From ‘secure collaboration’ to ‘total trust and transparency’

Predictions for 2017
Trust has always been the central challenge of human collaboration at scale. As trust in governments and corporations decline, people are relying on peer-to-peer (P2P) platforms to hand them better control, secure collaboration and lower prices. While all this is happening, a far deeper revolution has been fermenting. There was an explosion of interest in encrypted digital currency Bitcoin, but it was blockchain, the technology behind the cryptocurrency, that was the real revolution. By creating a secure, decentralised record of transactions, blockchain allows trust between strangers without recourse to any mutually trusted middleman. At its heart, blockchain is about total P2P trust and transparency – it doesn’t require powerful intermediaries to authenticate or to settle transactions.

What happened in 2017?
The rocketing value of cryptocurrency Bitcoin in 2017 brought it and blockchain to the attention of growing numbers of companies and consumers. Business Insider reported that there are over 1,324 globally traded cryptocurrencies, all relying on blockchain. Blockchain has given rise to a revolution in finance – besides bitcoin, money transfer over the internet is now possible without authorisation by banks. Start-ups are exploring blockchain as a tool to fight fake news, for example, Spin uses the general wisdom of its reader community to flag news as appropriate, biased or incomplete. Blockchain still has many issues to iron out in terms building the infrastructure and addressing regulations before it can scale.

What’s next?
In 2018, we believe the blockchain revolution will go mainstream, due in part to a glut in venture capital and the salivation of investors thrilled by the Bitcoin’s wild ride. People will look to brands to harness this technology and to give them greater control, total transparency, and fair prices. This also pushes the power back to the consumers in terms of what data they give up and who can have their data. New blockchain usage will likely include cloud storage, security, property, brokerage, medicine, fashion, media, entertainment, even law. Encryption keys will provide a secure method to track progress of an order, view the history of a case number, the provenance of an item of a clothing or food item, or to unencrypt digital media at a certain rate of quality. We also expect to see applications appear within media and advertising, such as Basic Attention Token, which aims to improve user experience and help ensure publishers and advertisers are not losing out to middlemen, trackers and fraud. While blockchain technology shows tremendous potential to transform a number of areas of our industry, scale will remain an issue until adoption improves, and speeds increase.


What does this mean for marketers?
The evolution of the current digital advertising ecosystem has produced a system that is far from perfect in terms of consumer, advertiser and publisher experience. Consumers suffer from additional data usage, advertisers are charged for unseen or fraudulent inventory and publishers lose out to numerous middle men.

In theory, Blockchain could increase transparency and reduce fraud. Publishers are currently testing prototype blockchain supply side platforms designed to root out ‘fee-skimming’ by disclosing to buyers and sellers all the parties, ‘links’ in the chain. For advertisers, it can improve ad verification by taking ad deliveries from ad servers and releasing them to mining machines in the chain to ‘scrub’ them for fraud.

For consumers with privacy concerns, blockchain could anonymize huge swaths of data allowing for more direct consumer relationships with brands and fewer middle men. In terms of consumer experience, the new Firefox blockchain browser uses the afore mentioned Basic Attention Token to supersede cookies, minimize trackers and remove unnecessary third parties, ensuring more revenue for publishers and more ROI for advertisers.

While this sounds great in theory, this technology is still in an experimental phase. It is currently too slow to work with real-time bidding and will have to reach critical mass before it can work as intended. For marketers it promises a better eco-system in the future so we should all do our best to help take this from trend to normality.

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