Jan 252016

Blockchain or Distributed Ledger Technology

The big news last week was the company Digital Asset Holdings raising $50 million from a bunch of top-names in the financial industry. And yes, these are some of the top financial institutions in the world. Here’s a list: ABN AMRO, Accenture, ASX Limited, BNP Paribas, Broadridge Financial Solutions, Inc., Citi, CME Ventures, Deutsche Börse Group, ICAP, J.P. Morgan, Santander InnoVentures, The Depository Trust & Clearing Corporation (DTCC) and The PNC Financial Services Group.

Two things should stand out to you in this list. One is the presence of Accenture, which is the only non-financial services company in the space. Accenture is investing quite a lot into ‘blockchains’ and startups involved in this space, so keep an eye out on their moves. The second is a notable absence of Goldman Sachs, which has been very vocal in its support of both Bitcoin/blockchain and startups. The CEO of Digital Assets is a former JP Morgan executive. Don’t expect the entire financial industry to reach a consensus overnight and everyone’s happy using Digital Asset’s technology. That’s almost guaranteed not to happen.

Bitcoin to Blockchain to ‘Distributed Ledger Technology’

The other interesting thing to stand out from the press release is what it lacks. Firstly, there is not a single mention of Bitcoin (not very surprising). Secondly, there is no mention of blockchain from Digital Asset at all. The entire press release contains just one mention of blockchain, which is a quote from Accenture talking about “blockchain-enabled distributed ledgers”. The phrase “Distributed Ledger“, on the other hand, is mentioned 11 times in the press release. Interestingly, the press release contains quotes from all the institutions who invested in this round, and they too all use ‘Distributed Ledger Technology’ instead of the word ‘Blockchain’.

The industry has gone from Bitcoin to Blockchain to Digital Ledger Technology in fairly quick succession. The transition from Bitcoin to Blockchain is understandable – it is to include so-called ‘private blockchains’ that banks can use among themselves or internally within an organization. The transition from Blockchain to Distributed Ledger Technology is more interesting.

Digital Asset isn’t going to disclose the products they’re working on, so it is hard to say if there is any difference. My best guess would be a parallel creation of some sort of distributed file system like IPFS perhaps, that goes with a private blockchain, thus enabling not just the sharing of transaction-level information, but also other heavy data like documents.

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