If you work in finance or own any bitcoin, you likely already know about blockchain technology.
But for those in neither category, here’s a quick overview of a year’s worth of news about blockchains, databases that essentially make records more verifiable and permanent.
For this analysis, we used Quid, software that searches and analyses massive amounts of data and then offers insight by organizing that content visually.
It’s been a big year for news about blockchain, heralded as a technology that will disrupt several industries beyond banking in 2017.
Last spring, the biggest headline in the blockchain world was that an Australian entrepreneur, Craig Wright, finally came out of the shadows and declared he was the creator of the cryptocurrency bitcoin (though plenty were skeptical). Then a massive security breach at the decentralized autonomous organization was such a blow to blockchain that journalists wrote about the event all year. Last fall Ripple, which develops a payment protocol and exchange network, announced it had raised $50 million and partnered with major banks. In the timeline below, we identified several other events that generated significant news volume.
Sorting all that data into a network, major themes emerge. The theme that generated the most stories was contracts and regulation. These stories, which account for 10% of the network, include wide-ranging debates about blockchain, suggesting it fosters trust in certain contract-heavy areas of finance or, on the other hand, exposes financial markets to money laundering and terrorist financing.
Other important themes: blockchain’s effect on mobile payments, trade finance, and augmented and virtual reality. The more surprising themes and developments: some countries see blockchain technology as a way to cut down on voting fraud, and others, like Australia, are starting to incorporate blockchain into peer-to-peer solar power exchanges.
Next, the major players in blockchain. At the top of the list: Blythe Masters, an economist and former JPMorgan Chase executive who’s now running the software company Digital Asset Holdings. Then Bryan Behlendorf, a former programmer who now runs the open-source project Hyperledger. Quid identified Satoshi Nakamoto, the pseudonym of the bitcoin founder, and Craig Wright as two separate individuals, though Wright claims that they are in fact the same person (interestingly, the two entities appear in different areas of the network).
In a network of news stories that shows largely positive sentiment, skepticism about Wright and his claims is one of the few areas of negative sentiment.
Finally, we ran a search that combined both the words “blockchain” and “future” to see if the future of blockchain looks any different than the present.
In a network view, there were some notable differences, namely, the emergence of blockchain in sectors beyond finance. The future of blockchain appears to veer more heavily into music and the arts, where the technology helps musicians and others protect the copyrights to their work.
And in the future, it seems blockchain may also play a bigger role in healthcare and medical records, insurance and green energy.