For the past century China has been slow to innovate in the field of technology, mostly just following at a pace set by Western countries. Innovations such as the automobile, the radio, the TV, the computer, the internet etc. all stemmed from Western countries. China, although considered a superpower by some scholars, has been second best when it comes to mainstream technological innovations. This is despite China having surpassed the United States as the largest manufacturing country in the world. Leading many to view the nation as an imitator and a producer of counterfeit goods.
Since the end of the last decade a new technology has been on the horizon for a while now. In just ten years blockchain technology has went from just facilitating for payments, to hosting just about anything you can think of. In that short span of time we’ve seen hundreds of blockchains surface, along with thousands more cryptocurrencies. As many countries around the world scramble to find ways of how to deal with this new innovation, turns out China has been pacing to be the first of the superpowers to fully embrace the tech. Even going much further than that by introducing to the world a network that makes it easier for anyone to participate in this new innovation.
This time around China is taking the initiative to lead in the innovation of the future; following up on their productive history of innovating new technologies such as papermaking (and the first paper money), the compass, gun powder, and printing (brrrr). Otherwise known as the Four Great Inventions. Although we may never know who the inventor of Bitcoin is, China is leading the development and deployment of blockchain technology on a global scale. Here’s how they’re doing it.
Blockchain-based Service Network (BSN)
The BSN is much like the internet in that it is also a cross-cloud, cross-portal, cross-framework global infrastructure network, facilitating the deployment and operation of blockchain applications. In other words, it hosts multiple cloud service providers, multiple gateways, and multiple blockchain protocols. If you think of different blockchains as different programming languages capable of building different types of networks for sharing information and transacting value through tokenization, then BSN is an interface that connects you to all these different networks – much like the World Wide Web connects you to different websites.
The World Wide Web is how the majority of the global population today interacts with the internet, even with each other, and the Blockchain-based Service Network looks to be just that for blockchain networks. Like the World Wide Web Consortium (W3), BSN also has a consortium called the BSN Development Association which is responsible for the development, operations, and maintenance of the BSN.
Activities of this association make it much more affordable for developers and technology companies to develop, deploy, operate, maintain, and regulate blockchain applications. They’ve already deployed public nodes in the US, Japan, Australia, Brazil, South Africa, Singapore and France, which users can connect to to access the BSN when it launches on April 25.
Public and Private Blockchains
Depending on what type of service or application a user wants to develop, they’ll adopt either a public (permissionless) blockchain or a private (permissioned) blockchain. Likewise, the same decision needs to be made when deciding which type of blockchain to deploy their application on. Public blockchains are open and accessible by anyone without the need to verify their identity to the network. Whereas with private blockchains access is granted to only a select group of people and will need to verify their eligibility to interact with/on this network. Currently, the BSN supports EOS and Ethereum as it public blockchains.
Different needs require different types of function.
For the global population, a public blockchain is what they’ll be interacting with on a daily basis. Whether it is to access the services of a public organization, the public information of an administrative branch of their government, or to play their favorite blockchain based game. Public blockchains have the benefit of transparency, which makes them useful for day-to-day operations that don’t require sharing of personal information, thus maintaining integrity across its networks.
As for private (consortium) blockchains, their services are highly restricted to those who’ve been granted access to use one or more of its hosted applications. These would be the private organizations whose operations and processes need to remain secluded from public view in order to maintain their competitive advantage. Another use case could be for financial institutions that have to keep personal information and transactions of their customers safe from potential hackers, among other things.
A public blockchain such as EOS, which is one of two public chains currently supported by BSN, is versatile in that it can facilitate for both public and private applications. Meaning a private organization can have their application or services accessible on the EOS ‘public’ blockchain while maintaining privacy of sensitive data on a private blockchain. This versatility could allow for an organization to make some processes public and accessible to the global community, while keeping certain operations private.
Although general users don’t necessarily need to connect to the BSN in order to access applications of respective blockchains – they can do that directly – the BSN does make it easier for them to easily connect with multiple blockchains. The beauty of the BSN is that it makes blockchains compatible with each other, fostering for wider accessibility. Developers no longer have to tweak their applications to fit different requirements of different blockchains. Under the BSN umbrella all blockchains are interoperable for maximum practicality.
Characteristics of Blockchains
One might ask, “well then what’s the point of having different blockchains if they’re all going to be interoperable/compatible”. And the answer is the same as it’s always been – different blockchains operate based on different ideologies and their performance is not interchangeable across blockchains. EOS for example has quicker confirmation times giving developers the freedom to build some of the most robust applications in the world.
Developers will always gravitate towards better performing technologies that help them fine-tune their applications in order to deliver better user experiences. Similarly, users i.e the market, will also choose applications that provide them with a seamless user experience. EOS is feeless, which makes it cheaper for all these different users and developers to build, deploy, and use applications on running on this feeless blockchain.
Another reason would be that EOS is more scalable, which is especially important when considering that the BSN is a global network that’s aiming to have approximately two hundred public city nodes worldwide by the end of this year. Followed by a deployment of public city nodes and portals in all countries around the world. So although there’s multiple blockchain protocols supported by the BSN, this provides the perfect platform for EOS to demonstrate its capabilities as the best public blockchain in the world.
