There is no doubt that the Bitcoin blockchain has established itself. It is often the cryptocurrency against which all other cryptocurrencies are measured and it’s underlying blockchain is being used for more than the Bitcoin cryptocurrency; see BitFury’s Land Title Project which is targeted for the Bitcoin blockchain.
But should you convert your life’s savings to Bitcoin today? Ehhh... probably not. Although there is a growing list of vendors who accept payment in Bitcoin, in a permissionless financial system with no central authority whom would you go to if something went wrong? Say your digital wallet gets stolen or you accidentally misplace a decimal point during a transaction. In traditional currency systems your bank, investment firm, lender etc., who operate under countless regulations and laws (at significant cost) would have an answer and these companies shield you from a very significant amount of risk. Bitcoin’s blockchain can’t reliably do that today. As a result there is a tremendous amount of activity focused on how to add accountability, ownership and protection into blockchain technology. Several consortiums have formed to study this and contribute solutions.
List of consortiums:
-Hyperledger.org: A public consortium of 40 members primarily from the technology and financial industries. This group is working to create an “enterprise grade, open source distributed ledger framework and code base, upon which users can build and run robust, industry-specific applications, platforms and hardware systems to support business transactions. “
-R3: R3CEV a financial innovation firm leading a banking consortium of 45 global member banks to design and deliver advanced distributed ledger technologies to the global financial markets. NOTE: R3 is a member of Hyperledger.org.
-Domus Tower: A blockchain startup choosing a consortium of 5 members to build an industrial grade blockchain. Consortium is to be made of an accounting firm, a custodian, an investment manager, a broker dealer and a stock exchange. Claims to have reached 1.24 million TPS.
-Kynetix: A post-trade technology services firm has launched a commodities blockchain consortium. According to Kynetix “The aim of the consortium is to identify how blockchain can be leveraged to bring greater transparency and trust to the commodity markets and enable greater interaction between financial and physical markets.”
-PTDL: Post trade distributed ledger group. A group of over 20 financial institutions including the CME group and the London Stock Exchange among others said to be focusing on “post-trade operations”.
-Blockchain Alliance: A blockchain company community whose mission is to provide a forum for open dialogue between industry and law enforcement and regulatory agencies, in order to help combat criminal activity on the blockchain.
-Russia’s payments service provider Qiwi is talking about setting up a Russian consortium. Project is nicknamed “BitRuble” however the legality of the use of cryptocurrencies is currently under debate within Russia.
-China’s ChinaLedger Union: Backed by the Chinese General Assembly and is the consensus of 11 sponsor units. This group has also invited Alex Baltin, UBS UK Senior Innovation Manager, Anthony Di Iorio, Chief Digital Officer Toronto Stock Exchange, Vitalik Buterin, founder of Ethereum and Bitcoin core developer Jeff Garzik as advisers.
-Dubai’s Global Blockchain Council (GBC): 32 members including US firms: Microsoft, IBM, & Cisco. The Council will help UAE authorities and corporations better understand this technology and consider its regulatory implications, and conduct pilot projects to test the readiness of markets to adopt digital currencies.
Some industry leaders think private consortiums such as R3, Domus Tower, and Kinetics are looking to outlaw competition claiming that Wall Street is coming together to ensure that their version of the blockchain is the only one that will matter. See Private Blockchain Challenges. Also, MIT is drawing some criticism from the Bitcoin development team related to MIT’s ChainAnchor project which addresses the issue of identity anonymity and access control within shared permissioned blockchains.
This discourse and debate is extremely important for the world of blockchain development in order to find a balance in openness, ownership, anti-discrimination and control.