skip to main content
Close Icon

In order to deliver a personalized, responsive service and to improve the site, we remember and store information about how you use it. This is done using simple text files called cookies which sit on your computer. By continuing to use this site and access its features, you are consenting to our use of cookies. To find out more about the way Informa uses cookies please go to our Cookie Policy page.

Global Search Configuration

Straight Talk IT

Ovum view

With the arrival of an editable blockchain, the distributed ledger has taken another step on its journey from being the mathematical underpinning of cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin toward becoming a useful platform for new financial market infrastructures and applications.

An editable ledger is just a way of putting the record straight

How much can you alter something before it becomes something else? Philosophers call it Theseus's Paradox, after the Greek who asked whether a ship that had been repaired over time until no original wood remained was still the same ship. These days, it's also known as Trigger's Broom, after the road-sweeper character in the long-running BBC sitcom Only Fools & Horses, who wins an award for keeping the same broom for 20 years, with 17 new heads and 14 new handles. Is it the same broom?

Much the same could be asked about blockchain. In the past few years – at least as it is being used in financial services – it has been separated from its cryptocurrency roots, it has had its universal access characteristic replaced by permissioned network membership and new consensus mechanisms that don't require all nodes on the network to validate each transaction (or even have a copy of the blockchain), and implementations like the Corda platform from R3 allow bipartisan validation of transactions.

So when Accenture announced in September that it has been prototyping a mechanism for retrospectively editing blockchains in private, permissioned networks, there was predictable outrage: remove the immutability of the ledger, and it's not a blockchain.

So what? In truth, what the FS industry is trying to implement hasn't been what purists call a blockchain for about two years now. Each of the changes outlined above has taken it a little further away from that and removed an obstacle to adoption. The editable blockchain removes another: some mechanism for amending the record is going to be important in the future – when a deal is retrospectively deemed invalid or fraudulent, perhaps, or when the embedded code in a "smart" contract fails to execute as expected.

Does it matter if we still call it a blockchain? Not in the slightest.

Straight Talk is a weekly briefing from the desk of the Chief Research Officer. To receive this newsletter by email, please contact us.

Have any questions? Speak to a Specialist

Europe, Middle East & Africa team - +44 (0) 207 017 7700


Asia-Pacific team - +61 (0)3 960 16700

US team - +1 646 957 8878

+44 (0) 207 551 9047 - Operational from 09.00 - 17.00 UK time

You can also contact your named/allocated Client Services Executive using their direct dial.
PR enquiries - +44 (0) 207 017 7760 or email us at pr@ovum.com

Contact marketing - marketingdepartment@ovum.com

Already an Ovum client? Login to the Knowledge Center now