The blockchain is one of the most discussed technologies in the world today. Many people who know a little about blockchain can only relate it to bitcoin transactions. There have been discussions in the mobile app world about using blockchain technology to replace traditional databases like MySQL.
If you have a mobile app you would be wondering if the blockchain technology is right for your app. To take a right decision you need to understand the fundamentals of blockchain technology and also know the pros and cons associated with it.
What is blockchain technology?
The blockchain is a distributed database used as a public ledger to record bitcoin transactions. As the name suggests, it is a chain of blocks where each block of data has a timestamp and have a cryptographic link to the previous block. The blockchain can be seen as an incorruptible digital ledger that can be programmed to record anything of value and not just financial transactions. The information stored in a blockchain is shared and continuouslyreconciled. Since the blockchain is not stored at a single location, it is truly public and the records can be verified at any time. Because there is no centralized database, it cannot be targeted by hackers and cannot be corrupted easily.
It is not enough to have basic information of blockchain technology; you also need to understand its working in detail to decide whether it is suitable for your app. The majority of the use cases of blockchain technology tell about its working in relation to bitcoin. Even though your app works on the line of bitcoin, it can be a difficult task to determine the suitability of the blockchain technology for your app. Here are some benefits and drawback of blockchain distributed database.
Key benefits of blockchain technology for apps
There is no doubt blockchain is a disruptive technology that has the capability to change the way the mobile app works. Here are some of the benefits of blockchain technology for apps
Transparency– Since blockchain technology works like a public ledger, it would be difficult to make changes in the database without others knowing it. Also, any changes that need to be made can be successful only if the majority of the blockchain network agrees to it.
Security– since the blockchain technology is decentralized; there is no single point of failure. It would be difficult to for hackers to initiate DDoS attacks or any other forms of malicious attack which makes apps with blockchain technology more secure.
User empowerment– the blockchain app will give users more control over their information and transactions. It will greatly reduce the risk of identity theft and even make such attempts impossible.
Faster business transactions– the decentralized nature of blockchain technology helps in faster business transactions. Since the information is not controlled by any one individual there is no risk of duplicating transactions. Unlike traditional transactions, blockchain transactions are not dependent on any authority for validating transactions. The result is the transaction is completed in few seconds.
Difficulties in building distributed apps
No framework available
While the blockchain technology has a lot of potential, it is not easy to build distributed apps. The blockchain technology is relatively new and the framework required to build distributed apps is non-existent. There are no stacks available to build apps with blockchain technology and the developers have to rely on custom tools, platform, and technology to build distributed apps which might not be easy.
Difficulties in Testing
Testing a mobile app for bugs on a single computer is hard enough. Imagine debugging a mobile app that runs on multiple computers at a time. To debug a distributed application, you would need testing software that can coordinate with other software. Add to it network problems and all seems like a distant dream that is easy to visualize and hard to realize. You need to also consider the “heisenbug” aspect which talks about how the bug changes its behavior on different computer systems. Testing and resolving bugs is a difficult task in non-distributed apps and it would even more difficult and annoying to test and resolve buggy distributed apps.
Other problems in using blockchain technology
Despite huge popularity bitcoin and blockchain technology does not have a legal backing. In fact, many countries have either placed restrictions on such transactions or completely banned it. Any transaction that is backed by legal compliance has a value in our world and that does not hold true in the blockchain. Our financial systems heavily rely on banks and governments for support. Blockchain does not have legal backing, nor government support that makes majority of people wary of this technology.
While the data in blockchain can be verified, it does not mean it would be accurate at all times.Bitcoin uses cryptographic keys to relate to other blocks in the chain and validate bitcoin transactions. There is less clarity on how other value transactions can be validated which leaves room for doubt and raises questions about the correctness of transactions. Since it is open and decentralized, whom should you approach for help to resolve transaction inaccuracy?
No clear technology advantage
Though blockchain technology is expected to provide a high level of robustness, the same thing cannot be said about its performance. Experts say blockchain will make business transaction faster but that is only a part of the story. There is one hidden side of blockchain that brings out the drawback. For example, writing to blockchain ledger is hard and slow. This is particularly done to avoid Sybil attacks. Also, the blockchain technology uses so many resources that you have to pay to people to do it. On the other hand, relational databases used today are fairly fast and hence there is no clear advantage offered by Blockchain technology.
Though blockchain technology in mobile apps sounds innovative, the definition of blockchain is still vague. There are many hindrances in blockchain technology that need to be sorted out before it is accepted in the mainstream. If you look at the world of mobile apps, the technology and platforms used today are relevant to the business conditions and needs of the people. The relational databases have the capability to meets our needs for performance and security and it is not obsolete yet. Looking at the legal considerations and other roadblocks, it is very difficult to tell whether the blockchain technology will rise or perish in the future. As an app entrepreneur, it is too early to jump the bandwagon of blockchain technology and it would be wise decision to wait for the technology to evolve where it becomes more parallel to mobile app technology.