R3 blockchain group embraces open source

The R3 blockchain consortium will make its code publicly available in November in a bid to ensure it becomes an industry standard that payment, trade finance and many other distributed ledger technology (DLT) applications that could be useful to treasurers can coalescence around.

Code for the Corda platform developed by the R3 consortium, which includes more than 60 global financial institutions, will be made freely available on 30 November when it is added to the Hyperledger project, set up by the Linux Foundation. This is attempting to progress cross-industry adoption of new DLT technology.

“We want other banks and other parties to innovate with products that sit on top of the [Corda] platform, but we don’t want everyone to create their own platform,” R3’s chief engineer, James Carlyle, told Reuters. He added that industry could end up with lots of islands that cannot talk to each other if permitted non-open chains are allowed to proliferate.

“If we have one platform with lots of products on top, then we get something that’s more like the internet, where we still get innovation but we can communicate with each other.”

The worry is that large banks such as Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs, which are members of R3, have filed patents for their own blockchain projects. This and other such IP grabs may move the technology and the R3 initiative away from recreating the internet towards proprietary blockchains.

This would reduce the network effect of the blockchain and potentially the lessen the benefits of cheaper costs, more speed, data and so on, which could accumulate to corporate treasury and other end uses if DLT technology is deployed in a collaborative, open manner.

It takes a lot of time, staff and associated money to develop initiatives like R3’s Corda platform, however, so if banks, multinationals, technology companies and others will continue to participate without seeing an immediate return depends on enlightened boardrooms realising the wider economic benefits.

The internet has after all been a boon for businesses, e-commerce firms and others worldwide but it took a collaborative effort to get it going and ultimately for firms to then carve out their own niches and business models on the net. Time will see if the same patience can be maintained in these early days to ensure DLT technology evolves in the same way.


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Tags: blockchain