Exploring the Blockchain
An overview of the main developments on blockchain technology in the past decade.
“Web3”, “non-fungible tokens”, “decentralised finance”, “ethereum network”. These used to be highly specific terms used by a niche group of tech enthusiasts and eccentric investors. Today, they’ve not only made their into standard business talk, but are also spoken about in mainstream conversation and among amateur investors.
When writing this article, I initially attempted to define some of these terms as I have come to understand them. However, it is fair to say that many of these are not barely even defined yet. Most of these concepts are entirely new to mainstream use, and are often used in different contexts and with varying degrees of specificity. The wikipedia discussion page on Web 3.0 (notably different from Web3) provides an example of just how complicated it is to come to a consensus on the term. Rather than debate the definitions, this article will focus on the variety of new technologies that are being developed at once, and how they may interconnect. I will provide a very broad, cursory overview of what new technologies are being developed, rather than focus on the consequences or definitions of any one technology. For a more in-depth discussion on any of these, feel free to use the comment section or contact below.
One of the more mainstream topics today among tech enthusiasts is non-fungible tokens (NFTs). Fungible items can be replaced by another of the same with the exact same valuable - for instance, any US dollar bill can be replaced by another US dollar bill. By contrast, a unique trading card of one-of-a-kind artwork is non-fungible. An NFT is a digital token that proves your ownership of any digital work you purchase - for instance, a famous tweet purchased for $3mn. Famous NFT proponents today include Mark Cuban, shark tank billionaire and owner of the Dallas Mavericks, and Gary Vee, an American entrepreneur and speaker. While NFTs today have been mainly concentrated around artwork, they open up significant possibilities across digital transactions. Music, memes, TikToks, and even concert tickets can be converted into NFTs. A ticket to the TEDxWarwick conference could potentially, in the future, be sold as an NFT - with ethereum smart contracts able to trace who exactly had purchased or resold each ticket.
Most NFTs today are sold through the ethereum network, which is a decentralised network - not managed by any individual person corporation - on the blockchain. Transactions are made through smart contracts, which are programmes stored on the network that execute transactions once predetermined conditions are met - for instance, once a bid on an NFT is made and accepted by two parties. Ethereum, however, has a wide variety of offerings besides NFTs. Decentralised Applications (dApps) offer the same functionality as a regular mobile app as we know it but bypasses the interaction with corporations. There is no one entity controlling the functionality of a dApp. They are open-source and all records are public, allowing easy review of transactions made on each app and what data they collect.
Additionally, smart contracts have the potential to greatly reduce legal issues surrounding the execution of physical contracts. With the terms and execution of each contract being directly written into code, all transactions would be automated with a predetermined and agreed upon condition for execution. The extent to which smart contracts can function in the real world, however, is yet to be seen - particularly with more subjective contractual agreements such as employment contracts, where labour cannot be reduced to a programmed condition.
Following the explosion of bitcoin, ethereum, and the blockchain network over the last decade, cryptocurrency wallets have also been appearing by the millions. There are currently over 82 million bitcoin wallets in use with over 272,000 bitcoin transactions per day. Dozens of cryptocurrency wallet applications are being developed to support these transactions. A crypto wallet is essentially the same as a physical wallet, except that it stores, and allows trading of, select cryptocurrencies. Difference applications support different cryptocurrencies and have unique sets of features. Some of the most popular include Coinbase, Metamask, Exodus, and Trust Wallet.
Finally, Web3 is likely the most broadly defined term used when discussing the new internet. Web3 is based on the use of blockchain technologies to create decentralised platforms, i.e. platforms not centred around corporations or governments. It also encompasses cryptocurrencies, the ethereum network, and most forms of blockchain-based token trading.
For the average user, the actual terminology and financial nuance may be uninteresting; however, if it is actually correct that Web3 is the successor to Web 2.0 (the internet as we know it), it will represent a complete transformation of how we operate digitally. Corporations and individual entities would no longer be at the centre of our communications. Contract regulations would have to change significantly to accommodate smart contracts, and cryptocurrency would become a significantly more mainstream form of transaction. If NFT tickets for live events become reality, tracking the sale of tickets and preventing scams would become significantly easier; however, anonymity would also be much harder to maintain. Whether or not you are interested in engaging at the moment, these concepts are worth exploring; they may be a fad, but they may also be the reality of the near future.
Written by Abhi Desai.
The views and opinions presented in this article belong to Abhi Desai — not TEDxWarwick.
If you have any questions concerning the article, its research, and opinions expressed, do feel free to comment in the comments section, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.