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Beyond Bitcoin: How blockchain will reshape the future

This article is part of our series “Blockchain beyond Bitcoin“. Bitcoin is the beginning, but it’s far from the end. To help you wrap your head around why, we’re taking a deep dive into the world of blockchain. In this series, we’ll go beyond cryptocurrency and hone in on blockchain applications that could reshape medical records, voting machines, video games, and more.

Late last year, on October 26th, a small U.K. tech company called On-Line PLC decided to change its name. From that day forward, it would be known as On-Line Blockchain PLC.

That seemingly insignificant move had a massive and almost instantaneous impact on the company. Within 24 hours, its share prices rose by 394 percent. Within 48 hours, its value had grown more than it had in all the past two years combined.

On-Line PLC didn’t change its business model, hire a new executive, or announce a new product. It just tacked “blockchain” to its name, and suddenly investors threw truckloads of money at it — a testament to the blockchain’s hype.

Not much has changed since then. Blockchain technology — the backbone of Bitcoin, and much more — is just as hyped as it’s ever been. You’ve probably heard about it on the news, read headlines about it online, and been lectured about it from that one guy in your office who’s super into cryptocurrencies. It’s like Beanie Babies and Dutch tulips at this point.

Data security is failing and there has to be a better system. Blockchain creates a secure, unalterable public record and is poised to dramatically improve the world around you, from voting systems to rental contracts.

That might lead you to dismiss it as a fad, but don’t let the hype fool you. Blockchain has legitimate potential to change the world. As the Harvard Business Review puts it, “Blockchain is not a ‘disruptive’ technology, which can attack a traditional business model with a lower-cost solution and overtake incumbent firms quickly. Blockchain is a foundational technology. It has the potential to create new foundations for our economic and social systems.”

“It has the potential to create new foundations for our economic and social systems.”

Yet it’s still early days for the technology. Many have likened the recent blockchain boom to the dot-com bubble of the 1990s — which is a fair comparison. That bubble did burst, but after the crash, the world wide web eventually rose from the ashes of the 1990s and became one of the most transformative technologies the world has ever known. Blockchain, it seems, has that same potential — it’s just in its the dot-com phase right now.

Over the course of the next week, Digital Trends is taking a deep dive into the blockchain space. We’re going beyond Bitcoin and homing in on applications that might reshape democracy, economics, advertising, and more. Blockchain’s impact on these concepts could truly change how they function – but, of course, revolution is often messy business.

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