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What is Blockchain Technology? A Step-by-Step Guide For Beginners

Updated – Mar 01 2019

Is Blockchain Technology the New Internet?

The blockchain is an undeniably ingenious invention – the brainchild of a person or group of people known by the pseudonym, Satoshi Nakamoto. But since then, it has evolved into something greater, and the main question every single person is asking is: What is Blockchain?

By allowing digital information to be distributed but not copied, blockchain technology created the backbone of a new type of internet. Originally devised for the digital currency, Bitcoin, (Buy Bitcoin) the tech community has now found other potential uses for the technology.

In this guide, we are going to explain to you what the blockchain technology is, and what its properties are that make it so unique. So, we hope you enjoy this, What Is Blockchain Guide. And if you already know what blockchain is and want to become a blockchain developer please check out our in-depth blockchain tutorial and create your very first blockchain.

What is Blockchain Technology?

What is Blockchain Technology?

What is Blockchain Technology? A step-by-step guide than anyone can understand“The blockchain is an incorruptible digital ledger of economic transactions that can be programmed to record not just financial transactions but virtually everything of value.” – Don & Alex Tapscott, authors Blockchain Revolution (2016).

A blockchain is, in the simplest of terms, a time-stamped series of immutable record of data that is managed by cluster of computers not owned by any single entity. Each of these blocks of data (i.e. block) are secured and bound to each other using cryptographic principles (i.e. chain).

So, what is so special about it and why are we saying that it has industry disrupting capabilities?

The blockchain network has no central authority — it is the very definition of a democratized system. Since it is a shared and immutable ledger, the information in it is open for anyone and everyone to see. Hence, anything that is built on the blockchain is by its very nature transparent and everyone involved is accountable for their actions.

Blockchain Explained

A blockchain carries no transaction cost. (An infrastructure cost yes, but no transaction cost.) The blockchain is a simple yet ingenious way of passing information from A to B in a fully automated and safe manner. One party to a transaction initiates the process by creating a block. This block is verified by thousands, perhaps millions of computers distributed around the net. The verified block is added to a chain, which is stored across the net, creating not just a unique record, but a unique record with a unique history. Falsifying a single record would mean falsifying the entire chain in millions of instances. That is virtually impossible. Bitcoin uses this model for monetary transactions, but it can be deployed in many others ways.

Blockchain is the most disruptive invention since the Internet itself

Think of a railway company. We buy tickets on an app or the web. The credit card company takes a cut for processing the transaction. With blockchain, not only can the railway operator save on credit card processing fees, it can move the entire ticketing process to the blockchain. The two parties in the transaction are the railway company and the passenger. The ticket is a block, which will be added to a ticket blockchain. Just as a monetary transaction on blockchain is a unique, independently verifiable and unfalsifiable record (like Bitcoin), so can your ticket be. Incidentally, the final ticket blockchain is also a record of all transactions for, say, a certain train route, or even the entire train network, comprising every ticket ever sold, every journey ever taken.

But the key here is this: it’s free. Not only can the blockchain transfer and store money, but it can also replace all processes and business models which rely on charging a small fee for a transaction. Or any other transaction between two parties.

Here is another example. The gig economy hub Fivver charges 0.5 dollars on a 5 transaction between individuals buying and selling services. Using blockchain technology the transaction is free. Ergo, Fivver will cease to exist. So will auction houses and any other business entity based on the market-maker principle.

Even recent entrants like Uber and AirBnB are threatened by blockchain technology. All you need to do is encode the transactional information for a car ride or an overnight stay, and again you have a perfectly safe way that disrupts the business model of the companies which have just begun to challenge the traditional economy. We are not just cutting out the fee-processing middle man, we are also eliminating the need for the match-making platform.

Because blockchain transactions are free, you can charge minuscule amounts, say 1/100 of a cent for a video view or article read. Why should I pay The Economist or National Geographic an annual subscription fee if I can pay per article on Facebook or my favorite chat app. Again, remember that blockchain transactions carry no transaction cost. You can charge for anything in any amount without worrying about third parties cutting into your profits.

Blockchain may make selling recorded music profitable again for artists by cutting out music companies and distributors like Apple or Spotify. The music you buy could even be encoded in the blockchain itself, making it a cloud archive for any song purchased. Because the amounts charged can be so small, subscription and streaming services will become irrelevant.

It goes further. Ebooks could be fitted with blockchain code. Instead of Amazon taking a cut, and the credit card company earning money on the sale, the books would circulate in encoded form and a successful blockchain transaction would transfer money to the author and unlock the book. Transfer ALL the money to the author, not just meager royalties. You could do this on a book review website like Goodreads, or on your own website. The marketplace Amazon is then unnecessary. Successful iterations could even include reviews and other third-party information about the book.

In the financial world the applications are more obvious and the revolutionary changes more imminent. Blockchains will change the way stock exchanges work, loans are bundled, and insurances contracted. They will eliminate bank accounts and practically all services offered by banks. Almost every financial institution will go bankrupt or be forced to change fundamentally, once the advantages of a safe ledger without transaction fees is widely understood and implemented. After all, the financial system is built on taking a small cut of your money for the privilege of facilitating a transaction. Bankers will become mere advisers, not gatekeepers of money. Stockbrokers will no longer be able to earn commissions and the buy/sell spread will disappear.

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How Does Blockchain Work?

Picture a spreadsheet that is duplicated thousands of times across a network of computers. Then imagine that this network is designed to regularly update this spreadsheet and you have a basic understanding of the blockchain.

