Editor's Note: The original title was "" Patent Thinking "Could Destroy China's Blockchain Industry"
When talking about "blockchain" in an interview on November 6, Ren Zhengfei believed that "blockchain is not worth mentioning in front of quantum computers. Once there is a problem, huge funds may disappear instantly." This is obviously For the misunderstanding of the blockchain, not only did he not understand what the blockchain is, he also seemed to confuse the blockchain with digital currencies. "Blockchain" is actually a broad concept similar to the "Internet" and does not refer to a specific technology. In fact, the technology concept covered by the "blockchain" is still undergoing rapid changes. It is far from the simple version of Bitcoin's protocol in the past, and even now includes something like DAG (Directed Acyclic Graph). Non-chain structure. Of course, this is not to blame the 75-year-old man. After all, no one is omnipotent and omnipotent, and he cannot be urged to learn too many other new knowledge in the current difficult period of Huawei.
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According to the "2019 Blockchain White Paper" issued by the China Academy of Information and Communications Technology on November 8, it states that there are currently more than 18,000 applications for open blockchain patents worldwide, with China accounting for more than half of the total, ranking first in the world. . This surprising number looks quite encouraging to Chinese people, but if you really understand the blockchain industry, you will find it very interesting, because almost all major blockchain technologies in the world are completely open source, whether from Bitcoin to Ethereum, or to Polkadot recently, will not see the developers of these projects apply for patents for the technology. They do exactly the opposite, they make the code completely public, and anyone can get it, research it, and reuse it for free.
"Open source" is almost the only feasible way for blockchain technology at present. You need to provide a system where everyone can participate in mutual trust. Openness and transparency are the prerequisites for all, and open source is the only option for openness and transparency. The blockchain was once called the "trusted machine" by The Economist, and this machine must be completely transparent. Every line of code must be visible to others to ensure trust. Encapsulating everything in an opaque black box will certainly make you doubtful.
Revenue mechanism of open source software
Open source software is not a new thing. Almost all of the open source software appeared in the early days of the computer community. Today, the famous Linux and Android systems are both open source software. But for a long time, with almost no income, the open source community has become an experimental venue provided by just a group of passionate geeks. Even today, only commercial considerations such as Google and IBM that are in their own ecology will help build some open source societies. The most typical case is that only a few volunteers are responsible for maintaining the well-known OpenSSL security protocol on the Internet. Only one of them works as their full-time job. The annual donation to the OpenSSL project is about $ 2,000. In 2014, it was discovered that there was a vulnerability called Heartbleed, which caused security problems for massive servers worldwide.
Because there are very few open source software developers and open source communities in China due to welfare and other issues, our developers must continue to struggle for "mother-in-law needs" or "children going to school" and other issues after graduation, while abroad A group of programmers will write programs based on their own preferences, without having to consider too many commercial interests. From this, Linux or Mozilla was born. In any case, in the past, without commercial interests, open source software could not be compared with commercial software in terms of ease of use and update speed unless a "daddy" like IBM or Google could be found.
The great thing about the blockchain is that it allows people who develop open source software to obtain benefits, which may even be huge, instead of appearing in the software industry as an almost beggar, as in the past. . How can open source software generate revenue? Blockchain technology uses a clever way called "fuel tokens". Anyone who uses the services of a blockchain system must use the system's own tokens, and those who participate in maintaining the system can get reward tokens for the system. So it constitutes an economic ecology that can be internally cycled, so that the entire system can operate on its own. Early people can get tokens because they participate in development or investment, because the number of tokens is limited within a certain period of time, and due to the increase in the number of people involved in the system and the use of tokens, the token value increases. So, as long as this system is increasingly needed, early participants can benefit from it.
Once a certain technology is recognized by some people, a small community will be formed immediately, and the participants of the community are often not fixed, and people are constantly leaving and joining. The community will continue to develop or gradually die out according to its own choices. A community may have one or more leaders, or it may have multiple independent opinion leaders. The community's recognition and pursuit of the technology can be called "community consensus." If this technology community is more attractive, it will attract more people to join in. The more people involved, the stronger we can call the "consensus", and the weaker it is otherwise. Contrary to most people's intuition, the core competitiveness of a blockchain technology is not code, but the "consensus" of this technology community.
