An early example, OpenBazaar uses the blockchain to create a peer-to-peer eBay. Download the app onto your computing device, and you can transact with OpenBazzar vendors without paying transaction fees. The “no rules” ethos of the protocol means that personal reputation will be even more important to business interactions than it currently is on eBay.
Now imagine that I pose the "guess what number I'm thinking of" question, but I'm not asking just three friends, and I'm not thinking of a number between 1 and 100. Rather, I'm asking millions of would-be miners and I'm thinking of a 64-digit hexadecimal number. Now you see that it's going to be extremely hard to guess the right answer. (See also: What is Bitcoin Mining?)
“Unlike traditional currencies, which are issued by central banks, Bitcoin has no central monetary authority. Instead it is underpinned by a peer-to-peer computer network made up of its users’ machines, akin to the networks that underpin BitTorrent, a file-sharing system, and Skype, an audio, video and chat service. Bitcoins are mathematically generated as the computers in this network execute difficult number-crunching tasks, a procedure known as Bitcoin “mining”. The mathematics of the Bitcoin system were set up so that it becomes progressively more difficult to “mine” Bitcoins over time, and the total number that can ever be mined is limited to around 21 million. There is therefore no way for a central bank to issue a flood of new Bitcoins and devalue those already in circulation.”
The largest bitcoin exchange in the world at the moment in terms of US$ volume is Bitfinex, although it is mainly aimed at spot traders. Other high-volume exchanges are Coinbase, Bitstamp and Poloniex, but for small amounts, most reputable exchanges should work well. (Note: at time of writing, the surge of interest in bitcoin trading is placing strain on most retail buy and sell operations, so a degree of patience and caution is recommended.)
In the financial world the applications are more obvious and the revolutionary changes more imminent. Blockchains will change the way stock exchanges work, loans are bundled, and insurances contracted. They will eliminate bank accounts and practically all services offered by banks. Almost every financial institution will go bankrupt or be forced to change fundamentally, once the advantages of a safe ledger without transaction fees is widely understood and implemented. After all, the financial system is built on taking a small cut of your money for the privilege of facilitating a transaction. Bankers will become mere advisers, not gatekeepers of money. Stockbrokers will no longer be able to earn commissions and the buy/sell spread will disappear.
Hey there! I am Sudhir Khatwani, an IT bank professional turned into a cryptocurrency and blockchain proponent from Pune, India. Cryptocurrencies and blockchain will change human life in inconceivable ways and I am here to empower people to understand this new ecosystem so that they can use it for their benefit. You will find me reading about cryptonomics and eating if I am not doing anything else.
People need to understand that “blockchain” is NOT the same thing as “bitcoin”. Bitcoin was the first blockchain system designed, but there have been a number of others since then which are very different – they were designed by different people, often for different purposes. The ones moving into the business world today are NOT systems for electronic money. They are “ledger” systems that are used to replace existing methods, almost none of which are electronic money. Examples of such blockchain systems are Hyperledger (which has several different schemes, the most popular being Hyperledger Fabric), Ethereum, R3 Corda, and some others. They were NOT designed by “some guy” somewhere – they were designed by highly capable groups of people who are in the business of designing things for use by corporations to operate their businesses. Several of these are in open-source projects, where they are being developed jointly by many people, and are subject to study and analysis by all of them. There is work in early stages to define regional and international standards that will define some requirements for the blockchains. (I happen to be involved with some of those standards activities, as well as development on one of the blockchain systems.)
Whether it’s Bitcoin transactions or data about how a shipment of flowers is making its way from Senegal to the Netherlands, the block is the mechanism that records information to the blockchain. Some people like to compare it to an Excel spread sheet or a Google Doc. Those blocks come together to make up the blockchain, which is the overall digital record of transactions. Every time one is completed, the next can be created. So far, this has been a lot slower than some parts of the internet, partly because certain blockchains need to have every party agree before it’s added in order to help make it transparent and secure. That makes the chain the overall list, a record of all transactions.
Rewards programs are a good use of cryptocurrencies, specifically tokens of the modern epoch, and one that might keep on giving is one that pays in Bitcoin. A network called BitcoinGet has a shopping service called CoinRebates which has a few major retailers including Walmart and Newegg within its network. You earn a varying amount of “bits” (100 satoshi = 1 bit) per dollar spent at each of the retailers. Walmart and others have in-store pickup, so you can effectively do your regular shopping and get a small Bitcoin rebate on it. Over time, this could really build up.