Blockchain and Napster

I’ve been working in technology long enough to know that all that’s old becomes new again.   This might be a slight exaggeration since it is technology, and there are a lot of things we have never seen before but truthfully we, tech folks, recycle things all the time and give it a new name.  Blockchain might be new to some but it sure does resemble something that I’ve seen before. Blockchain is a Peer-To-Peer (P2P) network.  Mmmmm, where have I seen that before?  Some time ago, there was a novel concept introduced with good intentions but was exploited by the dark side.  The objective of which was to keep from having to pay for music.  Can you recall Napster, Kazaa, and Limewire?  Those were  (P2P) Networks as well.  The concept was that anyone could host music and share it.  If I wanted to hear Michael Jackson, all I had to do was find someone that owned it and was willing to share it.   I won’t argue the case or approve copyright infringement but conceptually -let us replace the soundtrack from an artist with  a currency and one might be able to see something similar.  Now consider a paper published by a medical researcher.  A better legal use of Kazaa might have been to move that scientific paper on how to cure a disease from a location in the United States as an example to a Peer server in another country.  If the document were destroyed on a particular stateside server and someone needed immediate access to it, it could be locate on another Peer.  That is conceptually pretty cool.

I think I have made my point that Blockchain and P2P networks of the past appear to have similarities.  But what are the differences?

  1. Because Blockchain was designed to be the accounting ledger for Bitcoin it is a resource that records every transaction from the beginning of it’s time. Napster did not have a similar requirement. Now if you are of a certain age and know and have used Napster and Limewire, Imagine if there was a record of all those songs that you downloaded illegally and that those records could not be destroyed and moreover was distributed on peers all over the world.
  2. Blockchain was not specifically designed to hold files (digital assets, images, recordings). It was meant to record and save the currency transaction, trades, exchanges, etc.. That is not to say that it could not be enhanced (it is after all Open Source) to provide this capability.
  3. Blockchain could be used in ways to make your use of it stealth.

Blockchain does have some amazing uses that have yet to come to fruition.  Any application that needs a running immutable historical record could benefit with Blockchain. The use case that I’ve heard that exemplifies that feature is Land Ownership and deeds.  Any application that needs a securely available record of some transaction would benefit greatly from Blockchain.  Hospitals would establish a chain with patient records, medications, allergies, etc.. Global product shippers could keep track of products shipped.  I suppose that there are hundreds of other practical uses.

It simply helps me to think of Blockchain as being similar to P2P networks in of the past with a number of key differences.  What are your thoughts?  Am I completely off base or do you think I might have a valid point.


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