Is Google making the blockchain searchable?

I came across an interesting article on Forbes the other day by Michael del Castillo. He tells a story about data scientist Allen Day, a former Google employee, who while looking at some of the tools he developed there, saw something puzzling. What he saw was “a mysterious concerted usage of artificial intelligence on the blockchain for Ethereum.”

Day was able to look into its blockchain and see a “whole bunch” of “autonomous agents” moving funds around “in an automated fashion.” Although Day has no idea who created the AI, he suspects “they could be the agents of cryptocurrency exchanges trading among themselves in order to artificially inflate ether’s price.”

Day also remarked that he didn’t believe this was the work of a single exchange, but is rather a group effort. Part of Day’s job is anticipating demand for a product before it even exists, and in the light of what he has seen, he believes that making the blockchain more accessible is the next big thing.

Let’s not forget that Google made the Internet more usable, bringing it billions in revenue, and if Day is correct in his predictions it could have another major pay day by making the blockchain searchable. Del Castillo says if it does, “the world will know whether blockchain’s real usage is living up to its hype.”

Day has already been working on this with a team of open-source developers, who have been loading data for bitcoin and ethereum blockchains into Google’s big data analytics platform called BigQuery. And, with the help of lead developer Evgeny Medvedev, he created a suite of sophisticated software to search the data.

Day is hoping that his project, known as Blockchain ETL (extract, transform, load) will bring Google’s revenues from cloud computing services up to the level of Amazon and Microsoft. Google is some way behind both of them, but it will struggle to match Amazon’s revenues of $27 billion from cloud services, because Amazon has been in the blockchain game since 2018 with a suite of tools for building and managing distributed ledgers. And Microsoft got into the space in 2015, when it released tools for ethereum’s blockchain. These two companies are focused on making it easier to build blockchain apps, whereas Day wants to reveal how blockchains are actually being used, and by whom.

Day has been demonstrating how his Blockchain ETL could function by examining the hard fork that created bitcoin cash (BCH) from bitcoin. “I’m very interested to quantify what’s happening so that we can see where the legitimate use cases are for blockchain,” Day says. “Then we can move to the next use case and develop out what these technologies are really appropriate for.”

Day is now expanding beyond bitcoin and ethereum. Litecoin, zcash, dash, bitcoin cash, ethereum classic and dogecoin are being added to BigQuery.

It seems Google is waking up to blockchain and is now powering ahead by filing numerous patents related to the blockchain. The company is also encouraging its developers to build apps on the ethereum blockchain, and GV, Google’s investment division has made some investments in crypto-related startups.

The Two Doors of Crypto Perception

You may have seen a photo of a dress circulating on social media last year. People were asked what colour the dress was. Some saw white and gold, some lilac and gold, and others saw blue and black. The post demonstrated that perception is not universal, and the same can be said about cryptocurrency and blockchain technology, which can be viewed through two lenses.

Data and code first

There are those who perceive the technology to be the most important aspect of this new space and the one that will outlast all other aspects. Some people see the blockchain as a gigantic network of global computers working on the decentralised principle. Most often these ‘believers’ are software designers and developers who are focused on code and data. They see lots of potential in the blockchain for implementing new forms of software with new capabilities. It offers them data storage that is resistant to censorship and is immutable. It can also be audited and the code can’t be changed once it’s in use. This is one group, but there is another.

New money

Another group perceives the technology as merely a tool that is necessary to create a new form of money. This group is more likely to be made up of people from backgrounds in economics and finance. They look at it from a perspective of the history of money and bring the idea that all forms of money have specific properties: resistant to forgery, secure, durable, measurable and divisible. So this group sees cryptocurrency as a new version of ‘sound money’. Some of them are sceptical about fiat currencies and aren’t fans of centrally controlled monetary policies. They see cryptocurrencies as a revolutionary new form of global money and the antidote to what they see as the questionable modern experiment of fiat currency.

The bigger picture

What does this leave us with? One group see crytpocurrency as the single useful purpose of the blockchain, while the other sees cryptocurrency as just one component in what the blockchain can do.

The ‘new money’ group actively buy cryptocurrencies and want to encourage mass adoption so the value of the coins increases. The blockchain-focused group is more enthusiastic about projects that experiment, add features, and explore the blockchain tradeoff-space.

But, what we can take away from this is that both views complement each other and one keeps the other in check. There is room for both perspectives and those working in the crypto space would do well to take a step back and take in a wider perspective that includes the views of both these groups to see exactly where the crypto space is heading.

