Watch a video of a half hour talk given at the CityChain17 conference in London this month, organized by MBN Solutions. Below is a list of the topics covered, with links to more in-depth information in brackets:
A product development and partnership milestone
Today we’re delighted to announce the first beta release of MultiChain 1.0 for Linux and Windows, after more than two years of intensive development. As we’ve said before, our definition is very specific: "beta" means that there are no known bugs or major shortcomings. So the purpose of the beta period is to ensure than any unknown issues are discovered through our own testing, as well as that of our growing user base.
Bringing blockchains to the world of science and engineering
Today we’re delighted to jointly announce a collaboration with Wolfram Research, the industry-leading company behind the Mathematica platform and the Wolfram|Alpha answer engine. Over the coming year, MultiChain will be integrated into the Wolfram Language and across Wolfram’s line of products. For example, Mathematica users will be able to store and retrieve data in a zero-configuration private blockchain deployed in the Wolfram Cloud, in their own blockchain running on local MultiChain nodes, or in a chain which combines nodes from both.
We’re particularly pleased with this collaboration because it demonstrates our long-running view that, as a technology, blockchains are in no way specific to the finance sector. The perceived association between banks and blockchains is an accident of history, stemming from the fact that most public blockchains, like bitcoin, happen to enable a new type of money. By contrast, private or permissioned blockchains are a shared database technology, allowing a set of participants or organizations to safely collaborate on a database that crosses boundaries of trust.
Now available to view, review, compile and fork
Two years after starting to develop MultiChain, we’re delighted to release its source code under the GNU General Public License (GPLv3). The code, along with compilation instructions for Ubuntu, is now available at Github. You are free to browse and review it, compile it for yourself, or fork MultiChain in accordance with the GPL license.
When chains and blocks serve no useful purpose
About 18 months have passed since the finance sector woke up, en masse, to the possibilities of permissioned blockchains, or to use the more general term, “distributed ledgers”. The period since has seen a tsunami of activity, including research reports, strategic investments, pilot projects, and the formation of many consortia. No one can accuse the banking world of not taking the potential of this technology seriously.
Naturally, the explosive growth in blockchain projects has driven the development of permissioned blockchain platforms, on which those projects are built. For example, our product MultiChain has tripled in usage over the past year, whether we measure web traffic, monthly downloads or commercial inquiries. And of course, there are many other platforms, such as BigChainDB, Chain, Corda, Credits, Elements, Eris, Fabric, Ethereum (deployed in a closed network), HydraChain and Openchain. Not to mention still more startups who have developed some kind of blockchain platform but have not made it publicly available.
For companies wishing to explore and understand a new technology, an abundance of choice is generally a good thing. However, in the case of blockchains, which still remain loosely defined and poorly understood, this cornucopia comes with a significant downside: many of the available “blockchain” platforms don’t actually address the core problem they are meant to solve. And what is that problem? Allow me to quote the succinct video definition by Richard Gendal Brown, CTO of R3, in full:
A distributed ledger is a system that allows parties who don’t fully trust each other to come to consensus about the existence, nature and evolution of a set of shared facts without having to rely on a fully trusted centralized third party.
How to show you know something without showing what you know
Last Friday saw the launch of Zcash, a new public blockchain and associated cryptocurrency that attracted a lot of attention. By now, there are hundreds of cryptocurrencies, so any budding young entrant needs a serious differentiator to rise above the fray. In the case of Zcash, this is easy – Zcash users can send money to each other in absolute privacy. For a cryptocurrency based on a blockchain, this is a remarkable technical achievement. (Though it should be noted that other chains such as Monero and Dash aim at the same goal using simpler but less effective means.)
Introducing our partner program for blockchain developers
It’s our pleasure to launch the MultiChain Platform Partner Program, starting with 13 member companies from Europe, Asia and North America. The program facilitates our working relationship with the growing number of consultants and integrators building blockchain solutions on the MultiChain platform.
The initial list of members includes three large multinational solution providers: Accenture, D+H and Mphasis. These are joined by ten more companies, most of which specialize in blockchain application development: ANX International, Cubichain Technologies, DXMarkets, Hashcove, KrypC Technologies, Lexington Innovations, Motivian, regio iT, SettleMint and Vanbex Group.
For shared immutable key-value and time series databases
Today we’re proud to release the latest version of MultiChain, which implements a crucial new set of functionality called “streams”. Streams provide a natural abstraction for blockchain use cases which focus on general data retrieval, timestamping and archiving, rather than the transfer of assets between participants. Streams can be used to implement three different types of databases on a chain:
- A key-value database or document store, in the style of NoSQL.
- A time series database, which focuses on the ordering of entries.
- An identity-driven database where entries are classified according to their author.
These can be considered as the ‘what’, ‘when’ and ‘who’ of a shared database.
An important step forwards for performance and scalability
After two months of intensive development and testing, we’re proud to release the latest alpha of MultiChain, with a completely rewritten in-node wallet. This new wallet transforms the performance and scalability of creating, receiving and storing transactions in MultiChain.
The tragic combination of inevitable bugs and immutable code
Last week witnessed a catastrophic event in the Ethereum ecosystem, when The DAO, a smart contract less than two months old, began rapidly leaking funds to an unknown party. Looking at the current set of Ethereum contracts, filled with casinos and self-declared Ponzi schemes, this might not seem like a big deal. That is, until you learn that over 12 million units of ether, the Ethereum cryptocurrency, had been invested in The DAO by almost 20,000 people. That’s around 15% of all the ether in existence, valued at over $250 million on June 17th.