So you can't get the same value just by copying the code of the blockchain software, just like you can't become another bitcoin with the same value just by copying the bitcoin. You must get the "consensus" of the community, because "consensus" represents the true value of this open source software. There are actually many more complex issues for the "token economy" system and "consensus" worth studying, but it is not the focus of this article. The key is to realize that in the blockchain open source community, code is not everything, but only Part, not even the most important part.
Another level of competition
Most people may not have realized that the blockchain industry may be the fastest growing industry in human history, because this is a completely open source industry, every technological progress can be immediately seen by others, and will It is quickly discussed and studied, and then can be falsified or absorbed in a short period of time. The smartest developers in the world are always ready to participate and benefit from it. This speed of development and iteration is unmatched by other industries.
When we enter the "blockchain" era, we have actually entered a completely different technology era, where technology can already form a closed loop. Developers who participate in the open source community of the blockchain can already benefit from it, and due to the extremely high revenue, it has become increasingly competitive.
The "patents" of these big companies are just the established thinking of the traditional commercial wars in the past, and this thinking is likely to be increasingly difficult in the future open source world. At this time, if you still consider the traditional technology thinking, and hope to maintain your own territory through "patents", I am afraid that it will not only fall behind, but will be completely out of touch. Of course, I don't believe that programmers who research blockchains in those big companies don't know this, but often considering the preferences of decision makers, they deliberately choose to prove their strength by applying for a large number of "patents".
Regarding regulators, it is only a matter of “care and effort” to treat so-called “blockchain” companies based on how many patents they apply for, but in the end it will only become “cheating” like electric cars. the result of. If we want to promote the development of the open source industry, I am afraid that we should spend our energy on the construction of the open source community. For example, encourage the establishment of more open source communities, and have independent third parties evaluate the development of the community. In the simplest, more developers can also be encouraged to participate in the code contributions of public chains similar to Bitcoin.
At the national strategic level, we can see that the supervisors hope that we can achieve "autonomous controllability" of technology in the field of blockchain. The public chain itself is open source. As long as there are enough people in the country to participate in the development of these public chains, and to be able to thoroughly understand these technologies, it is to achieve "autonomous controllability". Rather than like now, every big company wants to take these open source technologies as its own. It just “fixes” in it, and then builds it behind closed doors into a completely closed thing, and then applies for a bunch of patents. Be regarded as "autonomous and controllable."
Open source is a big trend, and today the world is already software open source to hardware open source, the most typical is the RISC-V instruction set. RISC-V is a RIS-based open source instruction set architecture (ISA). The project started at the University of California, Berkeley in 2010, but many contributors are volunteers and industry workers outside the university. Compared to most instruction sets, the RISC-V instruction set can be freely used for any purpose, allowing anyone to design, manufacture, and sell RISC-V chips and software without paying any company royalties. In the future Internet of Things, we will see more and more open source hardware. In the blockchain industry, we can also see that many hardware wallets have also adopted an open source approach to security.
Anyone who knows the industry knows that in the field of blockchain, whether it is theoretical innovation or technical innovation, there is almost no Chinese figure. However, China is also a big owner of the "patent" of the blockchain, and this inexplicable contrast often makes people laugh. Whether it is hardware or software, the domestic situation is often "as soon as foreign countries open source, domestic independence", but this is completely to meet a certain form of formalism, as described at the beginning of this article, simply "It is impossible to eat through these open source technologies. As soon as Android loses supply, Huawei will soon be unable to find North. And if the government tilts all its resources to these "big patents" enterprises, it is likely to be harmful to the entire industry, but it will eventually kill the domestic blockchain industry in the cradle. In order to truly absorb open source technology as a technology that can be completely “autonomous and controllable”, we must completely abandon the “patent thinking” in the traditional field and make efforts to build our own open source community strength. Only in this way can we compete in the future open source competition. Gain a place.