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Would Blockchain Better Protect User Data Than FaceApp? Experts Answer

Experts in the cryptocurrency and blockchain industries take on concerns about users’ privacy violations connected with the popular FaceApp mobile application.

FaceApp — the mobile application that has blown up your Instagram feed with pictures of your followers as old people, the opposite gender or babies — has raised a lot of concerns about potential privacy violations for users that upload their photos to be edited. Rumors have circulated that the application might even be taking users’ photos from their phones and uploading them to the FaceApp cloud server without explicit permission. 

We reached out to experts in security and data privacy from academia, government agencies, startups and more to comment on the issues surrounding users’ privacy, asking them their opinions about the concerns associated with traditional applications as opposed to blockchain-based decentralized applications (DApps).

FaceApp uses artificial intelligence as well as a neural network to edit users’ images. The one function that made the mobile app suddenly popular last month after its 2017 release was the function that allows you to predict how you would look in the future. 

Along with a wave of popularity among users, more and more questions have arisen about the application’s security, the fact that it’s based in Russia (which apparently briefly spooked a New York Times reporter) and company’s unclear terms of use. Karissa Bell, Mashable’s senior tech reporter, wrote that the app allows you to select photos from your photo gallery, even if you have a general ban set on access to it. Allegations that the app was able to “hoover” up all of the photos in your gallery were later denied by FaceApp. 

United States Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer asked the Federal Trade Commission and the FBI to conduct a privacy investigation into FaceApp, underlining that “it is not clear how the artificial intelligence application retains the data of users or how users may ensure the deletion of their data after usage.” 

Justin Brookman, a former policy director for the Federal Trade Commission’s Office of Technology Research and Investigation, said, “I would be cautious about uploading sensitive data to this company that does not take privacy very seriously, but also reserves broad rights to do whatever they want with your pictures.” 

Meanwhile, FaceApp denied selling or sharing user data with third parties without permission, adding: “We might store an uploaded photo in the cloud. The main reason for that is performance and traffic: we want to make sure that the user doesn’t upload the photo repeatedly for every edit operation. Most images are deleted from our servers within 48 hours from the upload date.”

However, as was pointed out in the second paragraph of the fifth section of the FaceApp’s terms of use, by using this application, you provide FaceApp absolute freedom to do everything with your image:

“You grant FaceApp a perpetual, irrevocable, nonexclusive, royalty-free, worldwide, fully-paid, transferable sub-licensable license to use, reproduce, modify, adapt, publish, translate, create derivative works from, distribute, publicly perform and display your User Content and any name, username or likeness provided in connection with your User Content in all media formats and channels now known or later developed, without compensation to you.” 

Could a blockchain-based DApp be much better for users’ privacy and security? 

Oh, for sure DApps can be better for privacy and security — if they work, and they work for more than 50 people at a time!

Scaling vs. security is a classic dilemma. Privacy vs. security is the other one. My question would be: Why does the world need another app/DApp? Why aren’t you building infrastructure and interoperability toward intelligent decentralization, personal agency and transparency?

I guess DApps could in an ideal world — but honestly, I’m not seeing useful things work in a decentralized way as much as I’d like.

 — Susan Oh,  CEO of Muckr.AI and board member of Blockchain for Impact at the United Nations General Assembly

 

Native mobile applications leak a lot of data. Every app on your phone claims rights to your information when you’re in the application, and sometimes, even when you’re not using that application, it will still collect data in the background without your consent (this is very prevalent with software development kits). 

The entire app ecosystem is due for an overhaul. Decentralized applications are a move in the right direction; however, many will not be truly decentralized if there is one party controlling the transactions or the data. The purpose of decentralization is to distribute the transactions and data to where no central party owns it. Therefore, in some cases, decentralized applications will be a misnomer as the app developer or publisher may maintain control. 

Facebook’s Libra is a misnomer with decentralization. The crypto payments in this case will be centralized through Facebook and easily trackable. In many ways, this would work against the ideology of cryptocurrencies because every transaction a person makes will be tracked as the person will be identified by the developer of the protocol and coin (in this case, Facebook). The risk is if other app developers pursue a similar model of using blockchain to record every transaction while also verifying identity through various ways. 

