Wondered how cryptocurrencies actually work?
In today's article, we'll be covering how these cryptocurrencies work and what is the technology behind them.
First of all the technology behind is "Blockchain". Now the question is, what exactly is blockchain?
This technique was originally described in 1991 by a group of researchers and was originally intended to timestamp digital documents so that it’s not possible to track the date back or to tamper with them, which is similar to a notary. But the initial intention for using blockchain was not successful per se and it was later developed by "Satoshi Nakamoto" in 1991, the name is believed to be a pseudo name. A blockchain is a distributed ledger that is completely accessible to anyone. They have an interesting property: once some data has been recorded inside a blockchain, it becomes very difficult to change it. Each block contains some data, the hash of the block, and the hash of the previous block.
The data that is stored inside a block depends on the type of blockchain. The Bitcoin blockchain for example stores the details about a transaction here, such as the sender, receiver, and amount of coins. A block also has a hash. You can compare a hash to a fingerprint which is in the form of alphanumeric series. It identifies a block and all of its contents and it's always unique, just as a fingerprint. When a block is created, its hash is also built side by side and the hash depends on the data stored inside it. So in other words, hashes are very useful when you want to detect changes to blocks. If the fingerprint of a block changes, it no longer is the same block. The third element inside each block is the hash of the previous block. This effectively creates a chain of blocks and it’s this technique that makes a blockchain so secure. Let's take an example.
Here we have a chain of 3 blocks. As you can see, each block has a hash and the hash of the previous block. So block number 3 points to block number 2 and number 2 points to number 1. Now the first block is a bit special, it cannot point to previous blocks because it's the first one. The first block in a blockchain is referred to as the genesis block.
Now let's say that you tamper with the second block. This causes the hash of the block to change as well. In turn that will make block 3 and all following blocks invalid because they no longer store a valid hash of the previous block. So changing a single block will make all following blocks invalid. But using hashes is not enough to prevent tampering. Computers these days are very fast and can calculate hundreds of thousands of hashes per second. You could effectively tamper with a block and recalculate all the hashes of other blocks to make your blockchain valid again. So to mitigate this, blockchains have something called proof-of-work. It's a mechanism that slows down the creation of new blocks. In Bitcoins case, it takes about 10 minutes to calculate the required proof-of-work and add a new block to the chain.
This mechanism makes it very hard to tamper with the blocks because if you tamper with 1 block, you'll need to recalculate the proof-of-work for all the following blocks. So the security of a blockchain comes from its creative use of hashing and the proof-of-work mechanism. But there is one more way that blockchains secure themselves and that's by being distributed. Instead of using a central entity to manage the chain, blockchains use a peer-to-peer network and anyone is allowed to join. When someone joins this network, he gets the full copy of the blockchain. The node can use this to verify that everything is still in order. Now let's see what happens when someone creates a new block. That new block is sent to everyone on the network.
Each node then verifies the block to make sure that it hasn't been tampered with. If everything checks out, each node adds this block to its own blockchain. All the nodes in this network create consensus. They agree about what blocks are valid and which aren't. Blocks that are tampered with will be rejected by other nodes in the network. So to successfully tamper with a blockchain you'll need to tamper with all blocks on the chain, redo the proof-of-work for each block and take control of more than 50% of the peer-to-peer network. Only then will your tampered block become accepted by everyone else. This is almost impossible to do! Blockchains are also constantly evolving. One of the more recent developments is the creation of smart contracts. These contracts are simple programs that are stored on the blockchain and can be used to automatically exchange coins based on certain conditions. More on smart contracts in a later video. The creation of blockchain technology peaked a lot of people’s interest. Soon, others realized that the technology could be used for other things like storing medical records, creating a digital notary, or even collecting taxes. So now you know what a blockchain is, how it works on a basic level and what problems it solves.
Hope you like the blog on the very trending topic of "The Bitcoin and its technology"
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