Bitcoin faucets have been around since at least 2011. It is believed that Gavin Andresen owned the first one. They come and go and often enough are just advertising scams – the owners want users on their site so they tempt them with free Bitcoin that never actually materializes because before the users have made enough to “cash out” the site has disappeared.
The prediction market application Augur makes share offerings on the outcome of real-world events. Participants can earn money by buying into the correct prediction. The more shares purchased in the correct outcome, the higher the payout will be. With a small commitment of funds (less than a dollar), anyone can ask a question, create a market based on a predicted outcome, and collect half of all transaction fees the market generates.
Truth be told, blockchain has been around for almost a decade thanks to bitcoin, but it's only now beginning to garner a lot of attention. Most businesses that are testing blockchain technology are doing so in a very limited capacity (i.e., demos or small-scale projects). No one is entirely certain if blockchain can handle being scaled as so many of its developers have suggested.
Nobody owns the Bitcoin network much like no one owns the technology behind email or the Internet. Bitcoin transactions are verified by Bitcoin miners which has an entire industry and Bitcoin cloud mining options. While developers are improving the software they cannot force a change in the Bitcoin protocol because all users are free to choose what software and version they use.
In addition to lining the pockets of miners, mining serves a second and vital purpose: It is the only way to release new cryptocurrency into circulation. In other words, miners are basically "minting" currency. For example, in February of 2019, there were a little over 17.5 million Bitcoin in circulation. Aside from the coins minted via the genesis block (the very first block created by Bitcoin founder Satoshi Nakamoto himself), every single one of those Bitcoin came into being because of miners. In the absence of miners, Bitcoin would still exist and be usable, but there would never be any additional Bitcoin. There will come a time when Bitcoin mining ends; per the Bitcoin Protocol, the number of Bitcoin will be capped at 21 million. (Related reading: What Happens to Bitcoin After All 21 Million are Mined?)
Blockchain is a decentralized digital ledger (a continuously growing list of electronic records) of transactions kept over time and secured using cryptography (a kind of algorithmic code). Blockchain ledger data is distributed across a network of computers. Its users can directly interact with stored data in real-time without the need for an intermediary (a “middle-man” or distributor) to authenticate transactions. The technology provides an independent, tamper-resistant, and transparent platform for parties within the blockchain to securely store, transmit, and process sensitive information.
3. Blocks store information that distinguishes them from other blocks. Much like you and I have names to distinguish us from one another, each block stores a unique code called a “hash” that allows us to tell it apart from every other block. Let’s say you made your splurge purchase on Amazon, but while it’s in transit, you decide you just can’t resist and need a second one. Even though the details of your new transaction would look nearly identical to your earlier purchase, we can still tell the blocks apart because of their unique codes.
The good news: No advanced math or computation is involved. You may have heard that miners are solving difficult mathematical problems--that's not true at all. What they're actually doing is trying to be the first miner to come up with a 64-digit hexadecimal number (a "hash") that is less than or equal to the target hash. It's basically guess work.
Blockchain is going to be used for more than just currency and transactions. To give you an idea of how seriously it’s been studied and adopted, IBM has 1,000 employees working on blockchain-powered projects. They’ve also set aside $200 million for development. Financial and tech firms invested an estimate $1.4 billion dollars in blockchain in 2016 with an increase to $2.1 billion dollars in 2018.
This technology has great implications for the financial services industry as well. On implementing a decentralized database or a public registry like blockchain to verify the identities of all parties, no longer will we need to have our transactions stay “pending” for three days. Settlement would be instantaneous since the transaction and settlement would happen simultaneously once the ledger is updated. There are many such use cases.