07 Feb How Blockchain Technology Will Impact Websites & Digital Marketing
In 1990, the World Wide Web was born, and technology changed life as we know it.
Fast forward 30 years. Our banking, communication, communities, social interactions, and vocations are all found in, and/or largely associated with, the online sphere. The internet has largely become our go-to resource for almost every aspect of life.
Now, technology is changing things again. Enter blockchain technology.
The concept of blockchain technology was created a little less than 10 years ago by combining existing technology and applying it in a new way. The main idea is that instead of hosting large databases of information on one central server owned or controlled by one entity, information is decentralized into blocks of data as transactions happen. These blocks are secure and essentially incorruptible. This information database, or ledger, is owned by no one person and is available publicly to all who participate in the blockchain network.
In our current transactional systems, information is “locked” and resides with a central authority acting as a middleman or third party between two parties wishing to make a transaction. With blockchain, information (data) and transactions are actually property of the owners, with no need for a middleman. The network is peer to peer (P2P) and does not involve a third party.
One of the best analogies describing how blockchain technology works is comparing a Microsoft Word document to a Google Doc. In an article entitled, “If You Understand Google Docs, You Can Understand Blockchain,” writer William Mougayar tells us that “blockchain doesn’t disrupt databases, but it disrupts how databases get synchronized between each other.”
The traditional way of sharing documents with collaboration is to send a Microsoft Word document to another recipient, and ask them to make revisions to it.
The problem with that scenario is that you need to wait until receiving a return copy before you can see or make other changes, because you are locked out of editing it until the other person is done with it.
That’s how databases work today. Two owners can’t update the same record at once. That’s how banks maintain money balances and transfers; they briefly lock access (or decrease the balance) while they make a transfer, then update the other side, then re-open access (or update again).
With Google Docs (or Google Sheets), both parties have access to the same document at the same time, and the single version of that document is always visible to both of them. It is like a shared ledger, but it is a shared document. The distributed part comes into play when sharing involves a number of people. Imagine the number of legal documents that should be used that way.
It’s difficult to imagine the possibilities for blockchain technology, largely because the tech is still in its infancy. Many use-cases haven’t even been created or invented yet, let alone improved upon. Still, there are a few possibilities we can speculate about given what we currently know.
The most obvious use-case for blockchain technology (given our current knowledge and market) is financial. Cryptocurrency is “a digital currency in which encryption techniques are used to regulate the generation of units of currency and verify the transfer of funds, operating independently of a central bank” (dictionary.com). With blockchain and cryptocurrency, funds will be immediately accessible and the transactions practically indisputable.
By establishing the authenticity and authorization of both parties before a transaction ever occurs, blockchain seeks to virtually eliminate fraudulent transactions in the marketplace.
The practical consequence […is…] for the first time, a way for one Internet user to transfer a unique piece of digital property to another Internet user, such that the transfer is guaranteed to be safe and secure, everyone knows that the transfer has taken place, and nobody can challenge the legitimacy of the transfer. The consequences of this breakthrough are hard to overstate.
– Marc Andreessen
David Gobaud, the CEO and co-founder of Mobius (a blockchain technology company), says the eventual goal is to “make it easy to connect every device, developer, and data stream to the blockchain ecosystem.”
Social media platforms, which used to have a unique purpose of connecting with friends and family, have now become a main channel in which brands connect with their target audience. Steem, a social platform built with blockchain technology, is encouraging users to create and curate content by offering token rewards (payment) for the best content, voted on by users. It is self-proclaimed as a blockchain-based rewards platform for publishers to monetize content and grow community.
Wired magazine wrote an article reviewing Steem and its implications. The essence of the new social platform is concisely stated below:
Everything that you do on Steemit—every post, every comment, and every like—translates to a fraction of a digital currency called Steem. Over time, as Steem accumulates, it can be cashed out for normal currency. (Or held, if you think Steem is headed for a bright future.)
The idea for Steemit began with a white paper, which quietly spread among a small community of techies when it was released in March 2016. The exhaustive 44-page overview wasn’t intended for a general audience, but the document contained a powerful message.
User-generated content, the authors argued, had created billions of dollars of value for the shareholders of social media companies. Yet while moguls like Mark Zuckerberg got rich, the content creators who fueled networks like Facebook got nothing. Steemit’s creators outlined their intention to challenge that power imbalance by putting a value on contributions: “Steem is the first cryptocurrency that attempts to accurately and transparently reward…[the] individuals who make subjective contributions to its community.
One of the main selling points of blockchain technology is its security. One of the three main pillars of existing technology that combined to create blockchain is private key cryptography (hence, cryptocurrency). The protection that cryptography provides against hackers or security breaches is a huge boon for the tech itself.
Paul Puey is the CEO of Edge, a cyber security company that has developed tools to help users keep their information encrypted and safe. Edge “empowers individuals to take control of their own online data by developing the proprietary tools, software and systems needed to keep their information tightly secured.”
Experts argue that secure information should be housed at the “edge” of a network rather than in a centralized location. Following this approach, instead of relying on enterprise server security, edge-security first encrypts data from the user’s device before it ever touches a network or server. (Forbes)
You can read an interview with Puey about Edge’s innovations here.
Digital Marketing and Search Engines
Blockchain may change the face of digital marketing and advertising as we know it. Instead of using a conglomerate of information amassed from different sources (Google, Facebook, etc.) to market to potential customers, blockchain makes it possible to gather information from the consumer directly. The ability to build a customer profile directly from all of the information the customer is willing to share means marketers can collect that data to discern and pinpoint their customers’ exact needs (instead of making a best guess based on past actions).
Developing websites on WordPress may also improve from using blockchain technology and its subsequent applications. WordPress is already an open-source platform, meaning that developers contribute to the code, development, documentation, etc. These continuing contributions mutually benefit the users and professionals found within the WordPress community.
The WordPress community can do something similar with blockchain technology. Payment portals are the most obvious use-case, as developers seek to find ways for WordPress to accept cryptocurrencies. The monetization of original content that benefits the author directly is an experimental use-case that’s being carried out right now, through websites such as Medium.
For security and identity, blockchain can encrypt personal information and allow users to selectively share that information. This encryption benefits both parties in terms of keeping their information and website safe from hackers. For blogging, blockchain technology can verify the originality and authenticity of content. This could cut down on plagiarism and duplicate content, as blockchain solidifies ownership.
Even search engines may incorporate blockchain technology into their ecosystem. Nebulas is one example of a search engine created from blockchain technology. They allow “easy access to valuable blockchain data.”
Nebulas is “a search engine for decentralized applications. Nebulas constructs a search engine for decentralized applications based on Nebulas value ranking. Using this engine, users can easily find desired decentralized applications from the massive market.”
While blockchain technology is still in its infancy, we can start to see the beginning of endless use-cases and categories for the infinite possibilities this tech can reach. While the potential for financial, marketplace, social, security, and search implications are just now scratching the surface, maybe in 30 years we will look back to how much life has changed and see how far we’ve come.