Facial recognition is permanent; you can change your social security number, your phone number and even your name. But you cannot change your face. Combine this with blockchain transactions and one can easily imagine a dystopian level of surveillance. The best blockchain apps will truly be decentralized and not linked to data like facial recognition, social media data, bank data (like the JPMorgan coin), etc.

 — Beth Kindig, product evangelist for Intertrust, former developer evangelist for Personagraph, specialist in security and data privacy

 

Many privacy concerns arise from what companies choose to do with the data that they collect. Storing data for a given duration in its servers is a choice made by apps like FaceApp. So a blockchain application would be better for people’s privacy as far as it’s designed to be better, which is a value-laden term.

Companies can exert a lot of control over how they design an application, through its architecture, default settings, what it communicates in its privacy policies, and what it does in practice. The value for a consumer concerned about her privacy would depend on the blockchain application and the kind of data collected and processed by it.

Deirdre K. Mulligan, assistant professor at the University of California, Berkeley School of Information, clinical professor of law at Berkeley Law 

 

With the existing, centralized way of doing things, someone merely needs to gain access to a server to then steal, alter or basically do whatever they want with the data stored there. You only need to look to the high profile hacks of Capital One and Equifax to see that. 

Blockchains are built around the principles of decentralization, removing the single point of failure risk (think Equifax servers) and cutting out unnecessary third parties by establishing a more direct, peer-to-peer network. This also maintains your privacy and control of your data from third-party apps as data rests at the protocol instead of the application layer. 

For something like FaceApp, this means you could temporarily grant access to your photo stored on the blockchain in order to use its fun filters, but FaceApp wouldn’t be able to maintain a copy (due to encryption and the control of your private key resting with you). Something like this will definitely exist in the not so distant future and we will wonder why we ever blindly gave up so much control of our personal data to use things like today’s social media platforms.

Timothy Paolini, board member, NYU Blockchain

 

FaceApp, and any entity that uses facial recognition, should be of concern for everyone. FaceApp’s terms state that once you give it access to your face and name, the company has a permanent license to do whatever it wants with them. This includes sharing/selling your face and name to unknown third parties. You can always change a password if it becomes compromised — you can’t change your face. 

We believe in decentralization as a promising path to ensure web users worldwide have control of their data. MeWe is advised by the inventor of the web, Sir Tim Berners-Lee, and we are closely following Tim’s current work on the Solid project. Solid decentralizes the web by giving web users the freedom to choose where their data resides and who is allowed to access it. MeWe plans to be an early adopter of Solid.

Mark Weinstein, CEO and founder of MeWe 

 

FaceApp exposed what infosec experts have long known — video, image, audio and especially written content is extremely difficult to accurately authenticate as unmodified or produced by a given individual. At Audius, we focus on audio: Determining which part of a song came from where is nearly impossible. 

Technology like FaceApp will lead to the proliferation of more hoaxes and fake content purporting to be generated authentically, exacerbating problems with inaccurate news that we already deal with every day. As a society, we will need to be more skeptical of the authenticity of digital content. The identity of the publisher will become a more important part of that equation in the absence of other cues. 

With Audius, for example, you can authenticate that a specific artist produced a given piece of content, because that artist’s private key was used to sign the transaction that added the content to the network. Similarly, I believe we’ll see media outlets like CNN or The New York Times starting to authenticate that they actually produced given content by signing it with a public/private key mechanism.

Roneil Rumburg, CEO and co-founder of Audius.

 

These quotes have been edited and condensed.

The views, thoughts and opinions expressed here are the authors’ alone and do not necessarily reflect or represent the views and opinions of Cointelegraph.

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Blockstack Joins Lambda School for New Platform to Teach App Coding

Blockstack teams up with Lambda School for new App Mining Program, which reportedly teaches Blockstack app coding without charging students until they are hired.

Privacy-centric computing network and app ecosystem Blockstack has announced a partnership with Lambda School. Students enrolled in the program can reportedly now learn how to code Blockstack apps and earn monthly revenue through its App Mining Program.

Gain the skills to pay the bills

According to a press release shared with Cointelegraph on August 12, Lambda is a skills-based online school with a curriculum designed around the requirements of employers. This reportedly ensures that graduates master all the skills required to succeed. In addition, it offers tuition at no cost until the student is hired, thus removing barriers to high-paying careers.

