Jeff John Roberts, FORTUNE
11:28 AM ET
Companies of all sorts are scrambling to create standardized versions of blockchain software and, on Tuesday, one group of them reached a major milestone in the space by releasing its vision of blockchain to the public.
The software, known as Fabric 1.0, has been stitched together over the last year by an outfit called Hyperledger, which represents the efforts of IBM (IBM, -0.20%)and other companies to deploy a blockchain tool that can do things like track food shipments or keep track of diamond sources.
If you're unfamiliar, blockchain is a software-based ledger system that uses multiple computers to create an indelible, tamper-proof record of transactions.
The most famous example of blockchain in action is the cryptocurrency bitcoin but companies of all sorts—including banks, tech firms, and retailers—have been building their own "chains" in the belief they will dramatically improve supply chains and lower the cost of record keeping.
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The release of Fabric 1.0 is significant because it means Hyperledger believes its code is good enough to release to all comers, and encourage them to implement it.
"The code is battle tested. It's a sign of confidence by developers that it’s ready for the masses to bring to production environment. The inflection point is now," Brian Behlendorf, the executive director of the Hyperledger Project, tells Fortune.
It's too soon to say, however, if Hyperledger will catch on as the go-to building block for blockchain technology. While its software is open source and backed by the venerable Linux Foundation, there are also a number of other major groups pushing their own versions.
These competitors include Ethereum, whose cryptocurrency and smart contract network is being deployed by financial giant J.P. Morgan (JPM, -0.52%) and others. Meanwhile, a consortium of banks called R3 is offering its won take on the blockchain called Corda.
As with the early days of the Internet, when there were dozens of browsers and search engines, it will like to take years for a clear front-runner in blockchain technology to emerge. But Behlendorf believe Fabric 1.0 has a good opportunity to stick around because the project's approach is collaborative and not dogmatic.
Meanwhile, Chris Ferris, the chief technology officer of open technology at IBM had this to say: "I am so proud to be a part of the diverse community that came together to help birth Hyperledger 's first 1.0 project: Hyperledger Fabric 1.0. Of course, it doesn't end here. There's plenty more work to be done, more collaboration and more innovation on tap from all of the Hyperledger projects."