Bitcoin or Ethereum? In today’s blockchain community that question can feel like a binary decision. It’s natural for people to have a favorite horse to back in any sphere of life. But trying to predict an ultimate victor in a winner-take-all blockchain competition is premised on a false assumption: that “blockchain” is a monolithic concept that will ultimately be dominated by, at most, a few giants. 

Most people, whether tech geeks or not, have heard of Bitcoin, the original store of value blockchain. Most are probably also aware of Ethereum, with “smart contracts” to transfer value. But the truth is, there can and will be many different blockchain solutions applied to many different problems. 

I believe it is a misnomer to even refer to blockchain as an industry. It is, rather, a powerful tool that can improve the way a great diversity of systems operate. And the development of this decentralized technology will not lead to just one or a few dominant players. There is room for multiple blockchains whose applications can benefit society in numerous ways. 

To illustrate this, I will use the example of another powerful tool that has touched almost every corner of life: electricity. Electricity lights and heats our homes; powers our trains, buses, and cars; helps transmit information around the world instantaneously, and more. It has become integral to our daily lives. But it is a facilitator, not an endpoint. Electricity is essential, but it is not its own reason for being. It assumes many different forms, at different levels of power and costliness, depending on the specific use case. The same essentialness, ubiquity, and adaptability will ultimately characterize blockchains.

The logical corollary to this is that the world will not be dominated by a single blockchain, or type of blockchain, running all applications. Rather, a great plurality of blockchains will emerge to meet the many and variegated needs of different groups and sectors of the economy and society. 

Current approaches to blockchain miss the point, speculating on which philosophy will “win” the space. Blockchain is a foundational technology whose different capabilities will be emphasized or deemphasized by many different teams looking to solve a myriad of problems.

Crypto-assets require a secure store of value platform, and security must take priority over tradeability. Therefore, the blockchains that are built to support these assets emphasize immutability and decentralization, which removes the need to trust centralized players or gatekeepers that can be compromised. Other use cases require a different approach and functionality, like quick authentication and access to goods and payments between people and devices. Thus, the capacity of a blockchain to quickly process and execute a large volume of transactions will be key for these applications. 

In this era of blockchain proliferation, teams of developers and researchers are working to address related, but distinct goals. Ultimately, blockchain is bigger than the pundits give it credit for, and there is room for all different shapes and sizes of decentralized networks in the emerging decentralized world.

(Kevin Wang is a co-founder of Nervos Network, a collection of protocols and public blockchain ecosystem aiming to solve the biggest challenges facing blockchains like Bitcoin and Ethereum today.)

Blockchain Tokens A computer screen displays a website featuring cryptocurrency token sales and ICO (Initial Coin Offering) lists in Berlin, Nov. 26, 2017. Photo: JOHN MACDOUGALL/AFP/Getty Images