Information held on a blockchain exists as a shared — and continually reconciled — database. This is a way of using the network that has obvious benefits. The blockchain database isn’t stored in any single location, meaning the records it keeps are truly public and easily verifiable. No centralized version of this information exists for a hacker to corrupt. Hosted by millions of computers simultaneously, its data is accessible to anyone on the internet.

To go in deeper with the Google spreadsheet analogy, I would like you to read this piece from a blockchain specialist.


What is Blockchain Technology? A step-by-step guide than anyone can understand“The traditional way of sharing documents with collaboration is to send a Microsoft Word document to another recipient, and ask them to make revisions to it. The problem with that scenario is that you need to wait until receiving a return copy before you can see or make other changes because you are locked out of editing it until the other person is done with it. That’s how databases work today. Two owners can’t be messing with the same record at once.That’s how banks maintain money balances and transfers; they briefly lock access (or decrease the balance) while they make a transfer, then update the other side, then re-open access (or update again).With Google Docs (or Google Sheets), both parties have access to the same document at the same time, and the single version of that document is always visible to both of them. It is like a shared ledger, but it is a shared document. The distributed part comes into play when sharing involves a number of people.

Imagine the number of legal documents that should be used that way. Instead of passing them to each other, losing track of versions, and not being in sync with the other version, why can’t *all* business documents become shared instead of transferred back and forth? So many types of legal contracts would be ideal for that kind of workflow. You don’t need a blockchain to share documents, but the shared documents analogy is a powerful one.” – William Mougayar, Venture advisor, 4x entrepreneur, marketer, strategist and blockchain specialist

The reason why the blockchain has gained so much admiration is that:

  • It is not owned by a single entity, hence it is decentralized
  • The data is cryptographically stored inside
  • The blockchain is immutable, so no one can tamper with the data that is inside the blockchain
  • The blockchain is transparent so one can track the data if they want to

The Three Pillars of Blockchain Technology

The three main properties of the Blockchain Technology which has helped it gain widespread acclaim are as follows:

  • Decentralization
  • Transparency
  • Immutability

Pillar #1: Decentralization

Before Bitcoin and BitTorrent came along, we were more used to centralized services. The idea is very simple. You have a centralized entity which stored all the data and you’d have to interact solely with this entity to get whatever information you required.

Another example of a centralized system is banks. They store all your money, and the only way that you can pay someone is by going through the bank.

The traditional client-server model is a perfect example of this:

blockchain tech

When you google search for something, you send a query to the server who then gets back at you with the relevant information. That is simple client-server.

Now, centralized systems have treated us well for many years, however, they have several vulnerabilities.

  • Firstly, because they are centralized, all the data is stored in one spot. This makes them easy target spots for potential hackers.
  • If the centralized system were to go through a software upgrade, it would halt the entire system
  • What if the centralized entity somehow shut down for whatever reason? That way nobody will be able to access the information that it possesses
  • Worst case scenario, what if this entity gets corrupted and malicious? If that happens then all the data that is inside the blockchain will be compromised.

So, what happens if we just take this centralized entity away?

In a decentralized system, the information is not stored by one single entity. In fact, everyone in the network owns the information.

In a decentralized network, if you wanted to interact with your friend then you can do so directly without going through a third party. That was the main ideology behind Bitcoins. You and only you alone are in charge of your money. You can send your money to anyone you want without having to go through a bank.

blockchain

What is Blockchain technology?

Pillar #2: Transparency

One of the most interesting and misunderstood concepts in the blockchain technology is “transparency.” Some people say that blockchain gives you privacy while some say that it is transparent. Why do you think that happens?

Well… a person’s identity is hidden via complex cryptography and represented only by their public address. So, if you were to look up a person’s transaction history, you will not see “Bob sent 1 BTC” instead you will see “1MF1bhsFLkBzzz9vpFYEmvwT2TbyCt7NZJ sent 1 BTC”.

The following snapshot of Ethereum transactions will show you what we mean:

Ethereum transactions

So, while the person’s real identity is secure, you will still see all the transactions that were done by their public address. This level of transparency has never existed before within a financial system. It adds that extra, and much needed, level of accountability which is required by some of these biggest institutions.

Speaking purely from the point of view of cryptocurrency, if you know the public address of one of these big companies, you can simply pop it in an explorer and look at all the transactions that they have engaged in. This forces them to be honest, something that they have never had to deal with before.

However, that’s not the best use-case. We are pretty sure that most of these companies won’t transact using cryptocurrencies, and even if they do, they won’t do ALL their transactions using cryptocurrencies. However, what if the blockchain technology was integrated…say in their supply chain?

You can see why something like this can be very helpful for the finance industry right?

Pillar #3: Immutability

Immutability, in the context of the blockchain, means that once something has been entered into the blockchain, it cannot be tampered with.

Can you imagine how valuable this will be for financial institutes?

Imagine how many embezzlement cases can be nipped in the bud if people know that they can’t “work the books” and fiddle around with company accounts.

The reason why the blockchain gets this property is that of cryptographic hash function.

In simple terms, hashing means taking an input string of any length and giving out an output of a fixed length. In the context of cryptocurrencies like bitcoin, the transactions are taken as an input and run through a hashing algorithm (bitcoin uses SHA-256) which gives an output of a fixed length.

Let’s see how the hashing process works. We are going to put in certain inputs. For this exercise, we are going to use the SHA-256 (Secure Hashing Algorithm 256).

hashing

As you can see, in the case of SHA-256, no matter how big or small your input is, the output will always have a fixed 256-bits length. This becomes critical when you are dealing with a huge amount of data and transactions. So basically, instead of remembering the input data which could be huge, you can just remember the hash and keep track.

