Ever since I heard about blockchain (about six months ago), I’ve been an enthusiast of the technology. As I was working on my first blockchain story last June, I told my fellow editors at SDxCentral: “This technology has the potential to change the world.” To which they all gave me thin, watery smiles. I think I heard them sniggering behind my back.
But my enthusiasm has only grown in the ensuing months. And clearly, I’m not alone. In 2017, the price of a bitcoin soared from nearly $1,000 to more than $20,000 at one point in December. And the price of an ether grew from about $7 to around $800. Full disclosure: I purchased a couple of ethers, myself, for around $200 each.
Time will tell if the cryptocurrency craze is just a bunch of overblown hype. But the blockchain technology that underpins cryptocurrency is definitely not hype.
Brian Behlendorf, the executive director of the Linux Foundation’s Hyperledger blockchain project, said companies are already using blockchain to solve real-world problems and to handle existing tasks — such as supply-chain tracking — better than before.
The Hyperledger project focuses on enterprise applications for blockchain. In 2017, the project sold out of its 21 Premier memberships, adding eight new companies: SAP, American Express, Daimler, Change Healthcare, NEC, Cisco, Tradeshift, and Baidu. Hyperledger now has support from 197 organizations, and it’s the fastest growing open source project ever hosted by the Linux Foundation.
Behlendorf has been around for earlier technology sea changes. He was a primary developer of the Apache Web server, the most popular web server software on the Internet, and he was a founding member of the Apache Software Foundation. He has served on the board of the Mozilla Foundation since 2003. In addition, he was the CTO of the World Economic Forum. And most recently, he was a managing director at Mithril Capital Management, a global technology investment firm.
“I definitely see parallels in this [blockchain] evolution with the Web,” said Behlendorf. “The Web totally transformed our relationship to information and made access really cheap and ubiquitous. Blockchain stands to transform transactions.”
The Hyperledger project recently began offering a free, online blockchain training course — Blockchain for Business: An Introduction to Hyperledger. The self-paced course is offered through edX.org, the nonprofit learning platform founded in 2012 by Harvard University and Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The course provides an introduction to Hyperledger and its key business blockchain frameworks.
About 40,000 people have signed up for the course, so far, and Behlendorf said that some companies are using it to train their own employees. It’s designed for a broad audience, not just techies. Hyperledger developed the course to help ordinary people understand blockchain. But it also wants to identify talented coders to become blockchain developers.
Hmmmm. I wonder if I can find the time to learn blockchain.