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Do You Need a Blockchain? (2017) (doyouneedablockchain.com)
95 points by st_goliath 58 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 48 comments

It seems that the only two possible answers are "perhaps" and "no".

If the answer is "perhaps", why don't the authors list viable alternatives?

Perhaps this is how we could all actually learn something new.

The paper linked explains what the “perhaps” are. The website is seemingly trying to drive a narrative that blockchains are unnecessary.

I kinda see the point though. State management is bundled with frontend development in such a way that even for simple projects it almost seems like necessity for most people.

Don't use things that you are not hundred percent sure you need. Blockchain is a robust solution for high complex state management issues but most people will never end up using it for its full potential. Even if you did there often are alternatives that performs much better for your need.

People will try to bend their projects to meet the blockchain need rather than just use it when you need to use it.

I think it attempts to paint them as overhyped. If the target would be to put down blockchains, the page would simply be a "No". But it's true that we throw blockchains at things that don't need a blockchain.

Of course you do. For fundraising purposes. And for sale purposes.

Nobody wants to say it but a bold founder would raise money as blockchain project, would sell to clients as a blockchain project but would operate it via a common database.

When money comes in , then you can disclose it and say that you did something completely different , VCs and clients would look like fools considering the quality of the product even without blockcahin and everybody would live happily ever after.

Sometimes people who live in hypersocial echo chambers such as the VC party scene or even your amateur Clubhouse angel investor scene, they have to be dragged kicking and screaming out of their ideas which they acquired in the aforementioned hypersocial echochambers. And that is tons of work in and of itsef.

It's much easier to say "Oh yes we are totally commited to blockchain"

You forgot the most important question:

>Do you need to generate media buzz and mislead investors?

I've heard of about 10 local "blockchain" startups and I swear to god this was their #1 reason of using a blockchain (it did work partially for one of them, although they eventually dropped the blockchain, and failed anyway).

In my day job[0], I talk to a lot of start-up ventures about blockchain. Only one was honest enough to say they were only using it because, at the time, it was easier to get funding.

[0]: https://hyperledger.org/

This seems wrong....

git is a form of blockchain.

My use for a blockchain is for a system where even if I were the only writer, I would want there to be an archival, tamperproof record which anyone can verify. I publish a daily hash, which confirms everything behind it.

I don't know of a better way to accomplish that than a simple blockchain, publishing daily SHA hashes.

It is overhyped and oversold as a technology, but it has its uses. Perhaps they're not the same as the uses we have today, but they definitely exist.

When radio was invented, the original planned use cases had little to do with what it was adopted for eventually.

But this is not what we really call a blockchain usually. A blockchain has all the proof of work / of stake fluff around it.

The mechanism behind git is most probably what most people seeking to use a blockchain actually need though, for the reasons you gave.

I think the definition of "blockchain" should include some notion of distributed consensus. Git doesn't have that at all.

I'm amazed at the quality of posts in HN when it comes to Bitcoin related but I'm only thinking because people post after missing the boat for the price action and want to belittle it out of emotion.

Come on, there are reasonable arguments against Bitcoin.

I fail to understand if you are amazed by the low or the high quality of comments on Bitcoin on HN but if it is the latter, people post insightful things here because they are curious and look into things.

> git is a form of blockchain.

Does this look like a valid argument? Where is the distributed consensus that is at the heart of blockchain? git will just cause conflicts leading to prejudiced manual intervention.

I also don't see a great reason against its energy use as the nature of being fair is to make the competition as useless as possible or else it will be unfair for some people with financial incentives leading to unbalanced distributions in certain industry sectors.

But at the cost of that, it doesn't put anyone as a dictator, which is worth more. (As the public agrees with its price action.)

At least some miners are trying to use cleaner energies at this point, so it's an improvement.

I'm not speaking about a particular comment and responded to your generic assertion, "I'm amazed at the quality of posts in HN". But okay, I'll answer to your question.

>> git is a form of blockchain.

> Does this look like a valid argument?

It looks like a claim you don't agree with. I don't agree with it neither but I can see where the OP is coming from and I see no bad intent. I found their comment very reasonable and well-balanced even if I disagree. You seem to see it as an attack against Bitcoin, and you seem to be the one who is involved emotionally into this topic. By the way, notice how we were speaking about blockchains in general and not Bitcoin, you introduced Bitcoin (though I agree that Bitcoin is the elephant in the room when speaking about blockchains).

> I also don't see a great reason against its energy use

I intentionally and specifically did not enter this discussion by not giving any argument. This is boring, there are a lot of detailed discussions about this here on HN already.

I certainly meant no attack on Bitcoin. I don't even have an opinion on Bitcoin.

I do have a mild beef with many of the other uses of blockchain technologies, but bad uses don't invalidate a technology.

At present, the accepted definition doesn't.

From Wikipedia: "A blockchain is a growing list of records, called blocks, that are linked together using cryptography. Each block contains a cryptographic hash of the previous block, a timestamp, and transaction data (generally represented as a Merkle tree). The timestamp proves that the transaction data existed when the block was published in order to get into its hash. As blocks each contain information about the block previous to it, they form a chain, with each additional block reinforcing the ones before it. Therefore, blockchains are resistant to modification of their data because once recorded, the data in any given block cannot be altered retroactively without altering all subsequent blocks."

Perhaps it ought to, but I would prefer a different word ("distributed ledger?"). For "blockchain," I actually rather like the simpler definition of a cryptographically-linked chain of blocks.

This is contradicted by the popularly-believed inventor / date of invention.

Wikipedia is, at best, an imperfect attempt to record and explain the accepted definition. I think that Wikipedia's definition of blockchain does not match usage, and therefore it is in error and should be corrected.