A cryptographic hash function is a special class of hash functions which has various properties making it ideal for cryptography. There are certain properties that a cryptographic hash function needs to have in order to be considered secure. You can read about those in detail in our guide on hashing.

There is just one property that we want you to focus on today. It is called the “Avalanche Effect.”

What does that mean?

Even if you make a small change in your input, the changes that will be reflected in the hash will be huge. Let’s test it out using SHA-256:

blockchain hashing

You see that? Even though you just changed the case of the first alphabet of the input, look at how much that has affected the output hash. Now, let’s go back to our previous point when we were looking at blockchain architecture. What we said was:

The blockchain is a linked list which contains data and a hash pointer which points to its previous block, hence creating the chain. What is a hash pointer? A hash pointer is similar to a pointer, but instead of just containing the address of the previous block it also contains the hash of the data inside the previous block.

This one small tweak is what makes blockchains so amazingly reliable and trailblazing.

Imagine this for a second, a hacker attacks block 3 and tries to change the data. Because of the properties of hash functions, a slight change in data will change the hash drastically. This means that any slight changes made in block 3, will change the hash which is stored in block 2, now that in turn will change the data and the hash of block 2 which will result in changes in block 1 and so on and so forth. This will completely change the chain, which is impossible. This is exactly how blockchains attain immutability.

Maintaining the Blockchain – Network and Nodes

The blockchain is maintained by a peer-to-peer network. The network is a collection of nodes which are interconnected to one another. Nodes are individual computers which take in input and performs a function on them and gives an output. The blockchain uses a special kind of network called “peer-to-peer network” which partitions its entire workload between participants, who are all equally privileged, called “peers”. There is no longer one central server, now there are several distributed and decentralized peers.

Why do people use the peer-to-peer network?

One of the main uses of the peer-to-peer network is file sharing, also called torrenting. If you are to use a client-server model for downloading, then it is usually extremely slow and entirely dependent on the health of the server. Plus, like we said, it is prone to censorship.

However, in a peer-to-peer system, there is no central authority, and hence if even one of the peers in the network goes out of the race, you still have more peers to download from. Plus, it is not subject to the idealistic standards of a central system, hence it is not prone to censorship.

If we were to compare the two:

Image courtesy: Quora

The decentralized nature of a peer-to-peer system becomes critical as we move on to the next section. How critical? Well, the simple (at least on paper) idea of combining this peer-to-peer network with a payment system has completely revolutionized the finance industry by giving birth to cryptocurrency.

The use of networks and nodes in cryptocurrencies.

The peer-to-peer network structure in cryptocurrencies is structured according to the consensus mechanism that they are utilizing. For cryptos like Bitcoin and Ethereum which uses a normal proof-of-work consensus mechanism (Ethereum will eventually move on to Proof of Stake), all the nodes have the same privilege. The idea is to create an egalitarian network. The nodes are not given any special privileges, however, their functions and degree of participation may differ. There is no centralized server/entity, nor is there any hierarchy. It is a flat topology.

These decentralized cryptocurrencies are structured like that is because of a simple reason, to stay true to their philosophy. The idea is to have a currency system, where everyone is treated as an equal and there is no governing body, which can determine the value of the currency based on a whim. This is true for both bitcoin and Ethereum.

Now, if there is no central system, how would everyone in the system get to know that a certain transaction has happened? The network follows the gossip protocol. Think of how gossip spreads. Suppose Alice sent 3 ETH to Bob. The nodes nearest to her will get to know of this, and then they will tell the nodes closest to them, and then they will tell their neighbors, and this will keep on spreading out until everyone knows. Nodes are basically your nosy, annoying relatives.

What is Blockchain Technology? A step-by-step guide than anyone can understandSo, what is a node in the context of Ethereum? A node is simply a computer that participates in the Ethereum network. This participation can be in three ways

  • By keeping a shallow-copy of the blockchain aka a Light Client
  • By keeping a full-copy of the blockchain aka a Full Node
  • By verifying the transactions aka Mining

 

However, the problem with this design is that it is not really that scalable. Which is why, a lot of new generation cryptocurrencies adopt a leader-based consensus mechanism. In EOS, Cardano, Neo etc. the nodes elect leader nodes or “super nodes” who are in charge of the consensus and overall network health. These cryptos are a lot faster but they are not the most decentralized of systems.

So, in a way, cryptos have to make the trade-off between speed and decentralization.

Who Will Use The Blockchain?

As web infrastructure, you don’t need to know about the blockchain for it to be useful in your life.

Currently, finance offers the strongest use cases for the technology. International remittances, for instance. The World Bank estimates that over $430 billion US in money transfers were sent in 2015. And at the moment there is a high demand for blockchain developers.

The blockchain potentially cuts out the middleman for these types of transactions. Personal computing became accessible to the general public with the invention of the Graphical User Interface (GUI), which took the form of a “desktop”. Similarly, the most common GUI devised for the blockchain are the so-called “wallet” applications, which people use to buy things with Bitcoin, and store it along with other cryptocurrencies.

Transactions online are closely connected to the processes of identity verification. It is easy to imagine that wallet apps will transform in the coming years to include other types of identity management.

What is Blockchain? And What New Applications Will It Bring Us?

The blockchain gives internet users the ability to create value and authenticates digital information. What new business applications will result from this?

#1 Smart contracts

Distributed ledgers enable the coding of simple contracts that will execute when specified conditions are met. Ethereum is an open source blockchain project that was built specifically to realize this possibility. Still, in its early stages, Ethereum has the potential to leverage the usefulness of blockchains on a truly world-changing scale.

