Microsoft plans to develop a solution for creating decentralized identities. This product will allow users to have a complete control over their personal info. These identities will be owned independently of any government or organization
Blockchain technology is revolutionary, we all know that. But it’s still in its infancy, and it’s hard to find many real world use cases. Does it mean that the technology is useless? Not at all. All of us must remember that Internet was created in 1970s but it became really useful and open for everyone only 20 years later, in 90s. While some enthusiasts were dreaming about decentralized governments and corporations, the reality knocked at our door. It’s still early and it’s possible that none of these ICO projects will continue their existence in the next 3-5 years.
What blockchain projects with real world use can we remember? Not a lot among startups, a bit more among large companies. If we don’t count various cryptocurrencies, we’re left with only a few examples. Let’s take a look at them:
Yes, a very surprising entry, but looks like Ripple does exactly what it should do. It offers a product for banks, and it tries to suit their needs as much as possible. As a result, we see more than 120 partnerships around the world. Yes, most of these banks use xCurrent, the product that doesn't require spending and transferring XRP token, but do we care? We aren't the XRP investors, and it may stay useless forever, the only thing that matters is blockchain technology. One year ago it would be hard to believe that at the end of 2018 Ripple would be one of the most solid blockchain projects. But it is one of the most solid now. At least it's really used. Recently, Brad Garlinghouse announced the anticipated launch of xRapid. Some banks won't use it, but it's very likely that some banks will give it a try. Also, let's not forget about Quorum, the blockchain of JP Morgan, that can be regarded as a direct competitor of Ripple from the inside of the banking industry. What solution will be more popular? Only time will tell. The market is big enough for several solutions.
Not as surprising as Ripple, but in reality, there isn't a lot to show. If you try to find any real world use cases, most likely you won't find them. Yes, it's used for trading, it's used for ICOs, but not a lot of companies want to use its network for any kind of business. Why? It's still slow. We can find the mentions of the pilot project of the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP), they use Ethereum for supply tracking in Africa. There is also a large upcoming platform komgo SA by Societe Generale, Shell, ING and City for commodities trading, working on Ethereum. Also, we can mention Food Trust, a supply chain management system by IBM, built as a private PoA version of Ethereum. It was launched a week ago, and IBM already signed a partnership with a large retailer, Carrefour, which will be using this blockchain. Overall, we need scaling, that's where the things will get serious.
It's a Chinese blockchain, supported by the government of China. More importantly, it is a startup, not a large company, that grew up a lot. Recently, they signed partnerships with Bright Foods Group and Shanghai Xiandao Food, owned by Bright Food, owned by the government. VeChainThor is used in a supply chain, instantly tracking the origin of any goods in the supply chain. That's the real use of the project, built by some enthusiasts. Was it possible for Bright Food to develop its own solution? Yes. But instead, they used the existing one. That's how things should be done. Now they develop a solution for vaccines tracking, it's also a very serious problem for China. Fake vaccines caused a serious scandal recently, and now the government thinks how to deal with it. Given that VeChain now has a serious support from the government, it's possible that their product will be used in this case too.
IOTA has the real world use only in theory: we'll see some products, using IOTA, only in 2019. It will be a long list: now IOTA has partnerships with Bosch, Volkswagen, BMW, Intel, Fujitsu, and it's involved in various smart cities projects. It's still too early to talk about it, but serious companies intend to use it in their products, and that's solid.
Solutions by large corporations, Microsoft DID
Ironically, while nobody wants to use various blockchain solutions by independent developers, large companies start to shine in this space. IBM, Microsoft, Mastercard — all of them develop new ways to use blockchain, and they're planning to really use it. Mastercard patented recently a technology for multi-blockchain management, this technology could be used to manage various assets across the blockchains. IBM is very active in blockchain solutions — they develop Stellar-based and Hyperledger-based solutions for equity management, for food supply chains and for identity management.
Speaking of identity management, the recent news about Microsoft Decentralized Identity (DID) look very promising. They plan to offer tools to create, manage and verify decentralized identities with ease, it won't be harder than registering in Facebook. At the same time, they won't be storing it: the blockchain will be used only for storing metadata, while the data will be encrypted and stored off-chain, on the user's device or in some storage. Microsoft will offer their Azure cloud servers, but it won't be obligatory to store the identity there. Is it a giant leap forward? Definitely! Microsoft is a large company with practically unlimited resources, and it owns the most popular OS ever — Windows. Personal computers are less popular nowadays, but the majority of them still have Windows onboard. Microsoft can easily integrate their DID solution into Windows platform, replacing Microsoft accounts with Decentralized Identities. Overall, it would be easier for them to promote it, and to change the way how we manage our private data and how we share it with various sites and applications. That's what we can call a revolution.
Aside from Microsoft story, we clearly see a trend. Blockchain is becoming popular, large companies invest in blockchain developments, large companies become the part of this trend. Maybe in a few years they will overtake small companies and will dominate in this space, because, well, it's just a technology, it's not a holy grail or a forbidden knowledge, and IT companies have the experience and the long history of building successful user-friendly products that stand on the shoulders of open-source technologies. So, the competition will be very tough.