Decentralized or Nothing: Song Slams IBM Over Blockchain Hype at SXSW

Published on by Coindesk | Published on

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An author and partner at venture firm Blockchain Capital, Song made that point repeatedly in a debate with IBM engineer and Hyperledger Fabric co-lead Chris Ferris at SXSW Thursday, where he told the crowd at the Hilton Austin in no uncertain terms: "You either have control over your stuff or you don't. It's a zero or a one."

The debate pitted permissioned blockchains - the private networks being pitched to big business - against permissionless blockchains - the technology undergirding bitcoin and other open-source networks.

While Song took the binary view of decentralization, Ferris argued that blockchains can exist on a spectrum.

Sure, permissioned blockchains are less decentralized, Ferris said, but their added trust mechanisms mitigate perceived risk.

"Permissionless blockchains do not necessarily solve the problem of trust," he added.

On stage and in conversation with CoinDesk beforehand, Song argued that every application of blockchain to anything but bitcoin is a waste.

"Blockchain is really useful for bitcoin," he said during the debate.

Prior to the debate, Ferris told CoinDesk that he hoped he could make the point that there's just different use cases for different kinds of blockchains, and those use cases should determine what level of decentralization should be called for.

"A permissioned blockchain is an oxymoron because it's a centralized database that's masquerading as something decentralized," Song said.

Ferris brought up Quadriga late in the debate by first saying, "The whole point of permissioned blockchain, enterprise blockchain, is reducing risk," he said.