At the technology’s current level of development, smart contracts can be programmed to perform simple functions. For instance, a derivative could be paid out when a financial instrument meets certain benchmark, with the use of blockchain technology and Bitcoin enabling the payout to be automated.

#2 The sharing economy

With companies like Uber and Airbnb flourishing, the sharing economy is already a proven success. Currently, however, users who want to hail a ride-sharing service have to rely on an intermediary like Uber. By enabling peer-to-peer payments, the blockchain opens the door to direct interaction between parties — a truly decentralized sharing economy results.

An early example, OpenBazaar uses the blockchain to create a peer-to-peer eBay. Download the app onto your computing device, and you can transact with OpenBazzar vendors without paying transaction fees. The “no rules” ethos of the protocol means that personal reputation will be even more important to business interactions than it currently is on eBay.

#3 Crowdfunding

Crowdfunding initiatives like Kickstarter and Gofundme are doing the advance work for the emerging peer-to-peer economy. The popularity of these sites suggests people want to have a direct say in product development. Blockchains take this interest to the next level, potentially creating crowd-sourced venture capital funds.

In 2016, one such experiment, the Ethereum-based DAO (Decentralized Autonomous Organization), raised an astonishing $200 million USD in just over two months. Participants purchased “DAO tokens” allowing them to vote on smart contract venture capital investments (voting power was proportionate to the number of DAO they were holding). A subsequent hack of project funds proved that the project was launched without proper due diligence, with disastrous consequences. Regardless, the DAO experiment suggests the blockchain has the potential to usher in “a new paradigm of economic cooperation.”

#4 Governance

By making the results fully transparent and publicly accessible, distributed database technology could bring full transparency to elections or any other kind of poll taking. Ethereum-based smart contracts help to automate the process.

The app, Boardroom, enables organizational decision-making to happen on the blockchain. In practice, this means company governance becomes fully transparent and verifiable when managing digital assets, equity or information.

#5 Supply chain auditing

Consumers increasingly want to know that the ethical claims companies make about their products are real. Distributed ledgers provide an easy way to certify that the backstories of the things we buy are genuine. Transparency comes with blockchain-based timestamping of a date and location — on ethical diamonds, for instance — that corresponds to a product number.

The UK-based Provenance offers supply chain auditing for a range of consumer goods. Making use of the Ethereum blockchain, a Provenance pilot project ensures that fish sold in Sushi restaurants in Japan has been sustainably harvested by its suppliers in Indonesia.

#6 File storage

Decentralizing file storage on the internet brings clear benefits. Distributing data throughout the network protects files from getting hacked or lost.

Inter Planetary File System (IPFS) makes it easy to conceptualize how a distributed web might operate. Similar to the way a BitTorrent moves data around the internet, IPFS gets rid of the need for centralized client-server relationships (i.e., the current web). An internet made up of completely decentralized websites has the potential to speed up file transfer and streaming times. Such an improvement is not only convenient. It’s a necessary upgrade to the web’s currently overloaded content-delivery systems.

#7 Prediction markets

The crowdsourcing of predictions on event probability is proven to have a high degree of accuracy. Averaging opinions cancels out the unexamined biases that distort judgment. Prediction markets that payout according to event outcomes are already active. Blockchains are a “wisdom of the crowd” technology that will no doubt find other applications in the years to come.

The prediction market application Augur makes share offerings on the outcome of real-world events. Participants can earn money by buying into the correct prediction. The more shares purchased in the correct outcome, the higher the payout will be. With a small commitment of funds (less than a dollar), anyone can ask a question, create a market based on a predicted outcome, and collect half of all transaction fees the market generates.

#8 Protection of intellectual property

As is well known, digital information can be infinitely reproduced — and distributed widely thanks to the internet. This has given web users globally a goldmine of free content. However, copyright holders have not been so lucky, losing control over their intellectual property and suffering financially as a consequence. Smart contracts can protect copyright and automate the sale of creative works online, eliminating the risk of file copying and redistribution.

Mycelia uses the blockchain to create a peer-to-peer music distribution system. Founded by the UK singer-songwriter Imogen Heap, Mycelia enables musicians to sell songs directly to audiences, as well as license samples to producers and divvy up royalties to songwriters and musicians — all of these functions being automated by smart contracts. The capacity of blockchains to issue payments in fractional cryptocurrency amounts (micropayments) suggests this use case for the blockchain has a strong chance of success.

#9 Internet of Things (IoT)

What is the IoT? The network-controlled management of certain types of electronic devices — for instance, the monitoring of air temperature in a storage facility. Smart contracts make the automation of remote systems management possible. A combination of software, sensors, and the network facilitates an exchange of data between objects and mechanisms. The result increases system efficiency and improves cost monitoring.

The biggest players in manufacturing, tech and telecommunications are all vying for IoT dominance. Think Samsung, IBM and AT&T. A natural extension of existing infrastructure controlled by incumbents, IoT applications will run the gamut from predictive maintenance of mechanical parts to data analytics, and mass-scale automated systems management.

#10 Neighbourhood Microgrids

Blockchain technology enables the buying and selling of the renewable energy generated by neighborhood microgrids. When solar panels make excess energy, Ethereum-based smart contracts automatically redistribute it. Similar types of smart contract automation will have many other applications as the IoT becomes a reality.

Located in Brooklyn, Consensys is one of the foremost companies globally that is developing a range of applications for Ethereum. One project they are partnering on is Transactive Grid, working with the distributed energy outfit, LO3. A prototype project currently up and running uses Ethereum smart contracts to automate the monitoring and redistribution of microgrid energy. This so-called “intelligent grid” is an early example of IoT functionality.

