Regardless of your viewpoint on Facebook's Libra program, it's a significant stepping stone for the adoption of cryptocurrency. Facebook has it is repertoire a bank of over two billion users who will soon be exposed to the world of tokens and cryptocurrency.
However, outside of tokenomics, there is a lot more power in the blockchain, especially in regards to smart contracts. Thus, a recent partnership between Google and Chainlink, a company that provides on ramps and off ramps for information necessary to run smart contracts, may hint at Google wanting a bigger slice of the pie.
This tokenized economy opens massive doors in terms of the transfer of value without the need for intermediaries, or the handbrake that banking regulations bring in, but it is only one piece of the pie.
In this nascent space, there are tokens, and then there is the blockchain proper with its smart contract applications offering huge potential. For enterprises and business, smart contracts offer far more than tokens can - but tokens are far more attractive for individuals.
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Facebook, as a company serving individuals, is looking at taking tokens forward, but Google may well be looking to the enterprises. By honing in on smarter smart contracts, Google could well be tapping into the other 90 percent of blockchain's potential.
Looking to make smart contracts smarter
Google's decision to partner with Chainlink allows for Ethereum app builders using Google software to be able to integrate data from sources outside the blockchain.
Chainlink offers a service called an oracle to integrate additional data into on-chain smart contracts. This adds another layer to the capabilities of these contracts, allowing processes to be implemented directly on the blockchain.
Essentially, the smart contracts are being made a lot smarter as the data used to execute can be integrated from more than just within the blockchain. It is a small step for Google, but it could be hinting at their general heading in the blockchain space.
Chainlink CEO, Sergey Nazarov, spoke to Forbes about the value of smart contracts in the blockchain space.
"Our space is stuck in two dimensions. One is that we are really focused on tokens because tokens are the only real functionality blockchains have, to date," Nazarov said.
"It is very useful functionality, and from the amount of attention that one simple piece of functionality has gotten, it says a lot of really positive things about what other contracts can be viewed as."
"Tokens are the email of our space, and I think all the other applications require a certain amount of infrastructure. The idea is that to build useful applications we need to be able to connect them to what they need to consume, and what they need to generate."
"So, for the people at Google, they are looking at the two directions. One direction is heavy tokens, which is fine, and then the other direction asks: 'what else can blockchains do?' and my sincere opinion is that tokens are maybe 10 percent of what this stuff can do."
"I think the difference between Facebook and Google is that Facebook may have a real interest in payment and crypto stuff, but Google may have an interest in building these highly useful contracts by building useful infrastructure to make that possible."
Google catching up
Google, as one of the world's leading technology companies, has been viewed as somewhat behind the eightball in the blockchain space. In comparison to IBM, Microsoft, Facebook, Amazon, and the likes, Google is playing catch up.
However, Nazarov confirms that there is a growing interest from the internet giant.
"There are people in Google that are very interested in blockchain," he added. "The thing with Google is that it is very focused, and they have their systems and processes that lead them to success in a focused way. There are people in Google, and official positions, that I know of that are related to blockchains - and I have seen an increase in that since a year ago."
With Google taking a more active role in the blockchain space, their focus looks to be enterprise-based, and on what blockchain can do besides offering tokens.
Nazarov goes on to explain that in the world of contracts, only 10 to 20 percent make up an exchange of value. It means that there is a gaping hole of blockchain potential that needs to be realized.
"Think about how this looks from an enterprise point of view," Nazarov said. "Realistically, all the contracts - financial contracts - in the world, 10 -20 percent is about ownership and transfer. That covers tokens, which is all very useful in itself, but it also shows that a reliable method of doing that is extremely valuable.
"Then the question becomes - 'if all we can do today is ownership' - what is the other 80 percent in contracts? And the other 80 percent is what we are talking about. What we work on is trying to get that other 80 percent to function, and for that, we need to work on more than application, we need to build an environment for the application to exist in."
An efficient blockchain environment
Nazarov uses an example of Uber to express how building this application environment can make things better for enterprises, and again hints at why Google is interested in partnering with Chainlink.
In Uber, there is a mapping application which needed to be integrated for the driver; there is the need for messaging between drivers and customers; there is a payment application for both customers and to pay drivers. All of these applications operate within the Uber app, but they were all not created by Uber.
In other words, the Uber environment houses many applications. And, in the blockchain space, with smart contracts that have the power to reach data from sources outside the blockchain, an enterprise environment is far more natural to build, and a lot more efficient.
A complex heading
Of course, there is no set roadmap from Google indicating that they are looking to be the leaders in functional, enterprise smart contract blockchain. However, their heading does seem to be more focused on the other 90 percent of blockchain potential.
Chainlink is trying to make smart contracts smarter, and more useable in common sense. If Google is looking to partner with them for their work, they must have a desire to be a part of that potential.