Google’s grand exit a step forward for blockchain

But the tech giant will need a little help from its DLT friends

Google’s involvement in blockchain won’t single-handedly bring the technology into the mainstream, but it will help enterprises streamline the development of applications. That’s the view of Maxwell Arnold, an analyst at Global Blockchain Technologies Corp, a Canadian incubator of blockchain technologies, with operations that also include a cryptocurrency mining spinoff and a division for cryptocurrency exchanges.

With more than 86,000 blockchain projects on GitHub as of autumn 2017, it is clear that there is tremendous interest in building applications with blockchain technology, he writes in an article for LSE Business Review. “Of these projects, only 8% were actively maintained, and the average lifespan of each project was 1.22 years. Given how rare actual expertise in blockchain programming is, it cannot be doubted that the sheer complexity and relative newness of blockchain technology have at least contributed to these projects being either discontinued or left incomplete. To put the rarity of this expertise into perspective, at the beginning of 2018 there were 14 job openings for every one blockchain developer in the United States.”

Digital Asset

Google has partnered with Digital Asset, a New York-based FinTech that specialises in distributed ledger technology solutions. It will provide Google Cloud developers with a full stack solution that takes away many of the hurdles of developing DLT applications.

Google Cloud has also joined Digital Asset’s private beta programme, providing select parties with access to their Digital Asset Modeling Language (DAML), which simplifies the development of smart contracts, in addition to DAML’s Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS), which is a platform for testing and deploying DLT applications. The intended outcome of this collaboration is to enable developers to create, test, and launch DLT applications, but without the need to be greatly familiar with everything that is “under the hood”.

There is, however, much work to be done. In early July, shortly before announcing the partnership, Google Co-founder Sergey Brin admitted at a conference in Morocco: “We probably already failed to be on the bleeding edge [of blockchain], I’ll be honest”.

“This, unfortunately, is combined with Google’s relatively small share of the cloud computing market at just 6%, compared to Microsoft at 13.9% and Amazon at 31.8%, according to 2017 estimates by research firm Canalys,” writes Arnold.

He adds: “Further, at a macro level, public understanding of blockchain technology remains noticeably low, despite having improved over the course of 2018. Additionally, the legality of cryptocurrencies as a use of blockchain technology remains an issue in some countries. These two factors do stand to inhibit the mainstream adoption of blockchain. Nevertheless, Google’s movement towards blockchain will have a net positive effect on bringing it into the mainstream.”

Just like the internet

It will also bring validation of blockchain as a legitimate form of technology, in addition to making it easier to use. “Blockchain went from being met with confusion in its earliest stages, to being met with distrust and scepticism as it started to become popular, and as it gained a reputation of facilitating inappropriate transactions. This is similar to the internet’s early days, when in 1994 five out of ten of the most popular newsgroups were adult-themed, giving it a comparable stigma,” says Arnold.

Key developments would ensue in the coming years to validate the internet as a technology suited for mainstream users, and make it easier to use. For example, major corporations started to build websites, and Microsoft included the Internet Explorer web browser in releases of Windows 95 as an easy way to use the internet.

“Similarly, Google’s movement towards blockchain has the dual effect of providing both their endorsement of the technology in and of itself, and making blockchain technology easier to use through its partnership with Digital Assets,” Arnold concludes.

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