Blockchain is revolutionary but
extremely complex. We break down the tech, ecosystem, and lore around
this innovative distributed data structure—from cryptocurrency and smart
contracts to Satoshi Nakamoto.
Bitcoin, Dogecoin, Litecoin, and the hundreds of cryptocurrencies out there comprise billions of dollars in fluctuating wealth—none of which would exist in that digital form without blockchain.
At its most fundamental level, a blockchain is a string of securely
linked data blocks serving as a time-stamped digital history of, well,
pretty much anything. In an era where the fluid nature of the internet
can be used to alter and rewrite even the most obscure of facts, blockchain meticulously documents every transaction and distributes that cryptographic data across decentralized nodes.
Originally introduced in 2008
by mysterious Bitcoin creator Satoshi Nakamoto, the underlying
structure of blockchain technology extends far beyond just
cryptocurrency. From contracts and financial ledgers
to monitoring and securing all manner of data and the next generation
of distributed applications, the distributed database and digital
transaction technology is already starting to show up in all sorts of
before businesses, developers, and curious technologists can do
anything with blockchain, they need to know what it is, how it works,
and all of the different factors and players affecting where it goes
next. To help make sense of this extremely complicated yet vitally
important concept, we’ve put together an A-Z list of everything you need
to know about blockchain.
A: Apps and APIs
The power of blockchain is in applying it to any kind of transactional data, and one of the easiest ways to do that is through
(APIs). APIs such as Blockchain Wallet and Chain allow developers to integrate distributed data infrastructure into
apps, new forms of cryptocurrency and payments, or entire
The most prominent example of that is Ethereum, a blockchain app platform with its own integrated development environment
(IDE) that lets you build custom cryptocurrencies and smart
contract-based apps (detailed further down this list). Etherium is also
its own cryptocurrency and the only one (aside from Bitcoin) with a
current market cap of more than $1 billion.
Bitcoin uses blockchain as its distributed peer-to-peer
(P2P) transaction ledger. Bitcoin users or “miners” (explained further
down this list) create new blocks, each of which contain data batches of
various timestamped Bitcoin transactions. Whenever any amount of
cryptocurrency changes hands, a transaction occurs and is then
authenticated across a distributed network of blocks. This is where any
user can view the entire transaction history, but the decentralized
structure and cryptographic data prevents any tampering or any way to
track that transaction to its source. The current world market value of
all Bitcoin currency is more than $8 billion.
C: Craig Steven Wright
The biggest mystery behind
Bitcoin and blockchain is who authored the infamous 2008 white paper,
the true identity behind the pseudonym Satoshi Nakamoto. At first the
world thought it might be this guy and, most recently, the wild goose chase has focused on an Australian coder and entrepreneur named Craig Steven Wright,
though there’s still plenty of speculation as to whether Wright’s the
real deal or an elaborate con artist (especially since he’s declined to prove it). It would seem the search for the father of blockchain continues but, in the meantime, it makes for some great tech lore.