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Free public blockchains

For the people interested in blockchains the proposal is something like this: a shared database recording transferable credits is maintained by the introduction of rewards tied to the computational cost of producing them. In so doing, the cost of degrading trust within the system is tied to the cost of ever increasing computational complexity.

So with each successive reward prior transaction activity becomes more and more certain. The design here addresses the problem of allocating or minting credits within the system by making them the outcome of securing ledger activity. Perhaps implicit in this assumption is that a reward is needed for network participants to provide services. It’s a fair assumption, too. Why would people provide resources for free? But since this assumption also dictates how people use the transaction ledger its worth examining.

So I ask a very simple question: Are there any consensus-like systems out there that specifically don’t require fees to use? As it happens – the answer is yes. The closet system I’ve found so far is a project called OpenNIC. OpenNIC are an alternative authoritative registrar for domain names. So why is this important? Well, OpenNIC is doing something very similar to a blockchain system but they’re specifically NOT tying it to money, fees, or rewards. In OpenNIC there are different domain name servers to manage TLDs but lets simplify this and say that there’s still a level of consensus over the state of records in the system. OpenNIC are providing this service because:

(1) It’s literally a critically important service to the Internet
(2) Running an alternative that’s user-managed allows for more creativity
(3) It’s more open than the current system and costs nothing for users

This is provided for free by volunteers because they believe in the idea. Because they see value in it. Because it does provide value. So my question is: wouldn’t it also be possible to make a blockchain system that supports smart contracts that’s 100% free to use (no transaction fees required) using a similar model to OpenNIC. It would be much more useful for many apps because as stated already — even just DNS is a critical need for the Internet. A smart contract system that is free to use would be a better fit for the Internet than what exists.