorely lacking at the moment, and certainly in terms of the multi-stakeholder approach adopted by the Internet.
Similarly, the application landscape is challenging, and few services have emerged that are sufficiently user friendly to attract a mainstream audience. It's something that development platform Crowd Machine hopes to rectify.
Building for blockchain
Their app development environment aims to make it easier and more cost effective for businesses of all sizes to develop and deploy blockchain apps, often without writing a single line of code. They're also designed to be able to easily switch between blockchains, thus making it easier for developers to build applications for blockchain as a whole rather than each variant.
The blockchain ecosystem is currently so fragmented, especially if you think about the development stack for real world development of a decentralised app. You have a consolidated handful of centralised cloud companies to deliver scalable computation like AWS, Google, IBM etc.
The file storage space has been somewhat disrupted with the likes of Filecoin and Storj entering the space, but their technology is still in progress.
Crowd Machine has packaged the critical pieces of the decentralized app development stack; scalable computation, file storage, external data, monetization, and payments bringing to market the world’s first system capable of building decentralised apps of the future.
The company has already attracted a number of Fortune 500 clients who enjoy being able to roll out applications some 45x faster than in existing development environments.
“Our technology allows you to build sophisticated decentralized apps and smart contracts on the Crowd Machine network and gives you the option to choose what blockchain you want to interact with, whether that be Bitcoin, Ethereum, Ripple or more,” the company say.
Suffice to say, this is a relatively small part of the overall jigsaw, and much needs to happen before blockchain technology can achieve anything even remotely comparable to the Internet, but it is nonetheless one of the more promising signs of such key pieces of the jigsaw being developed.