Using the Blockchain with Blockstack

In this post I take a look at Blockstack, a company that allows easy building of applications on the blockchain using web technologies.

A few months ago I interviewed Ryan Shea on my podcast, Flyover Labs, about his company Blockstack. Blockstack allows anyone to build applications on top of the blockchain using web technologies like javascript. It seems pretty slick.

This post is to help formalize my thoughts around the blockchain, and how Blockstack could help. Blockstack seems like a great fit for when there is data being shared between organizations, for example, a retailer that needs to share information with all of its suppliers. Right now they could use a dropbox-like application or even email. The dropbox-like application probably works fine, especially since APIs are readily available. But how is information shared in both directions?

Could Blockstack help? From my novice understanding it appears Blockstack will allow an application to record transactions on the blockchain. This is valuable because this record will never be erased. The only way to modify a transaction on the blockchain is to execute a new transaction that modifies the existing transaction. It’s beautiful transactional record keeping.

The issue with the blockchain is that you can’t store much data on it, maybe 20kb. Blockstack allows an application to point at other storage services, like AWS, to retrieve the necessary data. That seems pretty slick to me.

Going back to that retailer, a Blockstack application would allow the retailer to keep track of all transactions on the blockchain (a transaction could be a file downloaded or sales transaction data), while using their own servers, and the suppliers could use their own servers as well.

This example might not be the best one. It seems like Dropbox for enterprise could almost do the same thing if we’re talking about files. If the retailer would start putting all of their sales data directly on the blockchain, that would be a huge amount of data. Not sure if that would work or not.

My questions are:

What is the ideal application to use with Blockstack? It seems security and the need for a public record would be important.

How quickly can transactions be processed on the blockchain using Blockstack?

How do you create a proof of concept application?

How do you point to third party storage?

What applications have been built using Blockstack?


There are many ideas being worked on for financial applications. That makes sense because much financial data is shared between companies and consistent transactional records need to be kept.
One idea I had for this would be crowdsourced research collaboration. Most research now is behind closed doors – lots of researchers working on their own. Companies like Local Motors have open sourced car design. Why not other fields?

Blockstack could help researchers record their contributions and point to their files on their own storage systems. This would allow the group and application to keep track of everyone’s contribution in chronological order. Then rewards could be handed out based on individual contribution.

I’ll keep thinking of more ideas. All for now.

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