What’s this Blockchain I keep hearing about?

How Bitcoin’s decentralized cryptocurrency technology could be the answer to world peace, or at least a more transparent and secure digital world.

Portrait of Tammy Strobel

How Bitcoin’s decentralized cryptocurrency technology could be the answer to world peace, or at least a more transparent and secure digital world.

My Reading Room

So you’ve heard of Bitcoin as this form of digital currency, but don’t really understand how it works, where to use it, or even how get hold of some. Not surprising really since you can’t exactly waltz into any bank and exchange for some Bitcoins or buy groceries from the wet market down the street with it. Whenever people talk about Bitcoin, another buzzword often pops up, and that’s Blockchain. Why is that?

Well, that’s because Bitcoin is the first digital currency to make use of blockchain technology as a form of secure transaction verification. In Bitcoin, a blockchain is a distributed database of transactions that is duplicated throughout a decentralized network. Compared to the traditional centralized server model, blockchain offers two major benefits: durability and transparency.

Every computer (node) in a blockchain network always carries a full identical copy of the database that’s constantly reconciled across the network, therefore there is no one master copy sitting on some server somewhere. This means that your data cannot be owned by any one authority (or company) and is also protected against any single point failures in the network. When a transaction happens, all the nodes in the network concurrently verify and authenticate the transaction, then appends a permanent record of said transaction onto the database as the next “block”, thus forming a “chain” of events that is publicly, independently auditable and virtually impossible to corrupt or manipulate without bringing down the entire blockchain network.

Did you know?
The development of Bitcoin, and by proxy the first blockchain is attributed to a Satoshi Nakamoto based on a whitepaper published in 2008 called Bitcoin: A Peer-to-Peer Electronic Cash System. The name however turned out to be a pseudonym, and to date, the real person(s) behind Satoshi Nakamoto is still being speculated.

My Reading Room

Blockchain is awesome, I want to jump onto the bandwagon right now!

Acronis notary
Acronis introduced the Notary feature into their consumer True Image 2017 backup software in January 2017 as part of its premium New Generation offerings. This function allows you to sign, notarize and authenticate digital files and documents using blockchain technology, creating proof of integrity that files haven’t been tampered with, timestamping and tracing document movements or other digital rights management uses.

Blockstack / onename

blockstack.org / onename.com
If you’re a developer, Blockstack lets you build apps on its decentralized and server-less network. Its creators call it the new internet, where “there are no middlemen, no passwords, no massive data silos to breach, and no services tracking us around the internet.” Even if you’ve no interest in developing apps, you can take advantage of Onename to create a blockchain ID for yourself which can be used to prove your online identities or digitally sign documents.

Storj (pronounced as storage) is a cloud storage service that uses a distributed P2P network to store your files instead of their own servers. If this seems familiar to you, it’s because it’s basically how Bittorent works. Except, instead of sharing files with everyone, you’re storing files with them. Data is protected with end-to-end encryption using blockchain technology so no one but you can open your files, plus you can even earn some money by renting out extra storage space.

Text: Zachary Chan / Illustration: freepik.com, ken koh