China, home of the Great Firewall, is trying to bring order to a scrappy corner of cyberspace—and in the process put its mark on the next-generation internet.
A Beijing-backed initiative aims to shape a category of online record-keeping called blockchain. Most commonly associated with bitcoin, blockchain holds broad promise for business and other uses but has been hobbled by a lack of uniform technical standards.
With an offer of ultracheap server space, Beijing is beckoning blockchain’s global community of developers to adopt its vision for the technology. Success could put China in a powerful position to influence future development of the internet itself and promote international use of Chinese innovations, like a homegrown Global Positioning System and a digitized national currency.
China is pitching its initiative, Blockchain-based Service Network, or BSN, as providing much-needed digital infrastructure for developers world-wide: server space at a few hundred dollars annually, programming tools to create blockchains and, most critically, templates to standardize some basic functionality.
After three decades, most internet applications are links between just two points at a time, even at high connection speeds a choke point on potential uses.