Vast sums of money are being thrown into blockchain by individuals, organisations, venture capitalists, banks and even entire countries.
According to RMB Foundery’s Theodore Bohnen, the reason companies are putting so much money into the technology is because of its potential to disrupt so many industries.
Bohnen, who is currently employed as a blockchain engineer at RMB Foundery, specifically highlights that developers are at an advantage by being at the forefront of this technology and are in a position to drive it forward.
“This space is such a wonderful world of discovery for developers, technology enthusiasts and many more and the only risk is being sucked in. As developers, we are shaping the future, and it’s exciting,” he said.
According to Bohnen, there are currently five big areas that South African developers should look to focus on:
- Developing a DApp (Decentralised Application)
- Contributing to a specific blockchain protocol
- Writing applications for enterprise blockchains
- Creating your own blockchain
Developing a DApp (Decentralised Application)
“A DApp has its backend code running on a decentralized peer-to-peer network, as opposed to an app where the backend code is running on centralized servers, said Bohnen.
“With the advent of blockchains like Ethereum, new possibilities have materialised from creating self-sovereign identities , decentralised exchanges, decentralised crowd-funding, microloans and many more,” he said.
The blockchain expert said that the best example of this is Eos, which is is often spoken of in the blockchain world for having raised over $200 million in its ICO (Initial Coin Offering – the cryptocurrency equivalent of listing on the stock exchange).
Because of the amounts of stake, Bohnen said this would definitely be a platform to start developing on if you have a mind for it.
“With blockchain arguably changing the way we use the internet, as the creators of IPFS believe, a whole new world of apps for development are ready to be developed and, as always, first-mover advantage applies.”
Contributing to an existing blockchain protocol/software
According to Bohnen, most blockchains and applications are open-source, meaning developers can actively contribute.
Although the learning curve for some of these are steep and you have no guarantees of your PR (pull request) being accepted, you can start by helping with small things like contributing to the documentation, he said.
“Currently, the space has its fair share of politics, which means that the best solution/PR does not always get accepted, but, if you stick with it and you have a passion for it, it can increase your credibility as a developer, and be extremely rewarding intellectually at the same time.”
Writing applications for enterprise blockchains
One of the first applications for blockchain is removing the need for banks, said Bohnen.
“As my colleague Farzam Ehsani explained in ‘The Advent of Crypto Banking’, this is not necessarily the case, however, the banking industry could very well be transformed in a major way.”
“Financial institutions, in order to be not left behind, will need experts in blockchain to research and potentially even use the technology to better serve the organisation and its clients,” he said.
“There is a lot of work being done on private blockchains/enterpise blockchains.”
He suggested the following as good starting points for those looking to get into enterprise development:
Creating your own blockchain
There are several new blockchains being created, each with unique flavours that attempt to solve the same problem (or different problems) in a slightly different way.
As mentioned previously, it is also possible to fork a previous chain because of their open-source nature.
“I need to caveat this statement by explaining that this is by no means a small venture, and just because you fork the Bitcoin code does not mean you will be successful, let alone mimic the success that Bitcoin has enjoyed so far and into the future,” he said.
“Like every entrepreneurial effort, marketing and publicity play a big role and it’s often not what your solution does, but who is involved that makes the difference to your project’s success in the blockchain space.”
With the advent of blockchain-based technologies, there has been an increased focus on being able to cryptographically verify that you are the owner of a certain amount of Bitcoin, for example, without giving away too much or any information or compromising the owner’s privacy.
While Bitcoin appears to have solved this, there are still a number of cryptographic challenges being worked on and, as computing power increases, so will our need for stronger and more secure algorithms.
“After all, in a blockchain world, your money is only as secure as the underlying cryptography,” said Bohnen.