2016 Will Be the Year You Realize You Don’t Need the Blockchain

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The New York Stock Exchange in 1936. Photo: Shutterstock/Everett Historical

For many, 2015 was year of the blockchain. There was tons of strategic investment by the incumbent financial industry. And a wealth of research coming straight from the top.

It even became an official word in the Oxford Dictionary.

But you know what? 2016 will be the year that people realize they don’t actually need the blockchain to accomplish their goals.

In 2015, experimenting with “blockchain technology” signalled innovative intent. This year, people will expect results. I wouldn’t be surprised if they came to similar conclusions as Ripple. After all, we’ve been playing with distributed financial technology for years.

That conclusion? All things considered, distributed ledger technology might not be necessary for your use case—though undoubtedly, it will make a lot of sense for some.

Because—and this is a point we continue to hammer home—finance isn’t necessarily a technology problem. More often than not, the technology isn’t the bottleneck. Cooperation is. Or in recent times, regulations.

Take securities settlement, which was very buzzy in 2015—the idea that we can and should bring securities settlement time from t+3 (3 days to settle) to t+0 (real-time settlement) with the aid of blockchain technology.

As it happens, very smart people have been working on this problem for quite some time, and it’s not totally clear that blockchain technology is the panacea it’s been hyped up to be when it comes to reducing securities settlement time.

These very smart people include those at the Depository Trust & Clearing Corporation (DTCC), which commissioned an in-depth research report by the Boston Consulting Group (BCG)— “Cost benefit analysis of shortening the settlement cycle.”

Their findings? The biggest challenges don’t have much to do with updating the database that tracks securities. More relevant are industry support, risk management, regulations and compatibility with and consideration of legacy systems that already work pretty well in a T+3 world.

This post digs a little deeper in terms of outlining our thoughts on this topic and how Ripple approaches distributed ledger technology and why we’re focused on payments: Understanding Blockchain Use Cases

That sentiment is most efficiently and elegantly encapsulated by a user-made spoof of Dilbert, the irreverent comic by Scott Adams:

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None of which is to say that the blockchain—and distributed ledger technology in general—isn’t an incredible innovation that will have an immense impact on how we do business and how we approach problems when it comes to the transfer of value—which, after all, is the fundamental building block of our global economy.

What will make that difference, we believe, is a payment system that resembles what the Internet looks like today. We’re getting there. Blockchains and distributed ledgers—such as the Ripple Consensus Ledger (RCL)—will play a pivotal role in achieving that vision. And so will open protocols like the Interledger Protocol (ILP).

We call that vision the Internet of Value, and we’ll be talking about it a lot more in 2016.

Read: Understanding Blockchain Use Cases