Ant Financial, the financial affiliate of Alibaba, the Chinese equivalent of Amazon, announced that it will be launching a blockchain platform later this month.
The move follows another Chinese tech giant, Baidu, releasing a lower-priced blockchain-as-a-service product. Baidu is known as the largest search engine in China, where many western services including Google are routinely banned.
Ant Blockchain Open Alliance
Called the “Ant Blockchain Open Alliance,” the blockchain platform will cater to small and medium enterprises by sharing “use rights.”
The platform isn’t totally “open,” nor is it what you would call decentralized. While anyone can use the blockchain, node operators are a select few.
This is in line with several other platforms that can’t be considered “decentralized,” but are still distributed. These include EOS and Tron.
The project has been some time coming. Baidu launched its “Xuperchain” in 2018, but Ant Financial announced its product in August. At that time, Ant Financial vice president Jiang Guofei said:
[blockquote] “In the past two years, Ant Financial has been working on two aspects about blockchain. One is to improve the technology, and the other is to open it up and accelerate the commercialization of blockchain applications.”
Not long later, Ant Financial launched its first blockchain-as-a-service offering, and tested it out in the Philippines.
How Tech Giants Get Into Blockchain
Alibaba joins Baidu, Microsoft, and many other tech giants in having a blockchain wing.
The company has previously made a deal with Bayer, one of the largest pharmaceuticals in the world, to develop a blockchain solution for crops for its Monsanto subsidiary. Bayer could have chosen IBM, who have numerous blockchain initiatives in place and are long on Stellar, but as blockchain goes, the more the merrier.
Ant Financial’s forebear, Alibaba, already interfaces directly with millions of small and medium sized business owners through its existing platform. It would seem that, if successful at all, the platform might see more usage than Baidu, which claims a userbase of 3.5 million for its blockchain-as-a-service product, Xuperchain.
More to the point, Ant Financial’s product has already had a financial application, and the firm isn’t against developing more.
This differs from the blockchain efforts of Baidu, which are focused on dApps.
But blockchain’s first and core use case is the movement of value. If Alibaba recognizes this and capitalizes on it, it could likely build a bigger platform.