The inventor of the Worldwide Web has a couple of things to say about blockchain.
At a cryptocurrency conference organized by payments network Ripple, Tim Berners-Lee charted the future and dangers of blockchain. He compared the evolution of blockchain to that of the worldwide web in that it portends transformative changes in society. As an example, he said the web offered an alternative to physical libraries for seeking out information, when it started out. Blockchain might offer similar alternatives to physical banks, said Berners-Lee. (See also: 5 Unsung Tech Entrepreneurs.)
According to him, the future of blockchain involves two interfaces. The first one is an interface for blockchain-based web payment sites that will proliferate across the web. The second one is inbuilt browser authentication that will make it easier for users to connect to blockchain-based services. Such browsers will use a host of mechanisms, including biometrics and cryptographic keys, to accomplish this task.
Blockchain’s decentralized ledger is heralded as the onset of wide-ranging transformation across multiple industries, from music streaming to payments to real estate. (See also: How Blockchain Is Changing Real Estate.) The overall effect of these changes will be a redefinition of the web economy and architecture as we know it today. For example, some observers are predicting that the effect of blockchain on the financial services industry will be similar to the disaggregation of media caused by the Internet. A January article in the Harvard Business Review called blockchain a “foundational” technology for the future and stated that it will result in new “influences and controls” on the web.
To that end, Berners-Lee had a word of caution for blockchain developers. “In these things that we build, there is a time of creativity, there is a time of consortia and working together and there is a time of consequences. And we have to think to think about the consequences,” he said. As an illustration, he referenced the “fake news” problem that has plagued major tech behemoths, from Facebook Inc. (FB) to Alphabet Inc. subsidiary Google (GOOG). “For 20 years, a lot of us thought that that was not our problem,” he said, adding that his views changed in the last year when he realized that an “alternate universe” of facts had emerged in conventional narratives.