A blockchain is a digitized, decentralized, public ledger of all cryptocurrency transactions. Constantly growing as ‘completed’ blocks (the most recent transactions) are recorded and added to it in chronological order, it allows market participants to keep track of digital currency transactions without central recordkeeping. Each node (a computer connected to the network) gets a copy of the blockchain, which is downloaded automatically.
Originally developed as the accounting method for the virtual currency Bitcoin, blockchains – which use what’s known as distributed ledger technology (DLT) – are appearing in a variety of commercial applications today. Currently, the technology is primarily used to verify transactions, within digital currencies though it is possible to digitize, code and insert practically any document into the blockchain. Doing so creates an indelible record that cannot be changed; furthermore, the record’s authenticity can be verified by the entire community using the blockchain instead of a single centralized authority.
Blockchain and Bitcoin
The blockchain is perhaps the main technological innovation of Bitcoin. Bitcoin isn’t regulated by a central authority. Instead, its users dictate and validate transactions when one person pays another for goods or services, eliminating the need for a third party to process or store payments. The completed transaction is publicly recorded into blocks and eventually into the blockchain, where it’s verified and relayed by other Bitcoin users. On average, a new block is appended to the blockchain every 10 minutes, through mining.
Based on the Bitcoin protocol, the blockchain database is shared by all nodes participating in a system. Upon joining the network, each connected computer receives a copy of the blockchain, which has records, and stands as proof of, every transaction ever executed. It can thus provide insight about facts like how much value belonged a particular address at any point in the past. Blockchain.info provides access to the entire Bitcoin blockchain.