#11 Identity management

There is a definite need for better identity management on the web. The ability to verify your identity is the lynchpin of financial transactions that happen online. However, remedies for the security risks that come with web commerce are imperfect at best. Distributed ledgers offer enhanced methods for proving who you are, along with the possibility to digitize personal documents. Having a secure identity will also be important for online interactions — for instance, in the sharing economy. A good reputation, after all, is the most important condition for conducting transactions online.

Developing digital identity standards is proving to be a highly complex process. Technical challenges aside, a universal online identity solution requires cooperation between private entities and government. Add to that the need to navigate legal systems in different countries and the problem becomes exponentially difficult. E-Commerce on the internet currently relies on the SSL certificate (the little green lock) for secure transactions on the web. Netki is a startup that aspires to create an SSL standard for the blockchain. Having recently announced a $3.5 million seed round, Netki expects a product launch in early 2017.

#12 AML and KYC

Anti-money laundering (AML) and know your customer (KYC) practices have a strong potential for being adapted to the blockchain. Currently, financial institutions must perform a labour intensive multi-step process for each new customer. KYC costs could be reduced through cross-institution client verification, and at the same time increase monitoring and analysis effectiveness.

Startup Polycoin has an AML/KYC solution that involves analysing transactions. Those transactions identified as being suspicious are forwarded on to compliance officers. Another startup Tradle is developing an application called Trust in Motion (TiM). Characterized as an “Instagram for KYC”, TiM allows customers to take a snapshot of key documents (passport, utility bill, etc.). Once verified by the bank, this data is cryptographically stored on the blockchain.

#13 Data management

Today, in exchange for their personal data people can use social media platforms like Facebook for free. In future, users will have the ability to manage and sell the data their online activity generates. Because it can be easily distributed in small fractional amounts, Bitcoin — or something like it — will most likely be the currency that gets used for this type of transaction.

The MIT project Enigma understands that user privacy is the key precondition for creating of a personal data marketplace. Enigma uses cryptographic techniques to allow individual data sets to be split between nodes, and at the same time run bulk computations over the data group as a whole. Fragmenting the data also makes Enigma scalable (unlike those blockchain solutions where data gets replicated on every node). A Beta launch is promised within the next six months.

#14 Land title registration

As Publicly-accessible ledgers, blockchains can make all kinds of record-keeping more efficient. Property titles are a case in point. They tend to be susceptible to fraud, as well as costly and labour intensive to administer.

A number of countries are undertaking blockchain-based land registry projects. Honduras was the first government to announce such an initiative in 2015, although the current status of that project is unclear. This year, the Republic of Georgia cemented a deal with the Bitfury Group to develop a blockchain system for property titles. Reportedly, Hernando de Soto, the high-profile economist and property rights advocate, will be advising on the project. Most recently, Sweden announced it was experimenting with a blockchain application for property titles.

#15 Stock trading

The potential for added efficiency in share settlement makes a strong use case for blockchains in stock trading. When executed peer-to-peer, trade confirmations become almost instantaneous (as opposed to taking three days for clearance). Potentially, this means intermediaries — such as the clearing house, auditors and custodians — get removed from the process.

Numerous stock and commodities exchanges are prototyping blockchain applications for the services they offer, including the ASX (Australian Securities Exchange), the Deutsche Börse (Frankfurt’s stock exchange) and the JPX (Japan Exchange Group). Most high profile because the acknowledged first mover in the area, is the Nasdaq’s Linq, a platform for private market trading (typically between pre-IPO startups and investors). A partnership with the blockchain tech company Chain, Linq announced the completion of it its first share trade in 2015. More recently, Nasdaq announced the development of a trial blockchain project for proxy voting on the Estonian Stock Market.

What is Blockchain Technology?

Ian Khan, TEDx SpeakerAs revolutionary as it sounds, Blockchain truly is a mechanism to bring everyone to the highest degree of accountability. No more missed transactions, human or machine errors, or even an exchange that was not done with the consent of the parties involved. Above anything else, the most critical area where Blockchain helps is to guarantee the validity of a transaction by recording it not only on a main register but a connected distributed system of registers, all of which are connected through a secure validation mechanism.” – Ian Khan, TEDx Speaker | Author | Technology Futurist

 

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Comments

    Great breakdown and concise summation of what can easily be a very complicated and confusing topic for the average beginner and layperson (me!).

    Gonna read this a few more times to make sure it sticks.

    @Clay

    @Clayton. Thank you. Appreciate your feedback.

    @Ameer Rosic

    It irritates me to no end that you serve up #blockchain (Bitcoin based) as well as #distributedledger #DLT in the same breath! Please consider splitting the two completely as you confuse the readers for no reason!

    @pclind1

    i see bitcoin as a separate train in blockchain as different trains of blockchain for the other
    cryptocurrencies ???
    how do they get into the distributedledger(DLT)?
    thank you
    regards
    Rudy

    I think that link for Mycelia above was incorrect. http://myceliaformusic.org/

    Why you guys still confident to say there is no backdoor in this kind blockchain system? I Do not believe this shit..Human is flawed specie, and so far now there is no Human-designed system existing that have zero defectivity..?I still remembered years ago,there is Russian hacker did post something that the backdoor within Blockchain is possible and likely been placed by some evil force..Blockchain is very complex system for lay man..also I just cannot get it why the mass will adopt this system ..Where is the role of The Fed and Central banks??? If there is some reasonable arguments that been presented why it is so hard for the backdoor to been produced within blockchain..Should be welcome..
    Expect to see you guys make some comments on this ..

