R3 released the code for its Corda distributed ledger platform earlier this week, and market observers were quick to weigh in.
The Corda codebase launched Wednesday to public consumption is an early-stage distributed ledger platform designed to record and automate legal agreements between various business entities, with a particular focus on financial institutions.
R3 has pitched the release as a way to open the code up to outside comment – and thus far, reaction to the effort has been mixed, drawing both praise and criticism from market observers.
A director at PricewaterhouseCoopers' fintech and digital practice, said his company welcomes the release, given the potential educational contribution it could make to blockchain developers. Ajit Tripathi said that PwC plans to work with its clients to help them use the software if they express an interest.
Tripathi acknowledged that the open sourcing of the code is certainly good for publicity. At the same time, he added, other code publications from both established companies and startups have demonstrated that it's exactly this kind of publicity that can spark interest from potential contributors.
Given the importance of developer adoption, Tripathi said they have have little choice "but to open-source their platforms." But that doesn't mean they aren't also seeking to protect those ideas even as they share them. In August, the Wall Street Journal reported that R3 had filed a patent application for a distributed ledger financial platform, dubbed Concord, upon which others might build.
Tripathi went on to remark:
"It's also entirely commercially sound to look to preserve their IP through patents where appropriate, although R3 would need to be careful not to ever use any patents in a way that would make developers or institutions wary about using Corda."
Following the release, some skeptics on social media and at industry conferences moved to voice doubt over the distributed ledger's value proposition.
In a lengthy explanation on Twitter, Bitcoin Core developer Peter Todd expressed confusion over what problem Corda is designed to solve. He also argued that, without a clear explanation of who authorized changes, there would be a lack of accountability to partners.
Not once do the Corda docs talk about who actually is supposed to have access to keys; whole point of crypto is to know who did what!
— Peter Todd (@petertoddbtc) November 30, 2016
Addressing a panel hosted earlier this week by the Wall Street Blockchain Alliance, blockchain researcher and analyst Tone Vays took aim at the Corda release. In conversation with CoinDesk, he argued that R3 is primarily focused on selling its consulting services, and that there is little distinction between Corda and existing approaches to shared databases.
"But getting all the banks in a room and discussing a shared database is I guess impressive," said Vays.
For its part, R3 says that the debut has been a success. According to managing director Charley Cooper the response to the open-sourcing of Corda has been "overwhelmingly positive".
If the startup was hoping to get developers involved, early signs suggest that the effort is working. Within two hours of blockchain banking consortium R3CEV's launch of its open-source platform, its first meaningful contribution was received.
Currently, there are about 350 members on the Corda Forum and 18 contributors to the Github page who collectively have made a total of 17 pull-requests, nine of which have been merged with the codebase. The first substantial pull-request, to factor out the webserver into a separate process, has sparked a lively conversation between R3's lead platform engineer Mike Hearn and other contributors.
In addition to the changes to the codebase that have already been implemented, Cooper says the consortium has heard from "top-level contacts" around the industry offering "constructive feedback" and expressing a desire to get involved.
In the near future open-source blockchain group Hyperledger is expected to incorporate Corda into its growing suite of tools. In a conversation yesterday Cooper expressed excitement over Corda's reception so far, and for some perspective, a comparison to Hyperledger itself.
"We're still at a fraction of the users and active participants that they have. But they're a year into this and we're 24 hours into this."
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