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The Resurrection of Public Blockchains

Angus Champion de Crespigny is EY Americas blockchain strategy leader for financial services, where he works alongside Andrew Beal, a West Coast lead for the firm’s Blockchain and Distributed Infrastructure Group.


It's been a tough two years for public blockchains


Regarded by many as a social experiment with little practical value beyond anonymous peer-to-peer payments, public blockchains have been shunned by financial institutions and others who have opted for permissioned networks with a little more control and perceived privacy.


This shouldn't have come as a surprise. It has played out this way before. In the 1990s, big companies wanted to be online, but they wanted to do it without the open web. Intranets were born out of this desire, yet, in the end, the open Internet won out.


Now, 20 years later, we are at a similar crossroads


Private blockchains feel safer because the permissioned model is more familiar.


Open, transparent systems are a far cry from the "walled gardens" inside institutions today. It is like moving to the house across the street. Sure, your immediate surroundings are different, but your environment is largely the same. It is familiar. Moving to a new city, on the other hand, is a big adjustment, and it takes time. Nothing is familiar.


Utility over convenience


And yet for all of the uncertainty around public blockchains, there is still an enormous amount of utility in a completely open, transparent network.


Not to mention the almost childlike excitement that still comes from watching transactions being processed in real time on a block explorer. Even in their infancy, public blockchains have already proven to be superior record-keepers, and capable mechanisms for injecting trust into a global financial system.


People often forget that bitcoin was only the first iteration of a massively distributed public ledger. And still, seven years after its release, it is exceeding expectations.


Transaction volumes have grown consistently year over year, and it is arguably more secure than ever. There is a reason so many other chains still anchor to the bitcoin blockchain.


In a world where data integrity and security are the number one concern for corporate boards, the power of public blockchains cannot be overlooked.