Now that you’ve chosen whether you’d like to deploy your application on a private or public network, and you’ve also decided on the blockchain you’d like to build and deploy on. The next step is to choose the portal in which to operate. This decision will likely be influenced by your previous choices in private/public blockchains, and then from there it is dependent on the developer which portal functions they prefer.
The BSN has multiple portals, and more can be created by cloud service providers, framework providers, and large application developers. These BSN portals gather information from different blockchain networks and compile them as a single service or platform. In traditional systems; websites, forums, and search engines are some examples of a portal in the sense that they gather information from different sources and compile it as a one-stop shop for its users. For example, EOSWriter is a portal for EOSIO related content.
Each BSN portal is independent from the next and each has its own set of available applications and/or services. Applications that are published in one portal cannot be accessed from other portals, unless that same application is also added in the other portal. Portals have their own operators who are responsible for the filtering and management of ‘allowed’ applications. Similar to how app stores filter certain apps from being listed or how a search engine filters certain types of content from showing up.
Portals handle functions such as user registration and management, billing and payment systems, and developer communities. Each portal manages its own users, and user information is not shared with the BSN. Making it possible for private portals of private chains to co-exist with public one’s on the BSN. However, access to private (exclusive) portals is supervised by a portal administrator who gets to decide who enters and who doesn’t. The portal user interface and other non-BSN functions are also designed, created, operated, maintained by this same portal administrator.
Other portals could be run by government entities with very specific requirements for deploying applications. For instance, in China the deployment or operation of public (permissionless) blockchain nodes on BSN portals and public city nodes is prohibited. Public city nodes function to provide access control to the BSN, as well as transaction processing, data storage, and computing abilities for blockchain applications.
Once on the BSN (interface) users can utilize a single set of private keys to access different applications, even applications running on a different blockchain protocol. The Blockchain-based Service Network allows for any of its users to interact with any of the blockchains and applications connected to it. Instead of having to manage different accounts with different keys and different wallets. Again, it works similarly to how a web browser does connecting to different websites.
The BSN looks to mimic traditional databases and the internet to make it easier for developers that have no prior knowledge of blockchain to start using it. Making it easy for traditional business systems to add blockchain functionality by simply connecting to public city nodes. These nodes have pre-built chain code and smart contract mechanisms which provides developers a bypass of rather having to do the coding themselves. All they have to do is connect to these nodes and voila, they are now using a blockchain and can start building and deploying applications in programming languages they’re already familiar with.
To promote high-speed development and widespread use, the BSN provides free software and technical support so that cloud service providers can create public city nodes at no cost. This ensure that the BSN quickly scales as it empowers those who need its services to create a gateway (public city node) for themselves. Funds to support this initiative come from the fees collected by the independent portals, which after revenue is collected, get redistributed back to support the ecosystem.
How This Likely Plays Out
In the coming months I think we’re likely to see other countries try to come up with their own blockchain networks. It won’t work. A tough pill to swallow but that’s just the reality of it, at least that’s how it seems from my perspective. While China was busy creating this ‘internet of blockchains’, other countries had been stifling the growth of this technology not allowing it to flourish, let alone learn about it. By the time they caught on, blockchain had already become a global powerhouse, although yet to go mainstream. It’s a little too late to create another BSN. There can only be one Internet 2.0 and China has beat everybody to it this time.
The closest thing to the BSN is Facebook’s Libra project. Even though the West doesn’t like it, they might decide to compromise and partake in it. Libra has even updated its whitepaper to support single-currency stablecoins. It even mentions forgoing the future transition to a permissionless system. Personally comparing these two – BSN and Libra – as the most advanced blockchain networks at the moment, BSN comes up triumphant. The things Libra hopes to achieve in the future, the BSN already supports, just not within China.
I’m surprised at how quick China was moving at implementing this technology and impressed with how they’ve made it a global network that’s open to everyone and controlled by no one. I guess it shouldn’t come as too big a surprise because the Chinese have been actively involved in blockchain networks since Bitcoin. Right this moment they’re the biggest participants in Bitcoin and Ethereum mining, and EOS block producing. They’ve been learning, and still are, which is why I find it nearly impossible for others to catch up to their practical knowledge of this technology.
The global market is in urgent need for such a global network that not only lowers costs across the board, but does everything else better as well. It leverages and complements blockchain technology by making it more accessible and practically viable for every applications developer in the world. This came quicker than most of us expected. I thought we’d have to wait at least another year before blockchain could go mainstream, but I’m not complaining.
Considering that China is also leading (years ahead) in the race for 5G connectivity, I’d say their perfectly positioned to showcase to the world the possibilities of blockchain technology in stimulating a new and better world socio-economy. Some of the pressure for the marketing of blockchain technology will be alleviated as I imagine will now be incentivized to promote the BSN. Once implemented across its nation of 1 billion people and adopted by its institutions, then the world will realize in order to compete they’ll need to play ball.
It’s going to be fun watching how other countries react to this, especially superpowers like the US, Russia, and the UK. Will they create their own virtual currencies and ban public blockchains like China has done? Or will they utilize the benefits of open public protocols in order to effectively compete and possibly surpass the blockchain capabilities of China? All I can say is brace yourself because this is going to be an electrifying journey. The stars have aligned and everyone is about to uncover blockchain and cryptocurrencies, and with the current global landscape, a lot of financial resources are going to pour into them.
Thank you for reading!
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