With the blockchain hype at its peak (according to Gartner) there is debate about the real power behind blockchains. Especially as blockchain POCs are increasingly becoming glorified enterprise systems or at least solving problems that other, older and faster crypto and database tech could solve. Some place the power on the hash chain yet that is not new. Hashing transactions / assets / identities has been available for a long time. Chaining them is cool yet can be implemented with any crypto library. Others believe that what makes blockchains unique is combining authentication and transaction security with decentralized / distributed computing. Yet torrent. TOR and other P2P networks could be augmented to accomplished that. Then there is the incentive system that distributes value among participants of the network in a way that strengthens the system. That is actually new.
What is really interesting is the amount of innovation through experimentation in decentralized computing. Whenever a need was unfulfilled by an earlier P2P model, a later one changed it. Bitcoin solved digicash’s double spend problem and in doing so eliminated the need for centralized validation. Litecoin improved the speed of transactions while reducing the need for CPU/GPU and favoring RAM. Dash, Monero and others implemented various levels of obfuscation to the otherwise completely public blockchain transaction ledger. Ehtereum vastly expanded the capabilities of opcodes. All of the above while maintaining the decentralized nature of the first innovation.
Today some of the most interesting breakthroughs are not even in finance or currencies. Maidsafe’s ability to decentralize computer resources, the various DNS approaches (namecoin, dnschain, etc), decentralized cloud (owncloud, cozy) and many other ideas evolved around the decentralized revolution. Some no longer have blockchain underpinnings as they found other technologies to solve their needs. Other technologies emerged to mash with blockchain’s security promise and economic model like various mash networks. One thing is for sure, all these ideas will massively will expand the power of decentralized computing.