Vitalik Buterin, a living legend of the crypto community, described in his recently published interview with Quartz what practical applications of blockchain he considers the best. He also warned companies against wasteful jumping on the blockchain bandwagon for the sake of publicity and marketing hype and, as an illustration, specifically criticized the case with IBM.
Buterin, a 24-year-old programmer primarily known as a co-founder of Ethereum (ETH) Project, spoke with Quartz on the sidelines of Devcon 4, the annual conference held for Ethereum developers. This year, it took place in Prague from October 30 to November 2, in the midst of hard times for Ether, which plummeted from January highs of $1,400 and is currently testing $100.
What is wrong…
Buterin expressed optimism about Ethereum and blockchain, in general, referring to it as the “world computer” that creates a shared computing environment for everyone and encourages cooperation. However, while Buterin appreciates the interest businesses take in blockchain technology, he warns that at the moment many companies use it in areas where it is not particularly necessary or appropriate, and such misapplication of blockchain solutions in some industries is a waste of time.
“Sometimes it’s for marketing hype. Sometimes it’s just people who are genuinely excited about blockchains and want the thing they’re personally excited about and their job to align more with each other… In some cases, I think it leads to a lot of wasted time,” he says.
Commenting on use cases where blockchain implementation doesn’t seem appropriate, Buterin specifically highlighted the “big corporate blockchain stuff” and IBM solutions. As he explains, the tech giant is totally missing the general idea of the open source and decentralized nature behind the blockchain. Instead, IBM uses it to accumulate patents, store all IP addresses and build a sort of proprietary corporate blockchain.
Buterin also mentioned a food tracking application of IBM designed to verify and confirm information about products’ origins, and raised concerns about the company’s ability to execute this in practice. Buterin agrees that blockchains help to establish higher standards and “definitely add on to the guarantees that you have.”
Yet, “they definitely don’t provide 100% guarantees of things, especially in the real world… I’m not claiming that this model is going to be viable in every industry,” he goes on saying.
…and what is right
Nevertheless, Buterin identified other areas blockchain might be good for. He believes the best and most practical applications of blockchain technology are “cryptocurrencies and making international payments easier.” These are the two industries where blockchain-based solutions are most suitable at the moment.
“All of the other ideas-whether we’re talking about products or the self-sovereign identity stuff that’s clearly something that still needs much more time to be worked out before we can see [whether it] makes sense at scale,” he adds.
As one of his favorite non-financial applications, Buterin also mentioned a solution designed to authenticate university degrees, which is currently under development in Singapore. Its implementation will enable institutions to issue education certificates digitally.
“The idea is when you get a degree-or potentially, a record from any institution-that record will be digitally signed, but if it gets revoked, then a message will be published to a blockchain. It basically means all these institutions don’t have to maintain their own centralized infrastructure,” Buterin explained.