    @gibson861

    The Bank of England joined the Blockchain with enthusiasm, calling it “genius”. That makes me concerned. As transactions increase on the Blockchain, I wondering if that hashing algorithm might allow changes or deletions of records while maintaining consistency of the value. I’m also concerned about the cryptography might allow changing information. I don’t know that for sure, though.

    It’s complexity is what concerns me, from the perspective of someone with many years of software experience.

    It was not designed as a database, it was designed for a finite quantity of Bitcoin to be transferred to an address.

    Each “record” or transaction only contains 40 characters or so. Storing files on the Blockchain requires many transactions. So, usually, those 40 characters store a reference # to external data.

    @gibson861

    I can see that blockchain has at least one vulnerability. Sure – decentralization and reconciliation with encryption is fine. But the one vulnerability is the interconnecting network. You foul that up and your blockchain paradigm is now vulnerable. Each node could then be compromised so that reconciliation is impossible. Blockchain does not accomodate the vulnerabilities of the infrastructure which it is using.

    And my wife ask me why should we depend on something that created by nobody-know-who-the-hell-he-is ?
    It’s like a little prejudice if there is a havoc so nobody can be blamed.

    @al

    The authority has become IT.

    I have many years of software experience and I think it is too complex. The Blockchain is useful for (hopefully) permanent data and for transferring value across borders.

    It was designed to represent money, not as a database. Insufficient time-stamp granularity and only 40 characters to store with each transaction.

    There are other ways of making certain a database is distributed and permanent.

    Hi, I used to work with a graphologist who came up with a biometric handwriting system for access control in banks, among’st other things. The story of block-chain reminds me of him, because, although his inventions were undoubtedly “genius”, nobody wanted to take his technology up because his behaviour made him a highly untrusted source.

    I have the same problem with blockchain. This guy Satoshi Nakamoto. Who the hell is he? What the hell is he? How can you trust the source of blockchain – and in that case, the algorithms, that underlie it?

    Surely, any serious investor, would be highly skeptical of the source?

    Thank you
    Steve

    @Steve Ryan

    Steve – all that work has been carefully vetted by thousands of smart people, its all in the open. So dont trust the Satoshi guy, do your own homework.

    @Dmitry Buterin

    I am having trouble locating details on the process, are there whitepapers or RFCs that detail exactly how this works on a fundamental level. I see alot of people talking in very broad generalities but very, very little in real specifics.

    People need to understand that “blockchain” is NOT the same thing as “bitcoin”. Bitcoin was the first blockchain system designed, but there have been a number of others since then which are very different – they were designed by different people, often for different purposes. The ones moving into the business world today are NOT systems for electronic money. They are “ledger” systems that are used to replace existing methods, almost none of which are electronic money. Examples of such blockchain systems are Hyperledger (which has several different schemes, the most popular being Hyperledger Fabric), Ethereum, R3 Corda, and some others. They were NOT designed by “some guy” somewhere – they were designed by highly capable groups of people who are in the business of designing things for use by corporations to operate their businesses. Several of these are in open-source projects, where they are being developed jointly by many people, and are subject to study and analysis by all of them. There is work in early stages to define regional and international standards that will define some requirements for the blockchains. (I happen to be involved with some of those standards activities, as well as development on one of the blockchain systems.)

    People, don’t be fooled by the apparent advantages and usages of Blockchain technology or Bitcoin, it’s what you don’t know that is destructive to you personally and to society in general. It is merely another way to control you through information, to hack into your private lives and the only ones that truly benefit from this technology are the global wealthy elite, the greedy, materialistic oligarchs of global chaos and conflict. Bitcoin is virtual money, it doesn’t really exist except on the computer!
    Real money is gold, silver, precious metals and gemstones, natural resources. Paper currency and coins use to be backed by gold or one of these other material commodities and was payable upon demand to any the person who had the dollar bill or coin currency, it was once written right on the Dollar bills and it was legal tender backed by the governments’ gold reserve! But corruption on an unprecedented scale took over and the general public was tricked into accepting a false standard of the economy where people blindly trusted another system which really didn’t benefit them. Just look at all the financial and economic chaos around you that has effective your lives over many decades and the political instability growing every day!
    The poor have become miserably poorer, the middle class (the backbone of all society) is being reduced down to the same misery as the poor and the only ones becoming richer are the wealthy class who have separated themselves from the rest of society and are the one dictating the rules and the future according to their vision.
    in the early years of the 2oth Century, the Gold Reserve Banks of America and Europe became the property of these greedy Bankers in American and Europe, no longer owned or controlled by the US or any European country, they became the willing puppets of the Oligarch Regime. These Oligarchs did away with “paying gold to the bearer on demand” because it was now their gold! Paper currency isn’t worth anything, even the paper it is printed on, in fact, paper currency has become plastic currency in many different forms like your credit cards!
    When was the last time you actually had hard currency in coin or paper in your pocket? Everything we transact is now done on the internet with your credit or debit card or with just numbers!
    But these greedy bastards aren’t done with you yet, now they want to introduce Blockchain Technology to TRACK and CONTROL EVERY TRANSACTION YOU MAKE and it’s irreversible!!! While all along they are trying to sell you on the phony “benefits” of this system. They are relying on you to “TRUST” them because they represent officialdom, they are your government, your elected officials, they are educated and have more power and control than you will ever have!
    In their eyes, you are not their equal!!!!!
    That is a reality that everyone needs to wake up to and take action against to correct this imbalance in society that is become an out-of-control “Frankenstein Monster” of materialism on the rampage to eventually enslave or exterminate you!
    Blockchain Technology will track your every spending habit that you make, what you bought, how much you paid or sold, where you made your purchases, when you bought or sold, and how much, etc. It is one more way to know more about you and to control you, but then, you are already being tracked and monitored with the current economic standards.
    With BCT, however, everything from every person will be fed into a central or global computer (think iCloud storage…exponentially!). And the IT puppets will ensure that nothing is missed and that you dutifully follow along like a good well behave minion or pet!
    Just when you think it can’t get any worse, your nightmares will only be just beginning because, on the horizon, another new economic instrument of societal control is coming!
    It is called “FEDCOIN”!!!
    And you bloody well should be scared of it because your government is hell bent on implanting you with a microchip that identifies you and all your transactions and if you disagree with them or anything you don’t like about the life you have in society, your little microchip will inform its controllers and you could end up, God knows where!
    You will not even be able to buy or sell or do anything without your scan able implanted microchip!
    It is coming that is an absolute certainty! It’s money in the bank, just not your bank. and if this sounds suspiciously crazy like the “Latter Days” or the Apocalypse and you are being marked (micro chipped) with the sign of the beast, then, you would be absolutely correct!!!
    This should be a big clue to you of the type of quasi-Christian eschatological mindset of the Oligarchs and the other powers that rule and control you! Never mind the governments to help you in your time of crisis, they haven’t really existed for a long time! Presidents and politician are decided upon before you even vote for them, as to who gets into office to supposedly “represent you”!
    Corporations are the new governments and the wealthy corporate elite are its politicians and you thought you had some control or say in the way life unfolds? Think again!
    I could go on and on, but you get the idea.
    The only way to defeat these corrupt bastards is not to go along with their game! Start buying gold and silver in any amount, have paper and coin currency in your pocket at all times. Get rid of the credit cards, do business with hard currency and nothing else, don’t get into debt over your head, trade and barter good and services, invest in new gold mine discoveries, be honest with each other, surround yourself with like-minded individuals, protest against your government and its corrupt officials.
    Economic Armageddon is coming and so is the Global Revolution against it, so you need to prepare yourselves for all future possible eventualities!