According to CEO Austen Allred, the partnership with Blockstack “gives Lambda School students a direct path for gaining real-world development experience while earning additional income for their work.”

Not just about the money

As Blockstack CEO Muneeb Ali reportedly said, “this is the sort of program I wish was available to me when I was a student.” The App Mining Program is advertised as giving students the support to take their apps into the real world. 

Blockstack also plans to supply a range of tools needed for quality control. Each student-developed, decentralised app will be subject to reviews and comprehensive user-testing videos. They will also benefit from a guided launch on Product Hunt, and marketing insights through awareness reviewer, Awario.

As CoinTelegraph reported, last month Blockstack gained SEC approval for its $28 million public token offering. This is the first SEC-sanctioned offering under Regulation A+, which will offer a token rather than a share.

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Samsung Expands Its Blockchain DApp Kit With New Services, Updates Wallet

South Korean tech giant Samsung has expanded its blockchain and decentralized application Software Development Kit with two new services.

South Korean tech giant Samsung has expanded its blockchain and decentralized application (DApp) Software Development Kit with two new services.

Galaxy of multi-service blockchain apps

Per the press release shared with Cointelegraph on Aug. 6, Samsung has integrated a digital analytics DApp dubbed “Jupiter” and a QR code-based password wallet “Mars” into Galaxy S10 and newer version of Samsung smartphones.

Jupiter utilizes TrustVerse’s artificial intelligence powered price prediction and analytics build on Microsoft Azure architecture. The DApp enables users to track volatility of digital assets — including Bitcoin (BTC) and Ether (ETH), among others — by analyzing past records of market movements.

The service thus provides forecasts of how cryptocurrency prices will change over the course of several hours. Samsung’s users will reportedly soon be able to receive in-depth analysis reports on blockchain token market and prices.

The second app, Mars, lets users conduct peer-to-peer cryptocurrency transfers through QR code. “Complex address input can be avoided just by clicking on a QR code and therefore, typo error or entering wrong address can be avoided,” the release explains.

Marking growing adoption of blockchain

Samsung initially announced its DApp kit in July, stating that it allows for account management and backup, payment and digital signature facilitation, Samsung Keystore and other cold wallet support.

That same month, Cointelegraph reported that Samsung and cryptocurrency payments startup Pundi X’s new cooperation will allow users to integrate the XWallet app to their Samsung Blockchain Wallet.

Samsung first revealed that Galaxy S10 series will have wallet functions for digital currencies in February. Later in May, news broke that Samsung’s budget smartphones will also feature cryptocurrency and blockchain features.

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Metamask Launches Mobile App Beta to Broaden Appeal of Ethereum DApps

The release precedes a full launch later this year, as Metamask’s monthly active user base exceeds 250,000.

Ethereum wallet and decentralized app (DApp) browser Metamask has launched the public beta version of its new mobile app. 

Unveiled on July 23, the app brings various features to Metamask users and syncs to the company’s existing browser plug-in. It is available for both Android and iOS.

“Over the next couple months, we’ll use this Beta to gather feedback from the community before our V1 launch this fall,” an accompanying blog post reads.

The mobile app features a cryptocurrency wallet and DApp browser among other tools, including support for so-called Collectibles — unique, non-fungible tokens built on the Ethereum blockchain. 

“Rather than just another wallet, MetaMask Mobile is a bridge to the decentralized web, with a dapp-centric browsing experience, intuitive on-boarding, and features that sync with your desktop MetaMask accounts,” the blog post continues.

The release follows increasing scrutiny of Metamask as its monthly active user base grows to over 250,000 for the desktop product. As Cointelegraph reported, security issues are exacerbated by bad actors launching fake apps impersonating its brand.

Developers originally announced the mobile app in November 2018, at a time when cryptocurrency markets were at the lowest point of an almost year-long bear market. 

Since then, conditions have changed markedly, while doubts about the appeal of DApps persist more widely. In January, a survey highlighted poor user uptake as a major hurdle facing the industry.

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Crypto Wallet’s Browser Offers Thousands of DApps in One Place

A mobile crypto wallet has added a DApp browser, enabling users to access thousands of decentralized services in one place.

A mobile crypto wallet has announced that users can now effortlessly access thousands of decentralized applications (DApps) directly through its platform.

