So What Is… Blockchain
For as long as there has been a bitcoin, there has been a blockchain behind it. But for many outside observers, the cryptocurrency gets all the attention, while the innovation goes understated. But as an area of technology, it is and has the potential to be on of the most disruptive.
According to some, the rate of development is set to accelerate in 2018, as companies scrape the surface of its potential. But as a system, a disruptor of established businesses, and an enabler for change. What is it exactly? And where do the likes of Bitcoin and Ethereum come into it?
So What is Blockchain
Why is it called that first of all? Think of all the information you place on this system as a block. The more you add, the longer the chain becomes, hence: Block-Chain. As a system, it’s an entirely decentralised method of storing and sending data, open for companies or individuals to use.
On a broad level, Don and Alex Tapscott, authors of the 2016 ‘The Blockchain Revolution’ summarised its function.
“It’s simply an incorruptible digital ledger of economic transactions. That can be programmed to record not financial transactions but virtually everything of value.”
From a pure level, it operates as a container for any information you’d want to store on it. It began as a means of sending money internationally, to individuals. Or, more controversially, to websites obstructed from funding by companies and banks; Wikileaks, for example.
Secure and Fast Disruption
Being completely decentralised allows for individuals to transport information, documents or money. All the while, being completely observable, but unalterable by anyone apart from the owner. In transactions and transfers of money, it operates similarly to direct debit or transfer of funds on a rolling basis.
The difference is in the security of the transaction and its speed; blockchain takes a segment of code from your chain. Transfers it to whoever you want to send it to, all while encrypted and unchangeable. Unlike a Direct Debit, no-one can enter your information and change it without you, or the system knowing about it.
Where it truly shines is how fast it can be; ever wonder why there are so many cryptocurrencies? It’s because each one has differences in purpose and ability. A good example is Ripple, one of the smaller-scale cryptos available, but has a transaction speed ten-times faster than PayPal.
How can it be used?
“Online identity and reputation will be decentralized. We will own the data that belongs to us.” – William Mougayar (2016).
For individuals, the ability to store vital and sensitive information on a completely decentralised platform may be enough. In a time when personal security is not only vulnerable but represents a valuable fruit to be picked by third parties. We’ve seen this with the likes of Facebook and Cambridge Analytica recently, so having a decentralised, secure storage system is its own reward.
For businesses, it represents a revolutionary answer to serious questions in optimising its services. It’s even resulted in the potential for rapid movements of enormous volumes of information not previously possible.