By now, it’s well understood that blockchains can be more than substrates for cryptocurrencies. The ‘blockchains to beat’ are those offering powerful platform features, acceptable security and decentralization, and operating sufficiently quickly — these are the ‘blockchain 3.0’ contenders.
But we think it’s time to look beyond blockchain as a platform, and learn to see it as a business ecosystem. That’s blockchain 4.0.
What is blockchain 4.0 ?
Blockchain 4.0 is a new generation of blockchain technology. It promises to deliver blockchain as a business-usable environment for creating and running applications, bringing the technology fully mainstream.
Previous iterations of blockchain technology have had obvious potential advantages for businesses: security, automated record-keeping and immutability, plus the potential to pay invoices, bills and wages inside a totally secure framework.
Unfortunately, blockchain had not previously overcome several major obstacles: speed was far too low, and only a small number of people had the specialized skills required to develop on the blockchain. Consumers, workers and businesses expect a user experience equivalent to web 2.0 apps; blockchain was struggling to deliver web 1.0, with familiar challenges to the first generation of web pioneers.
We refer to blockchains like Bitcoin as ‘blockchain 1.0,’ created with a single use in mind (supporting a cryptocurrency), slow and hard to use. Blockchain 2.0 would be one of the first post-Bitcoin blockchains that was developed to be able to do more than cryptocurrency; a blockchain like Ethereum, built deliberately to facilitate a range of activities and applications, would be ‘blockchain 3.0.’
Blockchain 4.0 takes that aspiration and delivers on it. If you can build apps that look and feel as good as web 2.0 apps, run as fast, and still preserve the unique advantages of blockchain technology, you have blockchain 4.0.
What does it mean for real businesses ?
A business with a great idea but without a lot of blockchain experience can build, implement and operate business Decentralized Applications (Dapps) on a 4.0 blockchain, without extensive blockchain developer skills.
That means you can build applications that contain permissions hierarchies, allowing you to choose who gets to see what; you can make and take payments inside the app, totally secure and immutably, automatically recorded; you can establish self-executing contracts for anything from stage deliverables in-house to contractor payments; and you can do it all inside an app that looks and feels as good, and runs as fast, as anything you’re used to seeing on the web.
What business opportunities does blockchain 4.0 provide ?
Blockchain 4.0 will allow businesses to move some or all of their current operations onto secure, self-recording applications based on decentralized, trustless and encrypted ledgers. Crucially, it brings the basic, inherent advantages of blockchain within reach of businesses for the first time.
Businesses currently lose around a quarter of worker time to administrative tasks. Of course these can be automated, usually by adding to your tech stack with a layer of ‘weak AI.’ But on the blockchain, they’re automated as a matter of course; it’s built right in. The danger of data loss is all but eliminated — a major relief when the average business data breach costs $3.6 million. And an immutable record means data is accurate, leading to better forecasting and planning.
These advantages are built into all blockchain technology, but without the ‘4.0’ feature set, businesses can’t access them.
However, there are additional business benefits unique to blockchain 4.0 ecosystems. An Integrated Development Framework (IDE) offers businesses the chance to build their own Dapps; cross-blockchain compatibility efforts mean most Dapps will run on multiple 4.0-level blockchains. And joining a blockchain 4.0 project gives businesses a say in how that project develops over time, as well as access to developers and other support.