Blockchain is the underlying technology for digital currency like Bitcoin, Litecoin, and Ethereum and other digital properties. The technology records every transaction of a digital currency or property in a database or digital ledger. It also copies and distributes the database to a network of computers to validate each transaction. This decentralizes, secures, and publicizes each digital currency’s or property’s database of transactions.
Newer cryptocurrencies and blockchain networks are susceptible to 51% attacks. These attacks are extremely difficult to execute due to the computational power required to gain majority control of a blockchain network, but NYU computer science researcher Joseph Bonneau said that might change. Bonneau released a report last year estimating that 51% attacks were likely to increase, as hackers can now simply rent computational power, rather than buying all of the equipment.
A number of countries are undertaking blockchain-based land registry projects. Honduras was the first government to announce such an initiative in 2015, although the current status of that project is unclear. This year, the Republic of Georgia cemented a deal with the Bitfury Group to develop a blockchain system for property titles. Reportedly, Hernando de Soto, the high-profile economist and property rights advocate, will be advising on the project. Most recently, Sweden announced it was experimenting with a blockchain application for property titles.
One obvious hurdle is the adoption of the technology. To deploy blockchain, financial institutions would essentially have to abandon their current networks and start anew. Trying to integrate the current payment networks with blockchain could prove exceptionally challenging -- to the point where some businesses don't even bother trying to do so. It's also still unclear, with the exception of bitcoin (CCY: BTC-USD), the world's most popular cryptocurrency, if any blockchain aside from bitcoin could survive being scaled to handle a lot of transactions.
There are many Blockchain projects which aim to do this. Bear in mind, however, that there is often not enough storage within Blockchains themselves, but there are decentralized cloud storage solutions available, such as Storj, Sia, Ethereum Swarm and so on. From the user’s perspective they work just like any other cloud storage. The difference is that the content is hosted on various anonymous users’ computers, instead of data centers.
Think of it like the early days of the internet. The world of blockchain technology is still the wild, Wild West. By early June 2018, the total value of initial coin offerings had already outpaced the previous year. And while the past year has seen a record number of ICOs, some have been legitimate, but others are sketchier. In July 2018, for example, two Nevada men settled a lawsuit by the Securities and Exchange Commission over illegally profiting from an ICO after they made about $1.4 million in 10 days by selling shares of a company called UBI Blockchain Internet.
Proof of work does not make attacks by hackers impossible, but it does make them somewhat useless. If a hacker wanted to coordinate an attack on the blockchain, they would need to solve complex computational math problems at 1 in 5.8 trillion odds just like everyone else. The cost of organizing such an attack would almost certainly outweigh the benefits.
Block-chain technology is broader than finance. It can be applied to any multi-step transaction where traceability and visibility is required. Supply chain is a notable use case where Blockchain can be leveraged to manage and sign contracts and audit product provenance. It could also be leveraged for votation platforms, titles and deed management - amongst myriad other uses. As the digital and physical worlds converge, the practical applications of Blockchain will only grow.
Third-party internet services called online wallets offer similar functionality but may be easier to use. In this case, credentials to access funds are stored with the online wallet provider rather than on the user's hardware. As a result, the user must have complete trust in the wallet provider. A malicious provider or a breach in server security may cause entrusted bitcoins to be stolen. An example of such a security breach occurred with Mt. Gox in 2011. This has led to the often-repeated meme "Not your keys, not your bitcoin".
The receiver of the first bitcoin transaction was cypherpunk Hal Finney, who created the first reusable proof-of-work system (RPOW) in 2004. Finney downloaded the bitcoin software on its release date, and on 12 January 2009 received ten bitcoins from Nakamoto. Other early cypherpunk supporters were creators of bitcoin predecessors: Wei Dai, creator of b-money, and Nick Szabo, creator of bit gold. In 2010, the first known commercial transaction using bitcoin occurred when programmer Laszlo Hanyecz bought two Papa John's pizzas for 10,000 bitcoin.