The blockchain is maintained by a peer-to-peer network. The network is a collection of nodes which are interconnected to one another. Nodes are individual computers which take in input and performs a function on them and gives an output. The blockchain uses a special kind of network called “peer-to-peer network” which partitions its entire workload between participants, who are all equally privileged, called “peers”. There is no longer one central server, now there are several distributed and decentralized peers.
In the example above (a "public Blockchain"), there are multiple versions of you as “nodes” on a network acting as executors of transactions and miners simultaneously. Transactions are collected into blocks before being added to the Blockchain. Miners receive a Bitcoin reward based upon the computational time it takes to work out a) whether the transaction is valid and b) what is the correct mathematical key to link to the block of transactions into the correct place in the open ledger. As more transactions are executed, more Bitcoins flow into the virtual money supply. The "reward" miners get will reduces every 4 years until Bitcoin production will eventually cease (although estimates say this won't be until 2140!). Of course, although the original Blockchain was intended to manage Bitcoin, other virtual currencies, such as Ether, can be used.
Smart Contracts: Smart contracts offer speed, efficiency, and security by building the terms of the agreement into blockchain transactions. Within the blockchain application, all terms and conditions of a contract for goods or services can be efficiently listed, amended, and agreed upon without the need for physical documents and signatures or for using potentially insecure methods of communication. Smart contracts can also eliminate complex and expensive services of a third-party intermediary for major transactions—such as real estate purchases or new auto loans.