Crypto is the people’s currency

There are a lot of people out there who are convinced that cryptocurrencies can never replace fiat money. However, I beg to differ and I see that serial entrepreneur Jeffrey Wernick is also more positive about crypto challenging fiat and has a few theories about why the world’s legacy finance system is faulty.

Wernick, who has invested in Airbnb and Uber, was talking to Business Insiderabout why he started investing in Bitcoin in 2009 and is somebody who can be considered as a leading investor in the crypto market. He believes that the fact that cryptocurrency is “people-oriented” and its decentralised nature, which “affords people equal access to operate under unanimously consented guidelines,” gives it a major advantage over the way fiat money is structured in the world.

He said:”So it’s a people’s currency, it’s defined by the people, and it’s defined by rules and a protocol that people trust. So it’s not like somebody says, if I need to have economic growth, I’m going to give this institution money, and they’re going to transmit it to a certain universe of people.”

It is vital to remember that when we look at ‘legacy finance’ and then to the developing economies where so many people are ‘unbanked’ that in the majority of cases politicians control the central bank of that country. What is the problem with this situation? Well, those politicians use the central bank as their personal bank account and have been known to embezzle huge amounts of money from their own nation, and nobody dares to stop them. There are countries that are vastly rich in natural resources, like Nigeria, yet the majority of its people live in unnecessary poverty. That’s one big problem with legacy finance and central banks.

The cryptocurrency ecosystem has the potential to reverse that situation. In the crypto sphere it is almost impossible for any one entity to control more than 50 percent of the network. Wernick explained his view of it: “Everybody has the same access to it at any point in time, just different units of it according to whatever their own personal budget constraints are. But nobody has privileged access to it, except, you could say, maybe the miners who pay to produce it and they take a business risk associated with it and anybody could choose to get into the mining business.”

Wernick has for some time supported the idea that the central banks should be accountable to the people, not to politicians, and it is easy to see why — the old ways do not benefit the many, they favour the few.

Who will win the Smart Contracts race?

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Vitalik Buterin’s Ethereum is widely known as the ‘go to’ blockchain technology for smart contracts. But, this week, Ripple’s former CTO Stefan Thomas has thrown down the gauntlet to challenge the leader with a new smart contracts platform.

Thomas left Ripple in May and now he is launching Codius, an open- source project designed by Ripple and released in a beta version back in 2014. So, it isn’t exactly new, but Thomas is positioning it as the core product of his new company Coil.

Coil’s ambition is to change the way websites monetise their content.

Monetising web content is clumsy

According to Thomas, the current way in which web content is monetised is a clumsy workaround that uses adverts, paywalls and data harvesting. His concept uses an interledger. This is an open-source protocol that allows payments to be sent across different ledgers. Basically, it allows users’ browsers to make micropayments to the websites they visit.

How Codius works

How will that work, and how will it affect consumers? Codius allows the use of a “revenue disbursement contract” that will collect revenues when consumers watch a movie, for example. The collected revenue will be paid to all the parties involved in putting that movie online, but it won’t be made in “batch payments’, it will be paid out in a stream of smaller amounts. And, those people who read newspapers with a paywall will make payments via a smart contract that manages payment authorisations and the subscriptions.

Codius has already released an instruction manual for uploading Codius in an effort to get developers to start using the platform immediately, and it seems that the call has been heard.

Who is using Codius?

Telindus, the IT solutions subsidiary of the Belgian telecoms group Proximus has said it will be using Codius to “push forward novel direct e-commerce models.”

Game platforms, Unity, Zynga and Kabam also plan to use it for new gaming platforms. Josh Williams, who invested in Unity et al, and is now creating his own gaming platforms said: “Teams in games and elsewhere are building on Ethereum and running into the cost and scalability issues we’re all familiar with. Codius has great potential in addressing these concerns, and we are eager to work with it.”

Codius offers better scalability

And there is the dreaded word that Ethereum’s team will fear most: scalability. We all know that Ethereum is still working on resolving its scaling issues. It looks like Codius is offering a solution that neatly bypasses that problem. Thomas said: “The people that are reaching out to us are saying, ‘Hey, we’re experimenting on Ethereum. We’re running into scalability issues. It’s too expensive, too slow. It’s not flexible enough. We don’t like writing in this awkward language.’”

It isn’t the only challenger to take on Ethereum, but it looks like it might be one of the strongest contenders to win the race to bring smart contracts into mainstream use.