The answer to this question varies depending against which type of technology you’re referring to and the metric to which you would hold its growth rate. With that in mind, we take a look at the different domains to which blockchain development can be compared.
Blockchain with respect to FinTech:
The Digital age of financial services is considered to have established between 1967 to 2008, where the 90’s introduced the internet and brought in e-commerce. However, mass adoption by retail consumers only really began after 2008 with the introduction of payment apps, mobile wallets and more. [in a p2p sense].
These brought in multiple opportunities for players who wanted to build new FinTech services and also increased the accessibility for consumers. It took roughly around 5 decades for banks to enable customers to efficiently access their bank accounts and introduce an easy way for peer to peer transactions to take place.
Even with the development of FinTech companies offering financial services like these the number of bank branches rose exponentially from 18,000 to 82,000 between 1950 and 2014, according to a report from the U.S Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation [FDIC].
Although Unified Payment Interface [UPI] driven apps like Venmo, Apple pay, Paytm, Google Pay, etc offer you a cheaper and faster way of transferring cash between its users. All of these still need to be linked to a bank account where cheques are deposited and who ultimately fund these payment apps or give them a base to work on.
The fact still remains that banks provide higher security and insured safety when deposits are too large to just hold in mobile wallets. Especially when it comes to making large offshore transactions between people who don’t really know each other, they still opt to do it through a bank that holds a record of it and can perform a reversible transaction if anything goes wrong. Even if the transaction costs are extremely high.
Central authorities are aware that these FinTech companies need to depend on the banks to back them or their business model wouldn’t really work. Which is why banks don’t really mind UPI driven advancements, while people claim it could disrupt banking strategies.
When we compare the advancement of FinTech with respect to blockchain being only a decade into its technology, it’s easy to notice the vast difference in growth and adoption. Blockchain came into light in 2008 as we got the first ever cryptocurrency – Bitcoin, which was built off the financial crisis that resulted in millions losing their jobs due to a banking related mortgage catastrophe. The first purchase someone made with BTC was to buy pizza with it in 2010.
Since then blockchain as an idea created a ripple effect throughout the tech industry, which resulted in a vast number of protocols being built on the blockchain. Especially the ones that based their protocols in order to solve Bitcoin’s scalability issue for increased transaction rates.
Some of these protocols not even being more than 5 or 6 years old, have already seen mass adoption by consumers for settling even fiat currency transactions. An example of this would be Ripple, who have provided excellent solutions in order to settle transactions between banks and consumers. Especially when it comes to cross border transaction, offering a much cheaper and faster solution compared to the SWIFT technology that exists to transfer fiat currencies. Due to which multiple banks like Euro Exim Bank, Santander Bank, etc have signed onto use ripple’s blockchain tech to power their cross border payment systems.
Banks like JP Morgan Chase are even looking to come out with their own JPM coin, which is supposedly going to be the first bank backed cryptocurrency.
This makes it pretty evident that blockchain in regards to FinTech is definitely much more ahead of its time and is well past its nascent stage.
Blockchain as an operating system and a platform for building dApps [decentralized applications]
Here’s where you’ll notice that blockchain has fallen a bit short. We look at blockchain as an ecosystem for developing apps or smart contracts for this comparison. Taking a look at Apple’s iPhone that was unveiled in 2007 and with its launch, it introduced a software development kit [SDK] for app development companies. Which gave people the first ever opportunity to create a 3rd party app and later in 2008 launched the AppStore that featured 500 apps. Within a week it had over 10 million downloads.
SDK combined with Xcode and now recently Swift allows developers the flexibility to develop highly personalized apps for whatever purpose they wanted. Even Android and the Google Play Store [then known as Android Market] which came out in 2008, amassed around 82 billion downloads by 2016. Especially since Java is the main language for developing these apps. Hence both iOS and Android platforms offer a universal approach to app development.
Blockchain in this aspect is still in its infancy since the whole concept of smart contracts and dApps only started after Ethereum was established and actually launched in 2015. Since then multiple new protocols came out that offered the same smart contract development and more scalability.
Apart from a few of these blockchains allowing you to develop dApps in either Java, Python etc, most of them still require you to learn Solidity [Ethereum’s blockchain language] and Golang. Solidity is widely used since most of the new protocols are initially based off Ethereum’s network before they transfer over to their own mainnet. The reason Solidity and Golang are used in creating dApps is because it offers you a multi-threaded programming approach and doesn’t cause any thread locking and deadlocks which comes with concurrent execution.
Learning a new language for any developer takes time and to master it enough to make good use of it would perhaps take a little longer. Probably why we still haven’t seen a very significant increase in dApps developers, like how there was an increase in the number of app developers and startups in the case of iOS and Android.
However, even if the dApp community is still in its infancy we’ll surely see an increase in the number of developers as the decentralized technology has piqued everybody’s interest.
Hence we can draw a slight contrast with the answer to this question as the development of blockchain with respect to FinTech has definitely advanced much faster since its genesis 10 years ago. But with respect to it as a dApp and smart contract platform, we could say that it is still in infancy since a large amount of developers are yet to get a good hold of these new languages.