Blockchain: What is it? How will we use it?


Rewind to a year or two ago, and blockchain probably sounded like a trendy jewelry, a Minecraft weapon or even a knitting technique. But when I heard bitcoin and other cryptocurrency relied on this method, I had to know more. Bitcoin piqued my fascination and has made tons of headlines—first in its experimental stages, then when it was the de facto payment requested by the barrage of ransomware hackers, and now when the currency reaches the equivalent of more than $9,000. As many continue to speculate about the shelf life of cryptocurrency, it’s opened the door on the vast blockchain possibilities that can no longer close shut.


Blockchain acts as a distributed ledger for keeping track of transactions or deals. Each page in a ledger forms a block, which impacts the next block, and as each block is completed, it will tie in to the next block creating this chain, according to Network World. Given its non-central nature, blockchain holds all parties accountable, and no one person can rewrite or falsify information. Since all transactions must be verified, it enforces accuracy and accountability, and provides a platform for trustless contracts.


For example, some industries have grown production, but still require intermediaries or centralized platforms to market their intellectual property. Blockchain provides a method for artists, musicians, manufacturers and others to create and sell goods without relying on digital rights management. Blockchain could also see applications in the medical field to improve patient confidentiality and strengthen data sharing. Identity or authentication is another application that may find blockchain useful for keeping data decentralized, especially in light of the recent Equifax breach.


Experts are still weighing the viability of blockchain, similar to how the jury’s still out on bitcoin. Given the system’s chain-like nature, new activity must be serialized. The prioritization of autonomy over efficiency is why transactions can start to slow down and back up the pipeline of the blockchain, which is what happened with the explosion in popularity of CryptoKitties game, which uses blockchain sequencing for an online game of collectible kitten illustrations.


As bitcoin and other decentralized systems gain steam, we’ll be following the evolution of blockchain technology closely.


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