Coinweb began as an idea. Or rather, an approach to a lot of emerging ideas. With problems cropping up in the nascent blockchain technology space, Knut Vinger saw solutions. Coinweb is how all those solutions thread together.
Knut Vinger sees solutions where others see problems. When blockchain technology first started to be adopted, the various pain points appearing in the space were in swift need of solutions. Something Knut had seen before, in emerging technologies from PCs to the internet. We asked Knut how he was able to foresee where blockchain was going at a time everyone else was still trying to understand what it was all about.
Where did the idea for Coinweb come from?
Knut Vinger: The idea came partially from an interest in tech-history by observing similarities between the emergence of blockchain technology and earlier technological revolutions such as the history of personal computers and operating systems.
What brought you to the idea?
Knut: When I got involved in the project, the idea was to create a meta layer on top of Litecoin. It soon became evident for us that innovation within the technology would be highly decentralized, and there would be a need to enable combined access to as much of this solution space as possible. Looking at recent tech-history, such access is normally achieved by creating an abstraction layer above the underlying low level systems.
How has Coinweb matured and pivoted since then?
Knut: The vision for Coinweb materialized relatively quickly. However, there is a long way to travel from simply having a vision to actually being able to implement it. Fortunately for Coinweb, we have been joined by some very unique individuals and a fantastic team that are able to not only turn the initial vision into reality, but also significantly expand and refine it. We have also had the fortune of being able to prove some of our concepts in a production environment which I believe will be of huge benefit going forward.
The scope of the platform has grown immensely since the beginning. It started out addressing specific problems within the crypto sphere, especially transaction costs and lack of basic functionality on single, isolated blockchains. The move from then to now, where we are working to facilitate large scale transition of centralized business processes to decentralized infrastructure, obviously requires significant technical changes to the platform. All of the initial tech has been changed or replaced in some way or form. Some of the initial principles are the same, but expanded upon and reimplemented.
What have you learned in that process?
Knut: My belief that hard work pays off in the end has been strengthened further! Also, the importance of working with the right set of people that share the same vision.
What can you tell us about the potential future of blockchain?
Knut: I think Blockchain/DLT technology has the potential to improve society in many different ways. At its core, the technology allows us to automate trust-based processes. Currently there are many business models and functions outside of business that operate around roles as trusted entities. I believe most of these will be impacted by blockchain technology to some degree. Such entities often have powerful positions in society. Sometimes, if used malevolently, such trusted entities can be manipulated to achieve objectives outside their defined purpose. It is not unlikely that the transition of processes from these to a tamper-proof decentralized infrastructure will cause some turmoil. That is why it is extremely important that the new infrastructure does not compromise on decentralization and security. This is something that I think is partially overlooked when it comes to interoperability.
Where do you see Coinweb in the future?
Knut: I believe Coinweb has the potential to be a large contributor to decentralization within multiple areas in the time to come. There really is a need to unify the possibilities that the powerful innovations within the field are making available. By making it possible to combine these solutions, Coinweb is making them even more powerful. This is something that resonates well with many traditional businesses and organisations, as they see the competitive and operational advantage of increased flexibility and reduced platform risk.
What is standing in the way of that future? How will you address it?
Knut: There are still many hurdles to overcome, most people are still not aware of the full potential of this technology. This increases the danger of unnecessarily restrictive regulation, and other measures that might slow the uptake of the technology. A good way to address this is probably to make good systems that benefit large groups of people, as well as trying to increase the general level of understanding of the technology.
Tell us the story of e-gold, and what you learned from it.
Knut: I was one of the very early e-gold users, I found it by coincidence and got very fascinated by it. It was a centralized digital asset backed by gold. It quickly developed into a thriving ecosystem, much like crypto currencies today, but on a much smaller scale. Unfortunately, e-gold was shut down in 2009. That is when I saw Bitcoin for the first time. There are some important lessons to be learned from what happened to e-gold. It is not entirely unlikely that the controversies around these early digital assets were part of the motivation for developing Bitcoin.
I found Bitcoin around the time that e-gold was shut down. There were already quite a lot of problems for e-gold before it was shut down for good, so I was keeping myself informed about other interesting systems that were in the market. I immediately saw that Bitcoin was different from the other electronic currencies at the time. It was, however, quite difficult to use. So I did not see that an immediate uptake in the market would happen. I did not get really actively involved in crypto currencies until quite a bit later.
What do you think are the greatest threats to decentralisation?
Knut: I think the greatest threat to decentralization is a lack of awareness in the general population. As long as the awareness of the benefits of the technology is low in the general public, there is a danger that the rate of adoption will be reduced due to resistance from centralized institutions that fear disruption. I believe this is more of a short to medium term threat. Due to non-uniform legislation among nation states, I think it will be difficult to prevent mass scale adoption in the long run.