Blockchain, What Art Thou? Defining an Industry Buzzword

By January 16, 2016Bitcoin Business

Dave Hudson is VP of software architecture at immutable ledger firm Peernova, and a designer of OSs, network stacks, compilers and databases. He analyses bitcoin and "cryptoledger systems" on his blog

In this article, Hudson looks back to Satoshi’s white paper in a quest to pin down what a blockchain is, what it isn’t and what it might be… Seeking the truth As we approach 2016 there seem to be endless discussions about ‘blockchain’. It’s a term that is ever-more frequently cited in even mainstream journalism, while in the FinTech space alone there are a slew of would-be suppliers and would-be users claiming that ‘blockchain’ will revolutionize any number of applications.

This now-common usage suggests it must be something precisely defined and well understood, but this seems to be more a matter of mantra than comprehension.

The echo chambers of the Internet reverberate to many opinions, but attempts to find a precise meaning seem to find a dismaying lack of agreement. To be anything more than marketing hyperbole we really need the answers some questions.

What is it? What isn’t it? What might it be? Can it be something that will allow us to build new and enduring systems? In short, what is the essence of blockchain? The Satoshi white paper

Almost every discussion of blockchains starts with the Satoshi white paper , but it is this very foundation that starts us on a path to confusion. Neither the terms ‘blockchain’ or ‘block chain’ appear there; there are 67 uses of ‘block’ and 27 of ‘chain’, but zero of ‘block chain’ or ‘blockchain’. This aside though, let’s see where this origin leads us.

The white paper is short; it’s just nine pages long. The first mention of ‘block’ and ‘chain’ starts at the bottom of page 2, section 3, where there […]

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