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  • Pascal Hügli

What is blockchain technology?


Photo by Shubham Dhage on Unsplash


What is Blockchain technology?

Blockchain technology is a digital, and distributed ledger technology that securely records transactions across a network of computers. It uses cryptography to secure and verify transactions and prevent double-spending. The transactions are grouped into blocks, and each block is added to a chain of blocks (hence the name “blockchain”) in a linear, chronological order, establishing a peer-to-peer network. The network's users (also called nodes) must validate any new data to be added to the ledger and agree on what should be recorded before the ledger may be updated. Should any node want to add malicious data, the network as a whole will detect it and discard the malicious transactions. This way, a blockchain is maintained by its network instead of a central entity.


How many blockchains are there?

It's difficult to determine how many blockchains there are, as new ones are continually being developed and existing ones can fork or be discontinued. With about 20,000 active cryptocurrencies built on the blockchain infrastructure, there are an increasing number of active blockchains. It is important to note that blockchains come in different shapes and forms and differ significantly in terms of security, decentralization, and resilience.


How does Blockchain work?

A blockchain works in a unique way. In a blockchain, each piece of data is arranged into a block. These blocks in the blockchain hold relevant data. The blockchain can only store a certain amount of data in each block. As soon as that block is full, data starts to build up in the following block. The first block, often known as the Genesis block, marks the start of a blockchain. The initial block is given a number, known as a hash, that corresponds to the moment the block was made. The next block is then given a new hash that connects it to the preceding block. A chain is created by adding more blocks in order.


What does a blockchain do?

A blockchain stores data. In other words, all computers connected to the peer-to-peer network store a log of all blocks. As a result, the ledger becomes distributed, adding to resilience and decentralization. Even if one computer crashes, the blockchain's data is still preserved on the other computers. Each node in the blockchain network has two additional crucial roles to play in addition to maintaining a record of the blockchain: (1) Nodes must assist in validating transactions, and (2) nodes must aid in reaching consensus, or, essentially, nodes must agree on how to record those transactions.


Is a blockchain decentralized?

In its purest nature, a blockchain is decentralized. Generally speaking, it is viewed as a technology that can provide answers to many troubling issues, including digital money, digital identity, online ownership of assets and data, security, and interestingly, future decentralized judgment.


Is a blockchain efficient and performant?

First and foremost, a blockchain is not supposed to be performant and efficient because a blockchain should prioritize decentralization, resilience, and security. As it stands, efficiency and scalability usually come with centralization, which is not what a blockchain is optimizing for.


Is there a trade-off between decentralization and scalability?

Yes, there is a trade-off between node capacity and big blocks in blockchain technology, referring to the tension between scalability and decentralization. On one hand, increasing the size of blocks (i.e., big blocks) can improve scalability, allowing the network to process more transactions per second. This can be beneficial for users as it can reduce transaction times and fees. On the other hand, larger blocks require more computational resources to process and store, which can present a challenge for nodes with limited capacity. This can lead to centralization, as only nodes with the necessary resources to handle big blocks will be able to participate in the network, potentially creating a concentration of power in the hands of a few actors.


What is the difference between a public and a private blockchain?

A public blockchain is where distributed ledger technology first emerged, giving rise to cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin. Anyone with an internet connection may join a public blockchain platform to become part of the network since a public blockchain is open and permissionless. This stands in contrast to a private blockchain. Such a blockchain functions in a constrained context that is regulated by one entity or is a closed network. A private blockchain is only accessible to a select group of participants and uses a centralized consensus mechanism for faster and more efficient transactions but with reduced decentralization.


Can blockchain be hacked?

Yes, blockchains can be hacked and there is a variety of techniques to compromise them. For example, in the 51% attacks, when this happens, there may be extremely detrimental effects since one or more hackers may be able to take over control of half of the mining process. The second instance of hacking in the blockchain is errors in creation – there may occasionally be security hiccups or mistakes made when building the blockchain, and then hackers will find a way to initiate their attack. There is also the risk of a blockchain’s game theoretical setup breaking down, which makes the blockchain susceptible to interruption or exploitation.


Is Bitcoin a blockchain?

Yes, Bitcoin is a blockchain. It is decentralized digital money that uses a public ledger (the blockchain) to securely and transparently record transactions. Bitcoin was the first application of blockchain, and without blockchain, Bitcoin would not exist. Because of this, people frequently confuse the two names.


What are popular blockchain examples?

Popular blockchain examples include Bitcoin and Ethereum. These blockchains are open for anybody to connect to and conduct transactions on. Private blockchains include examples like Azure Blockchain Workbench, Corda, or IBM Hyperledger.


How to invest in blockchain technology?

Investing in blockchain technology is an opportunity for investors to gain exposure to this rapidly growing and disruptive technology. There are several ways to invest in blockchain technology, including investing in cryptocurrencies, buying stock in companies that use blockchain, and investing in blockchain-focused funds.


What are the Disadvantages of Blockchain?

Blockchain technology performs more operations than a standard database, hence it is significantly slower. Blockchain also depends on a consensus method, and some of them, like proof of work, have a limited speedup. Also, In comparison to a conventional database, blockchain is more expensive. Businesses must also properly design and carry out the integration of blockchain into their workflow. Lastly, data that has already been recorded using blockchain technology cannot be easily changed; to do so, all the blocks' codes must be rewritten, which takes time and money. This feature's drawback is that it is challenging to fix errors or make necessary changes.


Is Blockchain the future?

Numerous notable Web 2.0 and Web3 alliances are already in the making. Ava Labs, the startup behind Layer 1 blockchain Avalanche, just announced its connection with Amazon Web Services. This arrangement will make it easier to integrate blockchain technology into companies and governments. Keep your eye on the prize and remain up to date on blockchain innovations while they are still flying under the spotlight. The blockchain industry continues to grow and evolve, and on-chain activity demonstrates that developer engagement has not decreased.


Can I start my own blockchain?

You may start a new blockchain that supports a native cryptocurrency by building your own code and growing your own network. This option often necessitates substantial technical training to acquire coding abilities and a fundamental grasp of blockchain technology—but it also provides the most design freedom.


 

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