Lumi Wallet says its motivation is to create a one-stop-shop for crypto enthusiasts — a whole ecosystem focused on convenience and simplicity.

At the heart of this strategy has been an ambition to streamline the process of downloading DApps. According to Lumi Wallet, it was driven to act after seeing how frustrating the experience can be for smartphone and tablet owners. Not only do individual pieces of software take up a lot of precious memory, but it can be time-consuming and arduous to download them — clogging up home screens.

Now, Lumi says it wants to make the decentralized web a straightforward and enjoyable place to spend time — enabling users to become more productive. Through its DApp browser, users have the freedom to explore the broad range of applications available. It’s also possible to narrow down a search based on category — perfect for gamers, traders and creatives, the team notes. Once a user has found the perfect DApp, it can be connected to their wallet in a matter of clicks.

At present, Lumi Wallet primarily supports Ethereum applications, but the company is planning to become compatible with EOS DApps in the not-too-distant future. In explaining its rationale, the crypto platform said there are a broad range of ambitious EOS-inspired projects that are currently not supported by wallets — leaving them out of reach of a sizeable number of crypto consumers.

Another Lumi milestone

Lumi Wallet says its latest innovation comes hot off the heels of Lumi Collect, a digital wallet in which gamers could store crypto collectibles such as ERC-721 tokens and nonfungible tokens. The software enables users to experience blockchain games on their smartphones and complete Ethereum transactions with ease.

Lumi Wallet is available here

After receiving positive feedback from the DApp community, the company decided to integrate a DApp browser into its flagship product as well, enabling the crypto community at large to experience the same benefits.

Additional features have been added to Lumi Wallet on a regular basis. In July, users were given the ability to buy, sell and exchange EOS directly from the app — making swaps and purchases effortless. Ultimately, the company says its motivation is to offer a process so simple that it is almost forgettable — so straightforward that it’s as much a part of everyday life as paying for a coffee with cash.

Enhancements have also been made to the Lumi Web Wallet, appeasing those who prefer to manage their cryptocurrencies on a desktop device. Following a recent release, users have the freedom to exchange Bitcoin, Ether and more than 900 ERC-20 tokens. The ability to purchase crypto with fiat is also in the pipeline.

The road ahead

Looking toward the rest of 2019, Lumi says it is planning to move to an open-source model. While acknowledging that this milestone will involve a lot of work, the company believes that the advantages this will deliver will outweigh the effort. Once completed, the platform hopes its community will become bigger, stronger and more trustworthy.

Additional improvements are also being made to Lumi Collect — broadening the range of games that its loyal user base can enjoy. More than 20 titles are scheduled to be launched over the course of 2019, and the company has invited the community to offer suggestions about the games they would like to see added next.

Every single product in the Lumi stable is also being localized one by one. This is because the company has a vision of ensuring that every single user can benefit from its wallets with ease — irrespective of their language and location.

Learn more about Lumi Wallet

Disclaimer. Cointelegraph does not endorse any content or product on this page. While we aim at providing you all important information that we could obtain, readers should do their own research before taking any actions related to the company and carry full responsibility for their decisions, nor this article can be considered as an investment advice.

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Wiki’s Co-Founder Larry Sanger on Internet, Blockchain and Knowledge

From Wikipedia to Everipedia, along with blockchain — interview with Larry Sanger.

Intellectual of the innovative industry, innovator of the concept of intellectuality, experimentator with technologies and educator by dedication, before co-founding Wikipedia in 2001, Larry Sanger studied and taught philosophy, being interested especially in epistemology — i.e., the science of knowledge. 

It was in college that he started thinking of the internet as a potential way of decentralizing knowledge. His early project in this regard was a web forum for discussions between tutors and students, who could thus communicate outside the usual academic environment. Sanger explained:

“The thing that drives me forward is all of the possibilities that the internet makes possible for organizing people to create a new knowledge resources. Just think of how the Oxford English Dictionary was createdL When I read “The Professor and the Mad Man,” I was surprised at how similar it seemed to be to the early years of Wikipedia, and that vision of organizing people from all around the world to create shared knowledge resources is really what drives me forward. That’s the vision that inspires me. It has nothing to do with making money. There’s much more important things at stake here.”

