Blockchain has captured its fair share of headlines recently. Most people know of it through its connection to cryptocurrencies. It is, after all, largely responsible for the now-famous digital coins like Bitcoin, Ethereum and Litecoin becoming viable for the general public to use.
Here’s why it’s such big news: Essentially, blockchain is a digital ledger capable of validating and securing any type of transaction. But it isn’t just any old record keeper. Its strength lies in the fact that it’s decentralized and distributed through a peer-to-peer network. Each network user has a copy of the most up-to-date blockchain being used to record transactions. No one user has an authoritative “master” copy, unlike traditional financial records.
Transactions aren’t verified until the majority of network peers agree that it is valid. Then, and only then, is the transaction recorded in a “block” of information. Each block contains information linking it to the preceding block, hence the “chain.” This new block then becomes canon in everyone’s blockchain copy.
This means that if someone wanted to falsify a transaction, they would not only need to change each block in the blockchain, but also somehow change all of those blocks across thousands of copies of the same record.
With this supreme security paradigm in tow, it’s easy to see why many in the cryptocurrency world and beyond believe blockchain is the future of transactions. But just like cryptocurrencies, blockchain has its share of naysayers claiming it’s nothing more than Silicon Valley buzz.
Peter Hiom, deputy CEO at the ASX trading exchange, thinks that “Blockchain has a lot to prove in its performance.” Most skeptics of the technology are from the finance industry. They claim blockchain is too complex for the general public and, while a unique concept, has no real use. Per Axel Pierron, managing director of Optimas LLC, “Blockchain is a solution looking for a problem.” And the skeptics would be sort of right – if, that is, all blockchain development ceased right now.
But as it stands now, blockchain technology has found quite a few problems outside of finance to tackle. It’s picking up steam as an elegant solution that can be applied to practically anything requiring transactions. And 2018 is the year that many ambitious organizations are putting the technology to the test in unique applications outside of cryptocurrencies.