It seems as if overnight, the media industry has gotten the blockchain bug. Today, there are events, panels, articles and conversations about how blockchain will save journalism and advertising and marketing. In fact, Adweek has one of its very own. But before we decide whether or not this technology will be media’s savior, we wanted to answer some pretty basic questions. We’re also introducing a weekly blockchain newsletter, which you can sign up for here.
At its core, a blockchain is a digital ledger shared among any number of stakeholders with an interest in keeping better track of information and transactions. Everybody gets a copy of the same distributed information. Nothing can be removed. And because a blockchain is a decentralized system, a consensus of stakeholders has to agree before something is added to the ledger.
Because blockchain transactions are free, you can charge minuscule amounts, say 1/100 of a cent for a video view or article read. Why should I pay The Economist or National Geographic an annual subscription fee if I can pay per article on Facebook or my favorite chat app. Again, remember that blockchain transactions carry no transaction cost. You can charge for anything in any amount without worrying about third parties cutting into your profits.
2.) Pseudonymous: Neither transactions or accounts are connected to real-world identities. You receive Bitcoins on so-called addresses, which are randomly seeming chains of around 30 characters. While it is usually possible to analyze the transaction flow, it is not necessarily possible to connect the real world identity of users with those addresses.
You want to make sure people with bitcoin accounts can find you and spend their bitcoins on your site. You can apply to a variety of online directories designed for bitcoin users. Simply follow the application instructions on the directory websites. You can also download and display the bitcoin logo on your website to signal to users that you accept bitcoins as payment.
The Bitcoin blockchain's functionality and security results from the network of thousands of nodes agreeing on the order of transactions. The diffuse nature of the network ensures transactions and balances are recorded without bias and are resistant to attack by even a relatively large number of bad actors. In fact, the record of transactions and balances remains secure as long as a simple majority (51 percent) of nodes remains independent. Thus, the integrity of the blockchain requires a great many participants.
Here’s the ELI5 (“Explain it Like I’m 5”) version. You can think of a public key as a school locker and the private key as the locker combination. Teachers, students, and even your crush can insert letters and notes through the opening in your locker. However, the only person that can retrieve the contents of the mailbox is the one that has the unique key. It should be noted, however, that while school locker combinations are kept in the principal’s office, there is no central database that keeps track of a blockchain network’s private keys. If a user misplaces their private key, they will lose access to their Bitcoin wallet, as was the case with this man who made national headlines in December of 2017.
On 3 January 2009, the bitcoin network was created when Nakamoto mined the first block of the chain, known as the genesis block. Embedded in the coinbase of this block was the following text: "The Times 03/Jan/2009 Chancellor on brink of second bailout for banks." This note has been interpreted as both a timestamp and a comment on the instability caused by fractional-reserve banking.:18