A report published last month by Verisign on the “Top 10 Trending Keywords in .COM and .NET Registrations in August” placed the words CRYPTO, BIT, BLOCK and CHAIN in the top 10 keywords under .COM registrations with CRYPTO top of the list. All these terms relate to blockchain.
This shows just how blockchain has taken center stage lately and mirrors the increasing number of blockchain-related initiatives and projects globally.
Blockchain is the name of the technology also known as digital distributed ledger technology (DLT) and which can be leveraged for many operations where authentication and certification are crucial. In layman’s terms, a blockchain is a list of individual transactions which is distributed amongst the members of the blockchain in question. All transactions are linked through encrypted code making the list as a whole very robust in terms of integrity and security and thus very difficult to hack or alter. There is not only one blockchain but many blockchains. Blockchains can be private (or permissioned) or public or even hybrid.
Blockchain is a very disruptive technology and what makes it attractive is also what makes it challenging, at least in legal terms. For instance, the fact that blockchain is distributed as opposed to centralised or attached to a particular jurisdiction could raise issues in terms of ascertaining who is responsible in the event of a breach and which law should apply. Similarly, the immutable character (in principle) of blockchain could, for instance, prove to be an issue if an erroneous transaction is added to a blockchain and it could complicate the implementation of specific aspects of privacy laws such as the right to be forgotten.
In spite of the uncertainty around blockchain and its future, it is already at the core of numerous initiatives. Crypto currencies such as the infamous Bitcoin are one example of a concrete use of blockchain. The so-called Initial Coin Offerings (ICOs) are based on blockchain and are essentially a means of raising funds for a new crypto currency or crypto project in exchange for units of existing crypto currencies such as Bitcoin or Ethereum. ICOs have been the subject of much attention in the past few months with the Chinese Central Bank banning them and the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) showing measured support for them and considering that an ICO could in some instances constitute a security (applying the “Howey test”).
Blockchain has been or is being adopted in many countries and for very diverse purposes, from the management of intellectual property rights (including in France where a number of projects are emerging), land registries (including in Sweden), trade finance and letters of credit, post-trade reconciliation and decentralised domain names.
The very recent preeminence of blockchain-related domain name registrations under .COM and .NET goes some way to demonstrate the significant business interest around the technology on a global scale.
Authored by David Taylor and Vincent Denoyelle