What is Blockchain? Simplified Explainer

Blockchains enable people to trade items of value without the fear of fraud.

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With blockchain’s level of hype, its a good idea to understand how it will affect our lives.

But many people don’t know what blockchain even is.

Most blockchain explanations use complicated terms like decentralization and consensus.

Instead of throwing around confusing words, let’s make it easy.

“its easy man” 1-of-1 NFT

Blockchains behave like referees

Let’s use an analogy to describe blockchain in simple terms: referees at a football game.

Refs serve as unbiased, independent reviewers, making sure that both teams follow the rules and play fairly.

Depending how high the stakes are, such as during tournaments or professional games, refs can make a lot of money for performing this level supervision.

However, before instant-replays were invented, referees couldn’t possibly catch everything happening in real time.

Even if the refs didn’t want to make bad calls, it was inevitable… There was no way to truly review each play and reach conclusive decisions.

referees serve the game as an independent

Equipped with the ability to review instant-replays, high-definition camera footage, and consult with other referees or analysts, call accuracy has increased.

Referees can watch exactly what is happening in every play, and consult with peers to ensure they make the best possible decision.

At the end of each play and after a decision is made, the game goes on – there is no way to go back and change the call.

How do referees relate to blockchains? (combine with above)

Now, instead of having seven or eight referees, imagine if there were 1,000 refs that reviewed and voted on every single play.

Assuming each ref was able to think independently and abide by the official rules, this would improve the accuracy of the entire decision making process for play review.

Blockchain technology takes this same approach with something called a validator network.

Just like referees review every situation that happens on the field during a game, this validator network reviews and verifies every transaction that happens on the blockchain.

Likewise, once a transaction is validated and published to the blockchain, it cannot be changed.

Let’s cut the complicated stuff:

Blockchain simplified explainer, TL/DR:

When two people trade something, a network (validators) verifies transaction data (aka blocks) before they are added to the transaction record (aka the blockchain).

Blockchain Facilitates Trade

When you agree on a deal and shake someone’s hand, can you trust them?

If transactions happen on the blockchain, then the answer is yes.

Blockchain enables people to form agreements and exchange items of value.

Neither party participating in this virtual handshake can cheat the system because every transaction occurs under the observation of a network of validators — computer code behind the scenes establishing trust.

Everyone in the network runs this code which reviews transactions for errors or malicious intent.

Since transactions are transparent, any attempt at fraud is seen by the network, and will either be corrected or rejected. This ensures that everyone follows the rules and no one gets cheated.

After all the validators on the network approve a transaction, a new block is created and published to the blockchain.

blockchain transactions happen in front of a network of trusted validators.
Each transaction is a virtual handshake.

Blockchains are made of blocks

The transaction data, plus signature of approval from the network, makes up a single “block”.

Similar to an accounting or book keeping system, transaction data stored within a block includes who participated in the agreement, what goods were exchanged, and how much they paid (currency).

Once a block is published to the blockchain, it is there indefinitely. Data cannot be altered.

blocks being added to the blockchain
Blocks being added to the blockchain

Did you know? You can see every single transaction that ever happened on the blockchain.

Instead of happening in private or behind closed doors, blockchain transactions are publicly available.

As new blocks are added, identical copies of the blockchain are updated and distributed to everyone on the validator network.

Thousands of computers (aka nodes) make up the network, and anyone can see transaction data.

Transaction validation happens extremely quickly, and distribution of new versions of the blockchain happens almost instantaneously. [1]

We use new search engines in web3: Block Explorers

On the traditional internet, you look stuff up with a search engine like Google.

In web3, users can view blockchain transactions using block explorers like Etherscan or Polygonscan.

These early stage databases will become the go-to search engines for web3.

Etherscan, the Ethereum Blockchain Explorer

Blockchain validator networks replace middlemen

In the traditional internet, your data is maintained and controlled by individual companies.

Think about how much information you submit when joining Facebook, creating a LinkedIn profile, or even purchasing a flight online.

And how about online commerce?

Marketplaces like ebay.com help people conduct business, facilitating transactions via traditional financial institutions.

When buying or selling something in web2, companies like Ebay control our data and maintain the trust. Ebay verifies the buyer and seller’s identities, and typically charges sellers a fee around 20% of the sale price for these services.

When we pay through Paypal or with a credit card, these companies also take a percentage of every payment.

On web3, blockchain eliminates the need for a middle-man like Ebay, or banks, and Visa.

Blockchain enables trustworthy commerce from one person to another without using services and databases controlled by a single entity. No single organization that can own or control the market.

Blockchain hard-coded protocols serve as the autonomous middleman. The code facilitates the rules of engagement – no intermediaries are involved.

The money gathered from blockchain transaction fees goes to the network rather than a single company.

Blockchains provide cryptographic security

Even if it does use an innovative form of cryptography, security software isn’t sexy.

Instead of being forced to listen to someone ramble on about topics like VPNs, authentication, decentralization, password managers, or Captcha, most people would rather stuff their ears with broken glass.

Check out this EASY summary of cryptocurrency in under 200 words – READ NOW

Although important for the internet, these conversations are not going to help at dinner parties — especially if your goal is to win friends and influence hotties.

As the web3 internet progresses, blockchain interfaces will do their job managing the complicated stuff behind the scenes.

Tools like wallets, fees, blockchains, swaps and bridges will be abstracted away from the user entirely. [2]

While blockchain keeps the internet running as an intrinsic background technology, the way that users interact with web3 will feel seamless, and the complicated stuff will be done under-the-hood.

Users won’t even need to know the blockchain is there, much like the cryptography and anti-virus apps that run in the background on our computers today.

One level up from blockchain, cryptocurrency is reaching mainstream adoption.

Tokens like Bitcoin, Ethereum, Polygon, or Doge may feel risky – there is always uncertainty. But, in some ways, there is just as much risk in not understanding these technologies as there is with being involved and owning just a little bit of crypto.

In 2022, blockchain may still feel like an obscure, fringe idea. My goal with this post was to highlight the essential elements of blockchain and make it easy to understand.

If you found this post helpful, please let me know on Twitter, at espressoinsight.

What to read next?

  • Intro to crypto in under 200 wordsread now
  • Why Ethereum matters – read now
  • Allocating funds between NFTs and ETH – read now
  • Best podcasts about crypto and NFTS – read now
  • 16 free tools to analyze NFTs – read now

Sources:

  1. https://bitcoin.stackexchange.com/questions/110079/how-do-nodes-agree-or-disagree-after-new-block-is-create
  2. https://polynya.medium.com/the-web3-stack-how-web3-will-offer-superior-ux-than-web2-6b8c82709163

5 comments on “What is Blockchain? Simplified Explainer”

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