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Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios

IBM has greatly scaled back its blockchain unit, sources tell CoinDesk’s Ian Allison.

Why it matters: There is perhaps no more visible a champion of “enterprise blockchain” than IBM. A company that once trotted out a slate of TV commercials on the promise of more efficient supply chains has now cut up to 90% of its blockchain headcount.

Driving the news: "Blockchain, not bitcoin" seems to have aged poorly. While cryptocurrencies have surged in value in recent months, big-business attempts to put blockchain technology to work have been stricken by COVID-related cutbacks and anemic adoption.

  • Overall, Big Blue recently announced another year of declining revenues in 2020, with numbers worse than analysts expected.
  • Regarding the reported blockchain cuts, an IBM spokeswoman told CoinDesk, "We have shifted some resources but remain committed to the technology, blockchain ecosystem and services."

The big picture: There's a wide spectrum of attempts to apply blockchain technology to industry uses, with companies like R3 on one end running tightly controlled shared databases, and other players like ConsenSys and EY building on Ethereum's public chain, which is itself broadly used and relevant, per Allison.

  • But the challenges are cropping up in the middle, where IBM and others are trying to build tech that fuses some elements of both public and private blockchains.

Go deeper

Big Tech's reputation takes a pandemic plunge

Expand chart
Data: Harris Poll; Chart: Danielle Alberti/Axios

Americans have fallen further out of love with Big Tech, the latest Axios/Harris 100 brand reputation poll shows.

Why it matters: Even though Americans were hyper-connected to their devices throughout the pandemic, their relationship with many of the world's biggest tech firms has continued on a downward trend, suggesting that people see their products as necessary evils.

There's an ETF for everything, except bitcoin

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Happiness. Weed. Robots. Water. Whatever the theme, there's probably an ETF promoting a basket of stocks related to it.

Why it matters: Thematic ETFs are an investment mania side effect. There's newfound retail investor interest in narrow exposure to hot corners of the stock market. More are launching to meet the moment.

A divided nation flocks to partisan brands

Data: Harris Poll; Chart: Danielle Alberti/Axios

Americans are leaning into companies that have strong political positions, in the wake of one of the country's most divisive election years.

Driving the news: New rankings from the Axios/Harris 100 poll — an annual survey to gauge the reputation of the most visible brands in the country — show that brands with clear partisan identifications are becoming more popular.