Please take these predictions with a grain of holiday salt, in other words, not meant to be construed as professional advice.
1. A disintermediating world
2017 will be the year that the average person begins to understand that blockchains aren’t just an upgrade to our database and Internet, but rather tools to re-architect social, financial and political systems.
The key question asked will be, How much should we pay to trust each other?The key question asked will be, How much should we pay to trust each other?
Ethereum smart-contract blockchain systems will actuate near frictionless price discovery mechanisms for intermediation. Intermediaries like banks, accountants, notaries, custodians, trustees, and agents may have to begin to find higher value propositions for customers as the cost of trust will plummet. The macro net result should be of greater value to the counter-parties of a transaction and less value to the intermediary. Moreover, there will be anthropological research and writing on the value (or lack thereof) of the “middleman” in 2017 similar to the way Nobel laureate Ronald Coase explained efficiencies in “The Nature of The Firm.”
2. Moving beyond the Proof-of-Concept
2016 was mostly the year of the blockchain Proof-of-Concept (PoC). Executive boards across the world asked their CTOs, “What is a blockchain?” “How does blockchain technology affect their respective business models?” and “How can these hypotheses be tested?” 2017 will be the year of early-stage or small-production blockchain deployments. While the market saw production systems go into production in 2016, the early adopters will begin to go live in 2017, with critical masses beginning to go live in 2018. The winners in the blockchain space will understand how to splay certain use cases architected over permissioned, consortia, and public permissionless blockchain environments.
3. Decentralized Applications (DApps) roam free on the Ethereum Mainnet
Rome wasn’t built in a day and neither was agile blockchain software engineering.
DApp mania on the Ethereum mainnet will begin and the average user will finally be able to feel and see what Ethereum is and does. It will still be very early days and there will be drastic UX/UI work needed in the space. The Ethereum Genesis block was only created July 30th, 2015, and 2016 was a year where developers wrapped their heads around the new Ethereum coding language, Solidity. In 2017, we’ll begin to see the fruits of the community’s labor, which will be in the form of DApps on the Ethereum Mainnet. This will educate the mainstream on what Ethereum actually is via examples, and catalyze the use of ether to fuel each computational step and storage operation. Take a note from Apple’s historical timeline on the prevalence of traditional apps. Ethereum has just completed the equivalent to year 0.
Looking forward to Balanc3 Triple Entry Accounting, BenefactoryBoardRoom Blockchain Governance, Colony, DGX Gold, EtherLoan, EtheriscFileCoin, Gnosis Golem, OTONOMOS, SafeMarket, Singular DTV, Stabl, StatusUjo Music, and Virtue Poker WeiFund.
4. uPort solves for self-sovereign identity
Many of the aforementioned DAapps going live in 2017 will be anchored by self-sovereign Ethereum-based identity. While uPort may be construed as a DApp itself, I purposely give it an entire section of attention due to its foundational importance.
uPort users establish for themselves full control of their digital personal information (expressed as reputational attributes). This encrypted information may be selectively and granularly shared with targeted counterparties when the user deems it to his or her advantage.
The average user will finally be able to feel and see what Ethereum is and does.uPort will feature tight integration of RepSys, our multifaceted, multi-tiered reputation system, that enables people, organizations and things (devices or software) to attest to the conduct of their counterparties with respect to various kinds of transactions: buying/selling, lending/borrowing/repaying, collaborating on projects, gaming interactions, and data quality and reliability. uPort serves as a container for reputational attributes like email addresses, Facebook URLs or state issued ID.
Identity providers like governments, banks, and IT companies can cryptographically sign such attributes attesting to their validity using “reputational attestations.” The more than 2 billion people in the world who don’t have state-issued ID can have their community members attest to their personal information. Community members can essentially vouch for each other to enable one another to develop and use this bootstrapped persistent and portable reputation to, for example, obtain a microloan on a decentralized lending platform and grow a small livelihood from there. For access to financial services offered by financial institutions in different jurisdictions, institutions and users can make use of a KYC tool built on top of uPort and RepSys.
The more than 2 billion people in the world who don’t have state-issued ID can have their community members attest to their personal information. Community members can essentially vouch for each other to enable one another to develop and use this bootstrapped persistent and portable reputation to, for example, obtain a microloan on a decentralized lending platform and grow a small livelihood from there. For access to financial services offered by financial institutions in different jurisdictions, institutions and users can make use of a KYC tool built on top of uPort and RepSys.
5. Scalability will remain the holy grail
Today the Bitcoin network is restricted to a sustained rate of 3.3 tps (7 tps theoretical) due to the bitcoin protocol restricting block sizes to 1MB. Scalability will remain the holy grail of blockchain technology. The public blockchain with the most attainable and impactful scalability roadmap is Ethereum. Three simultaneously developing avenues for Ethereum scalability are state channels such as Raiden, Vlad Zamfir’s proof-of-stake solution, Casper, and Sharding. I foresee Raiden integrating with, and Casper living on, Ethereum in 2017.
6. Big pieces of the privacy puzzle come together
Many layers of the privacy onion will be pulled back and chewed on. In the context of private permissioned blockchain environments, products like BlockApps will continue to lead, so companies can spin up environments to scale their proofs-of-concept into full production cloud environments with a single click. Another important piece to the privacy puzzle is re-architecting Ethereum to optimize for private financial transactions, which is exactly what Jeff Wilcke and his EthLab team collaborating with JP Morgan accomplished with Quorum. In terms of privacy for public Ethereum, there has been much work incorporating zkSnarks used in Zcash into Ethereum.