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Hyperledger Project and IBM are building new a blockchain 'Fabric' for the internetiStock

Perhaps the pendulum of opinion is swinging back in favour of public blockchains, as opposed to the myopic fervour for private distributed ledger deployments put about by financial institutions and professional services firms over the past year or so.

Private blockchains offer a rather shrill version of what this technology's capabilities are, something the people who actually built this stuff have known all along.

It was interesting to see this ideological rebound start to happen on a large stage: the first day of the Global Blockchain Summit in Shanghai, where Brian Behlendorf, head of the Hyperledger Project was giving an opening presentation.

Espousing the goals and benefits of open source collaboration, he said: "We want to work with public, unpermissioned currency-based chains. We are all interested in currency chains because we believe there are certain use cases that can only be met by those sorts of platforms."

Behlendorf did caution that this interest in coins would never spawn a token attached to the project. "You won't see a Hypercoin," he said.

Hyperledger was a brand donated to the Linux Foundation affiliated blockchain initiative by Digital Asset Holdings. The project itself walks in the footsteps of Linux Foundation open source collaboration.

Behlendorf was an early 90's web pioneer; back in 1993 he was the first person to attach a banner ad to a webpage – something he apologised for. He also points out that blockchain now feels like the web did in those days. This was also the time when internet versus intranet was a big debate among enterprise users of the early web.

Behlendorf said Hyperledger, which has 20 Chinese firms under its umbrella, currently has two headline projects underway: Fabric and Sawtooth Lake.

Fabric V1 was developed in close collaboration with IBM and is a blockchain architecture which currently uses Practical Byzantine Fault Tolerance (PBFT) moving to Raft and other pluggable consensus mechanisms. Sawtooth Lake uses "Proof of Elapsed Time", which is something we will hear more about in the future, said Behlendorf.

He said working in an open source collaborative framework, in general terms, brings together the best of development work and commercial possibilities. He mentioned Apache licencing as an example of how it can work. "It is a gift of code that comes with patent rights in a way that makes lawyers relax. It means that if one project has a good idea it can quickly be incorporated by others in the project.

"We want to create collaborative tools that will outlast any particular vendor. We want Hyperledger to be a 30-50 year project."

IBM has perhaps been the biggest and most enthusiastic champion of the Hyperledger Project. John Wolpert, head of IBM's blockchain offering followed Behlendorf's presentation, stating that, "blockchain has metastasized at IBM; it's happening everywhere now."

A good example of this is the company's internal financing which is going on a blockchain. IBM and its partners and subsidiaries account for over $40bn in finance agreements per year. Within this complex financial ecosystem there are a number of disconnects, disputes and so on and capital can be tied up for an average of 44 days.

An internal finance blockchain cuts through reconciliation problems and shortens dispute times. "But why would you not just use a distributed database, why do you need to deploy a blockchain?" asked Wolpert.

"Well you come back to the problem of one entity being in charge of trying to keep track of a labyrinth of bi-lateral agreements. And actually this is how many sectors operate today; finance, healthcare, global trade."