Decentralization

Sanger conducted his first “fork” in 2006 when he launched an alternative to Wikipedia, Citizendium, which rejected anonymous editing and introduced an expert review process. The project was ultimately unsuccessful, but Sanger kept developing educational projects as well as a crowd-sourced news portal before becoming the chief information officer of Everipedia in 2017 — an encyclopedia of unrestricted topics, based on blockchain technology.

As of 2019, the project has almost completed phase one of its move to the blockchain.

A year ago, the iOS mainnet was launched, an airdrop was conducted and now the project is ready to launch. Sanger spoke about Everipedia, saying:

“I think it’s going to take several years before there are mature decentralized apps that a lot of people are able to use. We’re still figuring out a lot about blockchain. Yes, there are DApps that will work pretty well, but I I think, ultimately, the mature blockchain technology of the future is still quite a ways off.”

The idea of decentralized information is evident throughout all his projects. Thus, on the eve of the Fourth of July — the United States’ Independence Day — Sanger wrote the “Declaration of Digital Independence,” calling for a social media strike via Twitter aimed at decentralizing social media platforms.

Complementing the internet with blockchain

According to Sanger, the internet of today could not have been created by any modern executive in Silicon Valley — and no, Mark Zuckerberg is not an exception. Sanger went on, saying: “They wouldn’t be capable, they don’t have the temperament. They’re too controlling. They don’t understand the whole idea of bottom-up.” 

And the power of the internet is enormous. As Sanger said, Blockchain technology is adding “transparency, accountability and, of course, the incentives that are provided by tokenization,” but “there is nothing magical about a blockchain technology that makes it the only way to decentralize online activity.”

However, the qualities of blockchain consist for Sanger of “being a way of giving financial incentives to open-source developers.” These concepts have not really gone mainstream “because most of the work done on open-source software is done by volunteers. There isn’t a lot of money involved. Blockchain makes it possible for us to have the same sort of decentralized development and participation that open-source software allows, but it adds onto that financial incentives for users — and that’s pretty exciting.”

Blockchain in 10 years

To Sanger, the blockchain industry needs to pay a lot more attention to user experience. He said, “It has to be made just as simple as any ordinary app or website.” And it is when out-competing traditional apps on their own terms that people can start caring about the fact that these apps are built on a blockchain. Sanger explained:

“Most people just don’t care about blockchain at this point. Maybe they should, but they don’t. And that’s just a fact that we have to deal with.” 

He continued:

“We haven’t figured out what the best ways of using the technology are. We haven’t established systematic programming languages. We don’t know what the biggest companies are going to be. There is so much that’s up in the air at this point. I think the world of blockchain is going to look very different in 10 years and we have no idea what that could be like.”

Where there is blockchain, there is crypto. Thus, commenting on Donald Trump’s recent tweets about crypto, Sanger left a meaningful “booooo.”

Twitter

Sanger concluded by saying:

“I’m not a crypto investor, really. I’ve done a little bit of that just in order to understand what it’s all about. I believe in them. I really do want the monetary system — or rather the monetary systems — of the world to be decentralized and taken out of the hands of government. I think that would be fantastic.”

The interview was conducted in collaboration with Ana Dawson, Cointelegraph’s head of events and communications. The interview was edited and condensed.

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Samsung Releases Blockchain and DApp Software Development Kit

South Korean technology behemoth Samsung announced the release of its blockchain and decentralized application Software Development Kit.

South Korean technology behemoth Samsung announced the release of its blockchain and decentralized application (DApp) Software Development Kit (SDK) in a recent post on its website.

Per the announcement, the Samsung Blockchain SDK allows for account management and backup, payment and digital signature facilitation, Samsung Keystore and other cold wallet support. The page dedicated to the SDK also explains that it is a superset of all SDKs, including the Samsung Blockchain Keystore SDK.

As Cointelegraph reported in February, the new Samsung smartphone, the Galaxy S10, includes storage for private cryptocurrency keys. In May, rumors started circulating that the tech giant would also be rolling out blockchain-enabled features to its budget smartphone models.

More recently, in June, Samsung’s IT subsidiary announced that it is launching three new products aimed at addressing clients worries about blockchain. The products aim to make integrating blockchain with other platforms easier for entities that are attempting to adopt the technology. 

