For all the excitement in tech circles\u2013and all the \u201cgee whiz\u201d coverage in the mainstream media you\u2019d think Blockchain was ready to take over the world. And in some areas, such as fintech and, to a lesser extent, supply chain, you\u2019d probably be right. But we are far, far away from widespread adoption of Blockchain or, more broadly, distributed ledger technology. Confused about the difference between Blockchain and distributed ledger? You aren\u2019t alone. Even Google treats them as the same. Go ahead \u2014 we\u2019ll wait. Google \u201cdistributed ledger technology.\u201d You got a lot of Blockchain hits, right? If you want to tell them apart, Business Insider offers a helpful tip: \u201cThink of Blockchain and distributed ledger in the same way you might think of Kleenex and facial tissues. The former is a type of the latter, but it has become so popular that it becomes ingrained in people\u2019s minds as what the product actually is.\u201d At its core, a distributed ledger is a type of database that\u2019s spread across multiple sites, regions, or participants. The database is independently held and updated by every participant (or node) in the network. Each node processes every transaction and then compares their results with the results of the rest of the nodes. Blockchain is merely one particular type of distributed ledger. However, it\u2019s the most widely known example of the technology. All of this is to say that when experts talk about the barriers to distributed ledger technology, nine times out of ten they\u2019re talking about Blockchain, and what hinders the update of one hinders the other. But back to our larger point: Several roadblocks stand between this technology and widespread adoption. We\u2019ll start with what are probably the most commonly cited issues: legal and regulatory concerns. Navigating the Legal and Regulatory Minefield It\u2019s a catch-22: Without regulatory clarity, distributed ledger technology will face challenges going mainstream. Poorly constructed laws and regulations could stall any such expansion. It will remain a tricky area, especially given that, in many respects, decentralization of transactions runs counter to regulatory and compliance stances, Jason Bloomberg, president of Intellyx, wrote in Forbes last year. \u201cThe primary challenge for the broadest adoption of Blockchain technology is regulation,\u201d Igor Telyatnikov\u200e, president and CEO of Alphapoint, told Coin Telegraph. \u201cThe regulatory environment has not caught up to innovation and in many cases prevents or slows adoption.\u201d We don\u2019t know how all this will play out, but we do know regulators are paying attention\u2013especially in fintech. \u201cMost of the regulators across the globe are now engaging with the possible impact distributed ledger technology could have on the financial services sector. But the regulatory position relating to use of this technology is still evolving,\u201d according to a 2018 update by the law firm Hogan Lovells. Also on the radar screen are cryptocurrencies in general and ICOs in particular. But guidance is murky. For example, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission said in 2017 that securities laws may apply to the sale of new digital coins. But it offered little clarity: \u201cWhether a particular investment transaction involves the offer or sale of a security\u2013regardless of the terminology or technology used\u2013will depend on the facts and circumstances, including the economic realities of the transaction.\u201d But, according to the Hogan Lovells update, there may be eventual consensus: \u201cRegulators across the globe have also made efforts to collaborate with their counterparts in other countries to gain and share knowledge in regulating these new technologies.\u201d As the regulatory framework becomes more established, distributed ledger technology will become mainstream. But we aren\u2019t there yet, and one reason may surprise you. Lack of Knowledge This likely comes as a shock anyone who\u2019s been focused on\u2013or merely following the development of Blockchain over the years, But despite all the hoopla, lack of awareness about blockchain\u2019s potential remains a hurdle. Eventually, distributed ledger applications will need buy-in from the consumer to move into the mainstream. But for that to happen, it\u2019s essential to shatter the misconception that Bitcoin blockchain\u2013or for that matter, Bitcoin all cryptocurrencies. \u201cThis will help remove the sometimes-negative undertones of Bitcoin and allow the technology to stand on its own, which will lead to an increase in willingness to utilize the technology,\u201d according to Bitcoin Magazine. But even among business leader who know the difference, awareness\u2013not of the technology itself, but its value may also be a barrier to break. Back in 2017, Danielle Uskovic, head of digital & social marketing for Lenovo Asia Pacific, told Tech Revolution that \u201cBlockchain is an emerging technology that every global leader needs to have on their radar.\u201d We may be approaching that point, but being on the radar and being in the business plan are two different things. The latter requires an awareness of value and a willingness to put up the necessary resources. The Cost of Getting Started Businesses don\u2019t think they can afford to make the change. \u201cThe resistance to changing existing systems due to the costs to utilize this new technology is another one of the significant barriers to mainstream adoption. It\u2019s even harder for larger corporations which are less agile and thus have higher costs when making such changes. The benefits of adopting blockchain technology will thus have to greatly outweigh the costs of this shift in order to justify going through such difficulties,\u201d Travin Keith, of the NXT Foundation, told Coin Telegraph. Even companies that see the long-term benefits of distributed ledger technology are