Blockchain technology is descending into the “Trough of Disillusionment,” and will not re-emerge before at least the year 2021, according to a new report by research and advisory firm Gartner

The Trough is the third stage in Gartner’s “Hype Cycle” formulation, which depicts the milestones that new technologies and markets must pass to reach mainstream adoption. New technologies begin with a slow incline caused by an “Innovation Trigger,” then a heady climb to the “Peak of Inflated Expectations,” before a sheer drop into the Trough of Disillusionment, followed by an amble up the “Slope of Enlightenment,” which gives way to the heavenly “Plateau of Productivity.” 


Blockchain is currently at that third stage, deep in the trough, its fortunes deflated by years of unrealized hype at the Peak. “Blockchain technologies have not yet lived up to the hype and most enterprise blockchain projects are stuck in experimentation mode,” said Avivah Litan, vice president at Gartner, in today’s report. “Blockchain is not yet enabling a digital business revolution across business ecosystems and may not until at least 2028, when Gartner expects blockchain to become fully scalable technically and operationally.”


Gartner has previously identified several concerns with the emerging technology of blockchain, including the lack of both consistent governance standards and intra-blockchain “interoperability”, which makes it difficult for businesses to integrate with the technology. But the tempering of excitement around the technology comes as little surprise to blockchain’s foremost self-critics, including Ethereum inventor Vitalik Buterin, who have railed for years against the platform’s lack of scalability. 

To climb out of the Trough, Gartner advises blockchain developers cater better to their would-be users, masking technical mumbo-jumbo about things like “smart contract languages” and “consensus algorithms.” Users don’t want that.

Gartner seems confident that blockchain will ultimately bear fruit, however, anticipating that the technology will first emerge from the Trough of Disillusionment around 2021. “By 2023, blockchain platforms will be scalable, interoperable, and will support smart contract portability and cross chain functionality,” predicted Litan. “They will also support trusted private transactions with the data confidentiality required. All together, these technology advances will take us much closer to mainstream blockchain and the decentralized web, also known as Web 3.0.”

Others have indeed escaped the dreaded Trough, Gartner reports. The booming cryptocurrency mining industry is already gently strolling up the Slope of Enlightenment, followed closely by “Distributed Ledgers.” Further successes beyond blockchain include “low-earth orbital satellites” and cloud computing.


But the chart may induce feelings of vertigo in any supporters of cryptocurrency hardware wallets, smart contracts, and privacy enhancing multi-party computing, which are all in striking distance of the Peak of Inflated Expectations. Hype-climbers be wary, because it’s a long way down.

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