Blockchain technology has been in the news a lot over the past few years. Most of these headlines center around the debate over whether bitcoin is a worthwhile investment. But in all the talk of price movements and extended bear markets, the innovations taking place within the broader industry (and their potential global impacts) all too often get overlooked.

Far from simply offering a new investment opportunity , cryptocurrency and blockchain more generally represent unprecedented opportunities for greater data security and a decentralized internet and economy. I spoke with Justin Sun, Founder and CEO of blockchain tech giant TRON, to better understand the innovations taking place on the ground floor of cryptocurrency.

TRON and BitTorrent Integration

One of the notable developments taking place in the cryptocurrency field is TRON's recent purchase of software company BitTorrent. Together, they share a vision of a decentralized, barrier-free internet.

"One of the reasons we purchased BitTorrent, besides its great team, is that we'll be able to test scalability like no one else, with 100 million monthly active users getting exposure next year to blockchain," Sun says. "TRON and BitTorrent will continue to work on separate projects, while orbiting each other and collaborating on that goal of decentralizing the internet."

One of those collaborations takes the form of Project Atlas, which will roll out next year.

"That project will incentivize BitTorrent users to share more content through the use of cryptocurrency," Sun says. In the process, the project aims to connect the BitTorrent peer-to-peer network and the TRON blockchain network in order to open up a global, borderless economy.

More details about the project will be discussed at the upcoming niTRon Summit, which will be held in San Francisco from Jan. 17 to 18. The event will feature workshops, speaking panels, and even an appearance from Kobe Bryant.

"Kobe graciously agreed to sit down on stage for a fireside chat with me because we both believe in entrepreneurship," Sun says. "niTRon is all about that, and unleashing the creativity of people who feel like they are being locked out of sharing and profiting with their work because big-name companies erect barriers to that content."

In addition to its subversive bent, niTRon will also focus on providing general education about cryptocurrency and the possibilities of a decentralized internet. "We also want niTRon to be about education--focusing on understanding the fundamentals of blockchain, cryptocurrency, and peer-to-peer sharing," Sun says. "Many of our fantastic list of panelists will be speaking to these topics."

Supporting Developers

In order for the project of a decentralized internet to be realized, it's essential for up-and-coming developers to have the tools necessary to continue innovating.

TRON is responding to this need by supporting developers in several ways. The company recently launched an accelerator program with the intent of attracting more developers to the TRON ecosystem.

"We think we stand out with our accelerator program because it's stable, more efficient and has lower fees associated with it," Sun says. "The biggest issue really is educating developers globally--first on 'why blockchain?' and second on 'why TRON?' That's why we recently launched the $1 million (USD) TRON Accelerator DApp competition. By giving prizes totaling that $1 million, the developer community gets to... execute their ideas or projects on TRON."

In addition to its accelerator program, TRON also supports developers via a suite of tools including TronGrid, TronWeb, TronStudio, and TronBox, which together assist with everything from event server support to migration and development.

"Community members have also contributed by releasing browser-based wallets for easy DApp integration and libraries to ease the development of large projects," Sun says. (These resources can be found here.)

Walking the Walk

"It is my deep belief that technology should be fair and distributed," Sun says. That's why he's so committed to the vision of a barrier-free, decentralized internet--and it's why he was motivated to create TRON in the first place.

Sun also backs up that belief via charitable contributions. Recently, his company donated $3 million to the Binance Charity Foundation , which is dedicated to global sustainable development.

"Blockchain is a collaborative environment; it needs nurturing," Sun says. "We were thankfully in a good position financially to serve as an example to others that long-term thinking and support is what's needed to boost the industry in general."

To that same end, TRON is also looking ahead to the future regulatory landscape for cryptocurrencies and aspires to serve as an example of how to respond to these regulations in constructive ways.

"We are operating under the assumption that regulation will come to the industry in many places," Sun says. "In many ways, it will be necessary to legitimize the market and separate good practices from bad. We recently hired a chief compliance officer to make sure we're always a good partner with our community and with governments."

The innovations taking place at TRON are representative of the possibilities inherent to blockchain technologies. In other words? Blockchain is about way more than bitcoin, and it's time we all started paying attention.

Published on: Dec 21, 2018
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.