SAN FRANCISCO —Gregory Maxwell, a co-founder of the digital currency startup Blockstream, sat in front of a crowded room of Bitcoin experts and investors in a conference room of San Francisco’s Kabuki Hotel this week and answered a question that many came to hear:
Should development of “blockchains”—the globally-distributed encryption technology at the core of the Bitcoin currency—remain united?
Or is it better to have many so-called “sidechains,” each with its own rules?
While the latter approach could boost Bitcoin innovation, it might also result in competing standards, slowing the commercialization and adoption of the currency.
A wide range of startups are now developing products based on the Bitcoin protocols, on the hope that it will compete with other global payment systems.
These new software companies and their future rivals look likely to do more than transform online payments.
They may one day transform stodgy business processes such as escrow, insurance and incorporation.
All thanks to a core Bitcoin principle: When a business or a person can run machine learning software on a massive computer network to prove that a financial transaction occurred, they won’t need to pay humans to guarantee that it did.