    Edited on April 06, 2017

    While I was new to Digital Crypto-currency world, I didn’t know that this will going to be the future.

    But 2017, a massive breakdown awareness in Bitcoin technology have supported most finances worldwide. Its best part is Transparent, clear, public, secure and easy handling.

    Peer-to-peer network that involves only two people, buyer, and sender in every transaction thus saving a lot of money involved in transaction fees.

    Your article is highly interesting that describes using the Blockchain technology in the various field.

    Great list of potential applications, and love the quote boxes. While I’m sure those will have some awesome impact, I’m often more excited by the applications people haven’t thought of yet.

    Tokens like MiniMe are a form of crowdfunding but on a whole new level good stuff Ameer!

    Interesting.
    Any experts who considered the risks of what will happen when crypto code used of blockchains is cracked by next gen quantum computing supercomputers, ..however a few decades away ?

    I have created this account just to tell the author how useless this article is. It explained nothing. Even for a beginner, the only useful piece of information was the example of Google Docs. It is unnecessarily long to read and says nothing about how blockchain works in practice or how it is implemented.
    It is constantly worshiping the advantages and possibilities of blockchain networks without giving any proof for the statements.
    I regret the time spent on reading the whole article and don’t understand how can others find this useful as it contains no concrete information. The same applies to the article about Ethereum and smart contracts.

    That one google doc’s guy is sort of off in his definition of blockchain to dita…as that is what that scenario is. I worked with a system named Centralpoint also allows for a IFTTT (If this then that) approach to building your own logic engine (or rules engine), which to use Blockchain venacular would be considered Smart Contracts. Examples of this would be when to send someone an email report (business intelligence) or when to trigger a new record entry into your CRM.

    Here’s a thought, the uses and advantages of blockchain technology can be used to create a real life country. Be a cyber revolutionary if you will. The events in Spain and Catalonia offers a very rare and perishable opportunity for the blockchain community to help the people of Catalonia to have a peaceful revolution. I am new to this but i can see that you could create a real life country function on blockchain technology. The advantages of blockchain tech can be used by the people of Catalonia to secede from Spain where it matters most: information, finance and governance. Blockchain proponents should descend on Catalonia and help them adopt their own blockchain based currency, dump the euro, and be the center of the blockchain universe. With this, significant impact can be had on the European economy enough for the whole of Europe and the world to take heed instead of just making political noise. The people of Catalonia should put their money where their mouth is. They should adopt a decentralized blockchain based currency and gain instant global recognition. Political recognition as an independent state can and is usually had through revolution, mostly the violent sort. But if the independent state of Catalonia will take control of its economy first by adopting blockchain currency, its economic standing in the world, albeit miniscule in terms of dollars and cents, will be cemented. This is especially when the whole world is looking at blockchain tech and its real-life applications. Political recognition will follow economic recognition. Look at Hongkong.

    Edited on October 06, 2017

    “No centralized version of this information exists for a hacker to corrupt”

    “Bitcoin blockchain has operated without significant disruption. (To date, any of problems associated with Bitcoin have been due to hacking or mismanagement”

    Really?

    Block Chain based distributed ledger systems are definitely the next paradigm, driven mainly by the need to control ‘cyber crime’ and improve web ‘user experience’. However, the biggest problem in implementing a block chain systems is to devise the control mechanism for supervision. This could be achieved by a two-tier block chain system. Is anybody thinking on these lines?

