Consensus 2015: What the Internet Can Teach Blockchain Innovators

Digital currencies remain an exciting new technology striving for mainstream adoption, but their struggle is not without precedent – The consumer and technical roadblocks they face are akin to those overcome by key Internet protocols.

Two new Consensus 2015 speakers will look back at the mainstreaming of e-commerce and Internet security, providing a deep dive into the historical lessons that could come to shape the technology’s future.

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Last April the Heartbleed Bug was uncovered, revealing that the majority of websites on the Internet were vulnerable to information theft.

The bug was caused by a flaw in OpenSSL, a hugely popular cryptographic software library that encrypts data flowing through servers. According to the Netcraft Web Server Survey at the time, more than two-thirds of active Internet sites ran on two widely used open-source servers that relied on OpenSSL.

The news sent bitcoin developers scrambling since the Bitcoin Core at the time used the compromised cryptographic library.

Security pioneer… and Nick Szabo’s boss

christopher-allen-headshotThese are the sorts of Internet-wide events that Christopher Allen has been observing for over 20 years, as a co-author of the reference implementation of the SSL 3.0 protocol.

The SSL protocol and its successor TLS were adopted as a key Internet security standard, enabling applications as diverse as e-commerce and online banking.

Allen is now working on projects in the blockchain space, most recently with Revoke SSL, which was presented at a Blockchain University demo day last month.

By moving into blockchain technologies, Allen is revisiting familiar territory. As the founder of Consensus Development in the 1990s, he counted the pioneering e-money firm DigiCash among his clients. In 2000, after merging his firm with Certicom Corp and becoming chief technology officer there, he hired renowned cryptographer Nick Szabo to work on smart contracts.

“I’ve been wanting to do smart contracts since before they were called smart contracts,” Allen said.

Allen will draw on insights developed from working on SSL and TLS’s adoption as protocol standards for the Internet – in the face of competing technologies from companies like Visa, Mastercard and Microsoft – and the lessons for digital currency and blockchain technologies at Consensus 2015.

E-commerce and financial services giant

oskar-miel-headshotA key use of the secure data flows enabled by SSL is e-commerce. It’s also seen as one of the major growth components of the burgeoning digital currency economy: investment dollars have poured into merchant processors like Coinbase, Bitnet and BitPay.

One firm that holds the distinction of operating one of the world’s largest e-commerce platforms is Japan’s Rakuten. It reported revenues of $4.8bn last year, putting it ahead of firms like GroupOn, JD.com and Netflix.

Notably, the e-commerce giant also derives nearly 40% of its revenues from financial services, ranging from its own digital bank to life insurance.

Rakuten is putting some of its financial services and marketplace knowhow to work for Bitnet, the merchant payment processor that it invested in last October. The man who led that investment is Oskar Miel, a managing partner at Rakuten FinTech Fund.

Miel’s role is to find ways for his portfolio of startups to work with Rakuten’s various divisions. He will discuss Rakuten’s perspective on the relationship between merchant processors and marketplaces in the mass adoption of digital currencies at Consensus 2015.

BitnetBlockchain UniversityConsensus 2015RakutenRevoke SSL

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