Consensus 2017: Blockchain Tech Leaders Predict Interoperable Future

At Consensus 2017, leaders of different blockchain projects discussed how their platforms could eventually become an interoperable "mesh" of services.

May 23, 2017 at 11:00 a.m. UTC
Updated Sep 11, 2021 at 1:22 p.m. UTC
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Leaders of four different blockchain and distributed ledger projects believe they are collectively working on what could end up being an interoperable network of services.

Speaking onstage at CoinDesk's Consensus 2017 conference in New York, ethereum co-founder Joe Lubin, bitcoin scientist Adam Back, Hyperledger executive director Brian Behlendorf and Richard Gendal Brown of distributed ledger consortium R3 took turns talking about the future of their industry.

While philosophies differed regarding public and private blockchains, and methods of development, a consensus was largely formed that, eventually, their technologies will probably directly interact in the future.

Lubin, who is also the co-founder of ethereum development firm ConsenSys, told the audience:

"All of these individuals on stage with us are all building technologies with which we would someday like to interoperate."

Still, Lubin described ethereum as the only "powerful blockchain system that can operate in a private permissioned context or a public context".

However, Back – the inventor of early cryptocurrency, hashcash – is working with Blockstream to introduce features to the public bitcoin blockchain that would give it certain privacy traits that might make it more attractive to regulated enterprise.

One of the most significant obstacles to be overcome in the creation of this interoperable mesh of blockchains, he argued, would be the preservation of what makes each chain unique, even as value moves from one to the other.

"I think interoperability is going to be important," said Back. "And its important for the trust properties of the chain to transfer."

While the Lubin indicated that ConsenSys is working on an "interledger" capable of facilitating such interoperability, Hyperledger's Behlendorf proposed a different possibility: that what might end up connecting these blockchains would be an identity solution that lets users own their own profiles.

That statement is notable as, earlier this month, Hyperledger revealed plans for an effort called Project Indy to do exactly that, though Behlendorf didn't make explicit the possibility that the solution might play a role in blockchain interoperability.

"These things will be richly woven together," he said.

As evidence of the interconnected nature of the global exchange of value, R3's Gendal Brown described the early days of his consortium's work with global banks.

What began as an effort to solve the problem of how global financial institutions can transact with each other with greater trust has ended up moving towards a tool for establishing trust in other industries, including insurance.

Brown said:

"When we started designing Corda, we set out to build a platform that can bring the benefits of DLT to finance. The upshot is that its much more general."

Image via Michael del Castillo for CoinDesk

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