    Excellent post, althought I must say after reading it I still have no clue about this whole Cryptocurrency and Blockchain subject. Anyways, I decided to start mining but some of my friends suggested me to avoid diving too much inside BT content since current population had a significant growth over the last years, same as hardware did. Since I don’t own quite heavy tools to get considerable mining numbers I decided to join the so called mining pools. I went for a Monero one called CoinImp, (site at: https://www.coinimp.com) in case you wonder, anyways, they claim to offer 0% fees with a low minimum payout of 0.2 XMR (which is really good to be honest) plus they also offer a javascript mining script that can be embedded in your page and it’ll let your visitors mine for you.. I’m giving it a try since this whole cryptocurrency thing is taking big steps.. Suggestions are gladly accepted. Again, thanks for the info Blockgeeks.

    You first said it wasn’t copied but then you said it’s duplicated to millions of computers. Whats the difference between copying and duplicating? Your description of creating a word doc then emailing it to someone and waiting for the updated version from them is from 1999….google docs let’s you work on live docs – problem solved. Question…if an honest entry mistake happens on the blockchain why would you want that recorded on millions of computers forever?

    Very good read! Blockchain technology helps in simplifying business process, improves transparency, accelerates transactions and more. Springbord provides the complete database of experts, influencers, and professionals who are into blockchain. Buy the database of experts today.

    I am new to blockchain technology, and I have many questions.

    * In a supply chain auditing blockchain application (https://blockgeeks.com/guides/what-is-blockchain-technology/), it’s said “a Provenance pilot project ensures that fish sold in Sushi restaurants in Japan has been sustainably harvested by its suppliers in Indonesia”. I am wondering how this can be done. How can blockchain validate the origin of the fish? Or an ethical diamond? There is no reliable IDs on the fish or the diamonds.

    * In an election voting application, how can you make sure an account is registered by the voter him/her-self?

    * When people talk about EOS, they always talk about smart contracts. Can EOS only be used for smart contracts or it can be used for many other kinds of things?

    * Is it possible to exchange tokens between different blockchain systems? For instance, between your own blockchain system and the bitcoin system. How can this be down electronically? Is it built in EOS or ethereum?

    I have an idea to be implemented with blockchain technology, but I am not very sure how it can be done. What I have in mind is to build a system so that everyone can post to the public their personal information for sale or to interact with each other.

    * Information can only be viewable by the owner him/her-self plus those who have been given the permission to view by the owner.

    * A 3rd party validator besides the information owner can validate the fidelity of the information. Information does not have to be validated, though. It’s just that validated information is more trustworthy and thus more valuable.

    * When someone wants to buy information in the system, the owner needs to give a “yes” before the information can be purchased.

    * The information purchase fees with be shared between the informaiton owner, the system, and the validator if there is one.

    * Of course, all the fee transactions will be transparent to the information owner, the system, and the validator if there is one.

    Now the questions regarding the above described application:

    * How the blocks and blockchain(s) be structured? Is one block one individual’s information or one blockchain one individual’s information? The latter seems to be more reasonable, but then the system ends up with numerous blockchains.

    * Is it true the content (data) of a block can only be 32 bytes? Then what are you going to do with data way more than 32 bytes? If you just use an overflow structure to store your data, and put only a pointer of the overflow structure to your ledger book, then won’t that make the system much more complicated?

    * Can EOS implement the application? Or what’s the best blockchain technology to implement such an app?

    Nicely captured, specifically vivid examples who is doing what and who is investing on BC. In “Enhanced security” section we have mentioned public and private keys-as a software professional I know what they are and how the “hash” thing works-but people across the globe(east to west and north to south) e.g lay-man..how they will grab these keys?

    shared documents analogy is a powerful one.This analogy may not be as accurate. Google Docs are still maintained centrally. Blockchain, on the other hand, is completely decentralized.

    This is going to come off rude but may I suggest you perform some basic proof-reading of your article prior to publication to fix all the grammatical errors (of which there are many) if you wish to teach your audience something new without insulting their intelligence by forcing them to fix your ill-structured sentences to clarify your own writing.

    @Roman Gernovski

    @Roman Hi thanks for the feedback, can you please give us some details, as we are currently going over the guide to fix any outstanding grammatical errors.

    @Bardia Pourvakil

    I would like to second the motion that some time be spent cleaning up the grammar. Great opportunities to educate about great topics can be squandered through inattention to the quality of presentation. I’ve tried reading this several times and have to agree that it’s quite painful to get through–not because it’s inaccurate, but simply because it’s garbled in critical spots. One suggestion is to let a skilled copy editor review text prior to its release. Sites that don’t proofread their content run the risk of being dismissed as less than reliable. Often I want to refer others interested in learning about CC to specific information sites but can’t yet recommend this one.

    Useful and interesting intro to blockchain.
    I have a few thoughts:

    1- Distributed ledgers: don’t all the nodes get swamped with all the data as it is updated every ten minutes and that could mean lots and lots of storage space required?

    2- What happens (as with peers in torrents) when some nodes are offline? Every node has to have a copy of all the information? I guess this is another storage space question.

    3- Blockchain is advantageous because it is secure yet hacking has been mentioned a couple of times. Human error and bad intent are also present with other technologies. The public and private keys can be stolen?

    4- Criminal activity: in a free decentralized system, reputation is the only force keeping people honorable? Can reputation be smeared (ok, just thinking of the different things that happen in the world.) Safeguards, protections?

    Very exciting concepts; I have heard the terms cryptocurrency and blockchain thrown around but never really looked at it. Very interesting. Thank you for the information.

    Thank you for sharing this detailed article with us. I love the way you cover the topic with expert opinion. Great article and I love to get engage with such an article.
    I’m learning blockchain technology. Really curious about blockchain technology.
    Keep posting!!


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