The president and CEO of Samsung SDS has also revealed that the firm is including blockchain as one of the key technologies for its “Digital Transformation Network” in May.

Also in May, Samsung competitor and consumer electronics giant High Tech Computer (HTC) announced the Exodus 1S smartphone with Bitcoin (BTC) full node capability, and rolled out in-wallet cryptocurrency trading for users of its Exodus 1 smartphone.

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Why Is Scalability So Important for Blockchain Solutions?

Scalability of blockchain technology is a requirement for the future of the technology.

Bart Wyatt leads Block.one’s Blockchain Team and is responsible for guiding the development of the company’s strategic vision for EOSIO. Bart came to Block.one as a veteran in the industry with six years dedicated to asset tokenization and decentralized identity. Prior to joining Block.one, Bart oversaw technology teams at several firms that specialized in personal privacy solutions, deniable attestations, and degradable cryptographic proofs, gaming and advertising technology.

The views and opinions expressed here are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Cointelegraph.

In the blockchain industry, “scalability” can mean a lot of things. In one debate, you may hear about a technology’s lack of scalability in terms of blockchain’s size over time, conflating the ability to on-board new network participants cheaply with the technology’s ability to survive the test of time. In another discussion, you may hear comparisons to legacy technologies like traditional payment processors and the transaction volume they have on certain holidays as a worthy definition of what is required of a scalable technology. 

Yet another heated conversation may attempt to persuade the listener that there is a fundamental trade-off between scalability and decentralization, and that one or the other is a sacred quality of blockchains. 

Indeed, there is no consensus (pun intended) on what a scalable blockchain is — or should be. What is clear however, is that the mass market has not yet arrived at the promise of blockchain; when that day comes, we will need scalable solutions for every problem that blockchains address.

To underscore the point that scalability is a gating factor for mass market adoption, I offer a simple and generic definition of scalability: Scalability refers to a blockchain’s ability to provide a rich experience for users independent of how many users have this experience. Whether the user’s experience is joining a blockchain’s network, interacting with a decentralized application (DApp) during a prime-time rush, or breaking out from a centralized walled garden, the experience must be excellent to achieve mass market adoption. So, scalability is a key consideration if a technology seeks mainstream adoption, but is mass adoption itself important?

Is mass adoption itself important?

I think it is. Let me explain by using an everyday example. Think about the experience of attending a major sporting event — like the World Cup rather than a regular league match. The dimensions of the field are the same, the rules of the game are the same, the players are the same… you get the idea.  

Yes, the stakes are higher for the teams and therefore the fans, but in isolation, that has a limited effect. Where events like this come alive for fans and players alike is when you reach a critical mass of people in the stadium, moving, chanting, screaming, crying and celebrating together. There is, quite literally, exponential experiential value in the crowd sizes that these events draw, which is impossible to replicate. These kinds of user experiences are only achievable with a critical mass of users. And this, I contend, is the true value of mass market adoption: It is itself a gate — or a ceiling — on the level of user experiences achievable that require a critical mass.

Furthermore, scalability is not only a gate, whose value would drop sharply once it crosses some imagined line for critical mass; it is also a means to more fair and open access of experiences. When a technology can scale in excess of its baseline need for critical mass, it becomes cheaper to operate. This, in turn, lowers the barriers of participation for users. If an experience lacks scalability but has achieved critical mass, it becomes an exclusive experience.  The technology itself may constantly oust “lesser” participants in favor of those with higher perceived value. 

We have avoided many dogmatic arguments around blockchain so far, but this situation seems clearly to be the opposite of what many of us want blockchain to be. This means that a lack of open-access can be considered an existential threat to blockchain technology outright. As a result, scalability of blockchain technology is more than a lofty goal — it is a requirement for future blockchain technology.

Team sport

Scalability is critical in order to achieve the experiences and goals of the blockchain industry. One of the most approachable ways to improve scalability in the industry is to consider a decentralized application not as a resident on a single blockchain technology, but an experience that is provided by coordinating many independent platforms and protocols. Consider how the internet has developed into a fundamental part of our daily lives: collaborative standards, competitive technology providers working together in a stack, a focus on the end-users, and a tide that lifts many boats. Ultimately, I believe it would serve the blockchain industry well to recognize that solving scalability for blockchains is a team sport.