Blockchain technology is exploding in popularity and adoption. It has the potential to change the way we do business, trade goods, and communicate with one another.
Yet, while blockchain can seem like a daunting and complicated topic for many people new to cryptocurrency, it’s actually quite simple once you know how it works in practice.
In this article, we will cover some of the basics of distributed ledger technology so that you can understand what blockchain is all about.
- What is Blockchain?
- How Does Blockchain Technology Work?
- How Blockchain Technology Works in Practice: Digital Signatures and Distributed Consensus
- What is Blockchain Decentralization?
- The Transparent and Anonymous Nature of Blockchain Technology
- Is Blockchain Secure?
- How Blockchain is Related to Cryptocurrency?
- How Does Blockchain Relate to Banks?
- Pros and Cons of Using Blockchain
- What is a Blockchain Platform?
- How Many Blockchains Are There?
- Ready to Learn More About Blockchain?
What is Blockchain?
Blockchain technology requires a group of people (referred to as nodes) who are all connected and able to communicate with one another over computer networks.
Each node on the blockchain contains an up-to-date version of its own record, which means they constantly need to be synchronized in order for every member of the network to stay updated on what’s new at any given time.
To achieve this synchronization without centralizing control, no single person needs permission from anyone else; rather it relies purely on trust between members within each individual blockchain network.
This creates something called distributed consensus, where each member of the network verifies that everyone else’s records are accurate and agrees on what is actually true.
If you think about this for a second, it becomes clear why blockchain technology has become so popular in recent years.
Instead of having to rely on someone already within an organization or business who can verify data accuracy (like your bank does with its employees), anyone from anywhere can come to check out whether everything is correct without needing permission.
How Does Blockchain Technology Work?
The first thing we need to understand when talking about how blockchain works at its core is hashes. Blockchains contain blocks, which themselves have three components: transaction data, digital signature(s) used to unlock them, and hash values that link back into previous blocks.
Each block contains a hash value that is generated by combining the data inside of it along with its own digital signature and then using an algorithm to create a unique code based on this information.
This process is called hashing, hence blockchain’s name being “hash-linked.”
Hashes are used in tandem with each other because they’re cryptographic keys that allow for both security (by locking blocks together) while also allowing anyone to be able to access them simply through knowledge of their original hashes rather than having to know all the individual details within any given block or transaction.
The important thing here about hashes is how they function as verification devices. If something changes even slightly once it has been put into place, you will get completely new hashes.
This is how blockchain technology distinguishes legitimate transactions from attempts to corrupt the ledger, which means it can work without having any central authority figure overseeing everything that happens.
How Blockchain Technology Works in Practice: Digital Signatures and Distributed Consensus
Digital signatures are also crucial components of blockchain’s functionality; they permit individual records or blocks on chains to be linked using hashing so as to create an unalterable history based on cryptography instead of trust alone.
Since each block contains its own digital signature, this gives anyone who wants access a way to verify both where the information came from (the previous hash) and whether or not it has been tampered with by checking on the current hash value based on what remains within that specific block.
This verification process is called distributed consensus, which makes it possible for blockchain technology to work without requiring any central authority or controlling party overseeing everything that happens within the network itself.
The combination of digital signatures and hashing allows blockchain networks to operate on trust rather than an individual’s relationship with a centralized entity like traditional data management systems do.
If we look at this from another perspective, this means is that if you can verify something using just one block in your chain (and its hash), then you’re not going to need permission from anyone else outside of your particular blockchain network before taking action.
This is since everyone will already be able to see whatever evidence you have available through their own nodes.
What is Blockchain Decentralization?
In addition to not needing permission from a central authority, blockchain technology is also decentralized.
This means that there isn’t any point of failure or entity that can take control over everything within the network itself and essentially make it useless (for example: if your bank’s database gets corrupted by hackers).
If we look at this process more closely, we see how blockchains manage this on their own without relying on anyone else in order to function properly.
To start with, each new transaction must be verified using whatever mining software you’re running as part of your node participation before being added onto whichever chain it belongs to.
All transactions are public information due to their distributed nature so everyone will know exactly what has been sent where once they go through this verification process.
This makes it possible to know how much currency everyone has and what they’re using them for, but not anything about the individual people themselves behind those accounts (there is no bank account number or username associated with any transaction).
While blockchain technology does give you a high degree of personal anonymity when transacting cryptocurrency like Bitcoin, there are still ways in which specific individuals can be identified if someone knows enough information beforehand (like their wallet address).
The Transparent and Anonymous Nature of Blockchain Technology
Since blockchain technology is completely transparent, it’s not possible to have any transactions that are entirely anonymous.
This means everyone on your particular blockchain network will be able to see every transaction you make in real-time and verify where they came from using whatever mining software they’re running as part of their node participation.
What this also means is that once a given cryptocurrency has been used for its intended purpose (for example: buying something), then there isn’t going to be any way of reversing the transaction or getting back anything spent during it.
