It’s been a long-running joke in the crypto space to call out what Bitcoin, blockchain, and decentralization can fix. To some people, the answer is literally everything. I have no doubt that these technological advancements can and will play a large role in correcting our broken financial systems and digital infrastructures. But their ability to fix everything is questionable.

Many feel “fixing the money” means fixing a lot of secondary and tertiary problems that stem from lack of resources. But is this really the end all be all? Does Bitcoin fix mental health crises, nuclear holocaust, or ecological collapse…?

The answer is probably no. More relevant is the question as to whether or not this technology is ready to fix our current broken tech systems and money. Let’s explore a recent infrastructure collapse that this “new tech” deemed a guaranteed fix.

Where Did Facebook Go?

Just recently, a widespread outage of popular internet services and apps that we rely on day-to-day stopped around the globe for a nearly 6-hour block. Alarm bells went off worldwide as a single server issue in a massive, centralized conglomerate (Facebook) brought down what felt like the entire internet. Facebook was the first to fail, leading to a cascade of related sites and platforms going down. Instagram, WhatsApp, and Messenger, all companies owned by Facebook simultaneously crashed, causing an overflow and slowdown in similar social applications. Facebook employee badges reportedly failed to work, and so did their internal systems to fix the problem. What a mess.

The tipping of a few large dominos nearly resulted in the collapse of an entire system. A DNS error was seemingly the root cause of the outage. This is the result of a specific browser losing connection to the internet. This is actually somewhat common among social media giants. Due to the centralized nature of Facebook’s systems, the failure of its servers guaranteed the failure of the companies it owns. Within moments, millions of users were left in the dark.

Immediately following the collapse, Twitter exploded in daily users. The official Twitter account tweeted out “hello literally everyone” reaching 600,000 retweets. Memes quickly circulated about the crumbling situation, and the markets began to shed billions big tech slid downwards. A flood of curious minds and locked-out users looked to other platforms. This caused outages and slowdowns across a number of unrelated internet services. T-Mobile, Verizon, AT&T, Google, Twitter, TikTok, Zoom, and Amazon Web Services were stress-tested. As the outage began to last longer than just an hour, sentiment began to shift from bad to worse and jokes shifted into serious concerns.

Of course we love to joke about Boomers on Facebook or mindless Instagram selfies. But these platforms oftentimes provide a single source of income and communication to people around the world. Individuals, families, and businesses rely on these applications for their livelihood. The absence of these platforms can easily tear someone’s life apart. The “Bitcoin can fix this” crowd took advantage of the situation. They claimed “Bitcoin and blockchain never go down” and “social media should decentralize itself.” These statements are inaccurate at best. No crypto project, coin, or blockchain has been without its issues or should be considered an automatic fix. 

In the past, Bitcoin has seen periods of extreme congestion rendering it nearly unusable. It has undergone fork wars causing the entire community to hold its collective breath. Just over a month ago, the Ethereum community found a bug that caused the network to split into two chains. This exposed the network to an attack. The early Ethereum Dao hack rattled the entire community to its core. Many protocols are continuously 51% attacked to this day, and some will never recover. Don’t believe me? Let’s look closer at three very recent cases of technological collapse.

Ethereum Mishap

One of the popular methods used to prepare a protocol for a major upgrade is to offer a bounty to the community for locating bugs. Projects that rush upgrades to the market run the risk of a catastrophic, unforeseen event. Very recently, a critical bug was found in an Ethereum 2.0 staking pool that would have allowed a hacker to remove funds freely if they chose to do so. Interestingly, the owner of a rival Ethereum 2.0 staking pool found and reported the bug. The developer saved the competition from complete disaster and millions lost. While it was wonderful to see teams and communities coming together, incentivized to do the right thing for the common good, this isn’t always the case. Disaster can still strike.

Solana Mishap

Back in mid-September, the Solana protocol went down after experiencing an overload in transaction throughput from bots. According to the official Solana Twitter account, “Solana Mainnet Beta encountered a large increase in transaction load which peaked at 400,000 TPS. These transactions flooded the transaction processing queue, and lack of prioritization of network-critical messaging caused the network to start forking.” As a result of the above, nodes on the network began to shut off, and the community voted to enable a restart. It took over 16 hours for functionality to return.

Compound Finance Mishap

Compound Finance made news recently for a community-designed upgrade to distribute rewards, but instead, it gave away the whole farm. The upgrade, “mistakenly allowed some users to claim as much as about 168,000 COMP tokens already, worth around $50 million.” The bug was capped at $80m and luckily, no user positions were affected. Basically, some random (very lucky) users depleted a pool of project funds. The best part? There was no way to stop the depletion of funds. Compound is a community-run protocol and any changes to the protocol take about 7 days. 

So What Is The Solution?

I do believe decentralized technology will likely be the future solution to issues like the failures described above. But Bitcoin and the blockchain are not ready to accomplish this task today. This is a good thing; we are still early. If the technology was simple to use, robust and ready, I find it hard to believe that it would be neglected as a fix to inferior existing systems. Adoption of new technology will come. The internet is showing us how badly we need it. We just have to be patient.

Critical bugs and adjustments are a part of the process. It is the price we pay for being early participants in technology. You can make the case that after settling a bud, the network grows stronger than before. We want hiccups to happen sooner rather than later. When crypto goes fully mainstream, these molehills will become mountains. Expectations will rise with the passage of time, as will the margin for error.

If you like the honesty of this blog and want other examples of the growing pains in our sector, read how Caution Is Being Thrown To The Wind In Crypto.