reluctant to move forward. The reason: many believe the cost is prohibitive. In addition to the software, there\u2019s the cost of talent. As we\u2019ve written about before, there is an acute shortage of Blockchain developers. Hiring internally just isn\u2019t in the budget for most small and mid-sized businesses, even if it is a terrific investment. \u201cThe extremely high cost of using Blockchain technology is the major barrier to mainstream adoption,\u201d argue\u00a0Blockchain pioneers Robert Mao and Flavien Charlon, now with ArcBlock. Of course, one could argue that if businesses truly understood the potential, they would do what it takes to more fully embrace distributed ledger technology. No Sense of Urgency According to Kai Cheng Chng, CEO and cofounder at Digix, the cost issue is closely tied to the perceived need. Most consumers in developed countries are perfectly happy using non-Blockchain technology, he told Coin Telegraph. \u201cThere is, therefore, no sense of urgency or need to adopt it. For major corporations, the cost of overhauling present day systems for blockchain technology represents a monumental technological and logistical shift.\u201d An interesting aside on the \u201cdeveloped\u201d modifier: that\u2019s not by accident. In a 2017 whitepaper for the World Economic Forum blockchain gurus Don Tapscott and Alex Tapscott explain how this works: \u201cIn developing economies, those who still rely on barter may be able to make a behavioral leap of sorts, leapfrogging not only a whole generation of technology but also a century of banking habits and attestation practices that might otherwise become liabilities in a blockchain world. In other words, their lack of access to traditional financial or other centralized resources may put them at a behavioral advantage on the Blockchain.\u201d Energy Consumption and the Need for Green Encryption and verification of Blockchain transactions are computationally intensive operations. And keep in mind that Bitcoin and Ethereum use the proof-of-work algorithm which requires tremendous amounts of energy to power\u2013and then cool, the computers solving the problems. (Ethereum, we should note, is moving to proof-of-stake, which consumes considerably less energy.) In their paper, the Tapscotts put it in perspective: \u201cEstimates liken the Bitcoin network\u2019s energy consumption to the power used by nearly 700 average American homes at the low end of the spectrum and to the energy consumed by the island of Cyprus at the high end. That\u2019s more than 4.409 billion kilowatt-hours, a Godzilla-sized carbon footprint, and it\u2019s by design. It\u2019s what secures the network and keeps nodes honest.\u201d This is a real-world, not hypothetical, problem, they emphasize. \u201cHere\u2019s a rule of thumb: for every dollar a computer burns up in electricity, it needs 50 cents to cool down. The acute drought in California has raised serious concerns over using precious water to cool data centres and bitcoin mining operations.\u201d That gets to why it\u2019s a deterrent. It\u2019s not just about money. It\u2019s about promoting sustainability. \u201cThe large amount of energy required to keep the most well-known blockchains in operation is a deterrent to many corporations that are now focusing on sustainable methods of doing business. With climate change being a major concern, such massive use of energy does not seem justifiable,\u201d Bitcoin Magazine explains. Network Congestion and Lack of Scalability Scalability, of course, is a known issue for Blockchain applications, so there\u2019s not much to say other than blockchain scales poorly as the number of nodes in the network increases. If you have any doubts, we have a one-word response: Cryptokitties. The December 2017 Ethereum slowdown was so massive that it made the mainstream media, including the BBC. Privacy and Security: More Catch-22 Security concerns\u2013real and perceived\u2013must be overcome before Blockchain is widely accepted. A January 2018 research piece published in Network Security offers the following insight: \u201cBlockchains (like all distributed systems) are not so much resistant to bad actors as they are \u2018anti-fragile\u2019 \u2014 meaning, they respond to attacks and grow stronger. However, this requires a large network of users. If a Blockchain is not a robust network with a widely distributed grid of nodes, it becomes more difficult to ensure the immutability of the ledger.\u201d Again, a bit of a catch-22. The solution, of course, is to find new ways to ensure security. \u201cInnovations in Blockchain security will make the technology increasingly attractive\u2013and usable\u2013for a wider number of organizations and consumers,\u201d says Oliver Boireau, the author of the Network Security piece. But\u2013and here\u2019s yet another catch-22: As Blockchain technology becomes more popular and accepted, there\u2019s greater incentive to try to hack it. The end of 2017 saw more stories of individuals and exchanges being hacked and cybercriminals getting away with millions, Information Age reports. The security issues related more to passwords and not the Blockchain itself; nevertheless, \u201cBlockchain users\u2019 computers will be targeted at an alarming rate.\u201d Real, But Not Insurmountable Before distributed ledger technology can be more widely adopted, changes have to be made. Governments need to develop appropriate\u2013not onerous\u2013regulations. And those regulations should be relatively uniform across jurisdictions. Consumers and businesses need to move beyond the hype and the misinformation. The industry needs to strengthen privacy and security concerns and find better ways to address scalability and energy consumption. And finally, corporate leaders need to see the value to their enterprises. It\u2019s all well and good for IBM, Mersk, Walmart and other giants to embrace the technology. But, until they see the return on investment, Blockchain may remain on the fringes.