This is since blockchains use irreversible digital signatures which can only be verified rather than falsified.
Is Blockchain Secure?
Since anyone who is running their own blockchain node can verify what’s going on within the network, there isn’t much risk of having fraudulent or fake transactions being added to whatever chain it belongs to.
This also means you don’t have any need for a central authority in order to secure your data (like how banks use multiple security checkpoints and backups).
While every block within a given blockchain does contain its own hash value that has been computed by checking on the previous one, this doesn’t mean anything other than verifying whether or not it hasn’t already been tampered with using distributed consensus.
As long as no bad actors are able to compromise enough nodes throughout your entire blockchain network (which would require an unfathomable amount of computing power), everything should be safe and secure.
While blockchain technology does provide a high degree of security when it comes to keeping your cryptocurrency transactions anonymous, there are still ways in which specific individuals can end up being identified if someone knows enough information beforehand (like their wallet address).
Bitcoin is the most well-known cryptocurrency in existence today, but it’s not actually used as a form of payment since its value fluctuates too much.
While blockchain technology does function independently from Bitcoin itself (since there are hundreds upon hundreds of other cryptocurrencies out there), they do share some features that make them similar to one another.
For example, each BTC transaction uses ECDSA signatures which take advantage of both elliptic curve cryptography and digital signatures for security purposes while being added onto the blockchain ledger afterward where everyone can verify their accuracy with mining software.
In order to have any chance at creating new Bitcoins or verifying transactions on your own without running a full node, you would need access to someone else’s public key so this means trusting whoever it belongs to (which is similar to how you trust cryptocurrency exchanges like Byte Federal).
How Does Blockchain Relate to Banks?
Since blockchain technology is mostly used to secure cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin, it’s not going to be much help when you want a loan or checking account.
However, this doesn’t mean the two are completely separate since they both use cryptography for security purposes (even if their focus isn’t on financial transactions).
Even though blockchain does provide some additional privacy measures when transacting cryptocurrency online, there still aren’t any fully anonymous options available in today’s market.
This is due to how transparent blockchains really are which means you’d need your own private network that no one else has access to.
Blockchain also makes transaction speeds faster than ever before by requiring only one confirmation before money sent over the internet can become irreversible and tamper-proof thanks to its distributed consensus.
Pros and Cons of Using Blockchain
Among the most notable benefits of blockchain technology is how secure it tends to be when compared with traditional data storage methods.
When you record anything onto a centralized server, that doesn’t mean it’s going to stay safe from prying eyes or a random cyber attack since anyone who knows enough can access your files whenever they want (even if those people are over on the other side of the world).
In comparison, blockchains use cryptography as well as distributed consensus across multiple nodes before any transaction gets added which means you don’t have to worry about someone trying to intercept what’s being sent between two parties.
Blockchain also helps protect your privacy better than most online financial transactions by generating one-way hashes for every single piece of information included in a transaction.
This can only be mathematically proven to have been sent from a specific wallet address at some point in time.
While cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin use blockchain technology, it’s still possible for anyone with the right hardware and software setups to mine new coins without needing too much power or resources (which is what makes this form of mining so popular).
However, there are also downsides associated with using blockchains as well since they tend to produce large amounts of heat when compared with other data processing methods.
When you’re talking about cryptocurrency transactions that require proof-of-work algorithms before being added onto the public ledger, generating these hashes does take up quite a bit of your system’s memory so more electricity will need to be used than normal as well.
Although blockchain does provide additional privacy measures for cryptocurrency users, it’s still possible to track down your public address if you ever want to cash out or sell what you’ve mined in the future.
What is a Blockchain Platform?
Since blockchain is decentralized by nature, it’s not like you can just jump onto a single platform to get started.
Even though most blockchains are open source (which means anyone can access or modify the code if they want), there still needs to be some type of governing body that controls how new updates will work with everyone involved in maintaining these databases.
The good news for cryptocurrency users is that many platforms now offer both desktop and mobile versions so you won’t have any problems getting set up on your device after downloading everything over Wi-Fi.
How Many Blockchains Are There?
When you look at the cryptocurrency market, it’s impossible to not notice how many different blockchain platforms are being developed every year.
Many of these new projects feature their own unique currencies while others try out completely new ways to use blockchain technology for other purposes (such as file storage solutions).
Even though there are hundreds of blockchains in existence today, most people only recognize a handful since they tend to stick with what’s popular or well-known throughout media outlets.
For example, Bitcoin is by far one of the best-known cryptocurrencies on the market right now, according to bytefederal.com.
This means its blockchain platform has also generated quite a bit more attention than any alternative options available for users looking for something similar but better suited to their needs.
Ready to Learn More About Blockchain?
Blockchain technology is truly a marvel in today’s world. To learn more about this subject, continue reading this blog for more helpful articles.