Have you encountered common usage that calls git a blockchain, as opposed to a DVCS or Merkle tree?

This comment thread is the first time I have ever heard Git called a blockchain, in my memory. I have been using Git heavily since about 2007.

You are being misleading by intentionally changing the definition of the word "blockchain". Everyone here knows the difference between Git and what people mean when they say blockchain. You're just conflating the two, using your new definition to create a straw man, and then attacking the straw man.

A blockchain is a distributed, append-only database with a "consensus mechanism" which dictates who gets to append new information to the database. So far, all the consensus mechanisms that I know of employ a game of chance to select who gets to append the data.

Then you haven’t heard of Hedera Hashgraph. Concensus with finality. No mining.



> Consensus nodes receive transactions, work together to determine consensus using hashgraph, and store the public ledger's latest state. The Hedera Governing Council currently runs all mainnet consensus nodes. As Hedera advances on its path to decentralization, anyone will be able run a consensus node.


> Hedera Hashgraph is a proof-of-stake network that aims to use permissionless nodes and a widespread coin distribution to ensure the network’s security while working to achieve complete decentralization.

> Hbar cryptocurrency represents the “stake” of voting power in Hedera’s proof-of-stake consensus model – more coins equal more voting power over consensus. Thus, to ensure the network’s security, hbars need to be widely distributed so no attacker or group of attackers can amass control over one-third of the coins.

> Until hbars are sufficiently distributed, Hedera will remain a permissioned network. To maintain the security of the network, the network will remain permissioned until the total value of all the circulating coins is high enough to be too expensive for a malicious user (or group of users) to buy one-third of the total supply to conduct an attack.

Whatever other good points their technology has on its efficiency and not using proof-of-work, their web site shows that (1) right now the network is centralized and consensus is operated by the original developers and people they've personally approved, (2) their path to eventual decentralization is reliant on their own judgments about the size and value of the network. The consensus part doesn't reflect an improvement on the status quo from the point of view of decentralization, in that all they've claimed is that, some day, when their network is big and valuable enough, they can allow it to decentralize because attacks will then become unreasonably expensive.

We might all be better off if a mechanism like this had already caught on to a huge extent instead of Bitcoin. But I don't see a particular innovation here for securing decentralized consensus relative to other proof-of-stake systems.

It was a reply to the previous comment: “So far, all the consensus mechanisms that I know of employ a game of chance to select who gets to append the data.”

Which seems to be the typical sentiment in comments when it comes to Blockchain technologies and DLTs in general. I’m not surprised considering the amount of questionable technology and news associated with the space.

But clearly there are technologies out there. I thought it was important to address that. Most people obviously don’t know about the newer technologies in this space and remain in the dark.

As to your points on decentralisation - I agree they’ve got their work cut-out to prove us otherwise. Time will tell. But if you’re going to make a genuinely useful public ledger that can act as a layer of trust, you better make damn sure it’s safe from bad actors and is future-proof. Their route to decentralisation certainly seems like a good way of achieving that. They’re playing the long game by the looks of things.

To your last point regarding not seeing a particular innovation here for securing decentralised consensus relative to other POS systems…

This is a key, and I believe a unique feature, of the Hashgraph algorithm:


Those are good points, thanks!

Git isn't a blockchain...

This UI is so confusing on mobile. There is no visual indication that you're supposed to swipe left for the questions to show up.

Honestly it should probably just be presented as a static flow chart instead of a quiz with these strange 3D cube transitions.

Clicking "learn more" worked well enough for me, no swiping.

For substantive projects, whether you 100% need a blockchain to have a business related to the idea is not the right question.

This is about creating commons for people to use that is trusted. It's fundamentally a different paradigm and mindset.

Can you technically do something similar to your idea with Postgres? So what. Do you have to put some degree of trust in another party? So what. That doesn't eliminate completely any benefit of an auditable system.

Why first thing people think about blockchain is storage? I like ownership and transparency. Let me give you one example. Many HN readers complain about App store centralization, but what if there was decentralize app store, where code and data live on the blockchain and anyone can propose code changes, and then thousands or millions of users vote for what they like. If you think this can be done with a centralized server it can not because those who control the server have most of the votes no matter what. But it can be done with a transparent blockchain network.

That's just a very complicated way to say "git". There's no blockchain in sight anywhere.

Hey, it’s a chain (or, DAG really, but kinda close) of commits, right?

I mean yeah, but that reminds me of when Facebook launched Libra and they claimed it operated on a blockchain because the core algorithm involved a "chain" of "blocks"...

If you want to call git a blockchain I guess that's fine, but it's not what most people have in mind when they think of "blockchain".

Yeah, it's a stretch and I'm partially joking.

You can have a decentralized datastore without blockchain, if you want a decentralized rating system without central authority, you might just want a web of trust. In this usecase, using blockchain would just put the voting power in the hands of those with computational power...

This would hilariously slow if it used a blockchain.

The strongest case for using blockchain tech right now seems to be increasing you chance of getting VC funding.

And then actually growing a community that uses your blockchain that you sell all your tokens to as revenue, and then a couple of NFTs

and there’s nothing wrong with that

we are in the money game, this is a way to do that and you can get bankrolled for it

Saddened this wasn't just a static HTML page that said "No"

In a similar vein: http://iscaliforniaonfire.com/

There is also a similar site whether the james webb space telescope has launched yet. I can't seem to find the link though.

Mhh, i couldn't find it. But this website is fun: http://www.hasthelargehadroncolliderdestroyedtheworldyet.com...

Yes I do, because I want decentralization.

Do you need a self driving car?

Why would I listen to someone that can't even setup a Let's Encrypt certificate?


Betteridge’s law has never applied so well


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