Subscribe / Unsubscribe Enewsletters | Login | Register

Pencil Banner

Blockchain: Under the Hood

Justin Ramos, ThoughtWorks | Oct. 5, 2016
Despite the growing interest in blockchain, people often lack a concrete understanding of the underlying technology. Click here to bring yourself up to speed.

Decentralized servers built on blockchain are not that far way, but they are not currently a feasible reality. One barrier is that it is not easy for someone to interact with a blockchain unless they are very technical. Even a simple game of Rock-Paper-Scissors on Ethereum requires some familiarity with terminal. The Ethereum Mist Browser; however, aims to change that by allowing people to create smart contracts, interact with contracts, and "surf" the blockchain, all via a browser.

A world with decentralized servers threatens the business models of existing companies. Many companies currently profit from owning the data of individuals; however, if everyone can see what people are sharing without intermediaries, how will these companies profit? In this futuristic world, many companies will have to transition from data monopolizers to value adders. While this state is admittedly years away, it will be very interesting to see what happens between now and then.

Many are excited about the potential for blockchain; however, in order for this future to materialize, we as technologists have some work to do. Blockchain is still foreign to many developers and that community will have to grow in order to build the tools and applications we are looking forward to seeing.

For blockchain to reach mass adoption, there are also technical challenges that need to be addressed, such as scalability and private key management. Members of the blockchain community are fervently addressing these problems, but they won't be solved overnight.

Imagine a world that forgoes postgres in favor of blockchain to build a distributed database, where people can anonymously store and retrieve data that is perpetually transparent. That world is here today, but to fully realize it, we must pick up our keyboards and start building the apps and tools that will take blockchain to the next level.



1A blockchain's ability to resist tampering is in direct correlation with the number of nodes running. It can only be truly tamper-proof if it is very large much like the Bitcoin network. 

2Light clients exist for many blockchains and they do not require users to run a blockchain node. These clients are useful; however, they do come with security risks and do not help decentralize the network.

3 Proof-of-work is not the only way to solve this problem. Proof of stake is a less resource-intensive way to solve this problem, but requires people to have already obtained a given currency which undermines the decentralized nature if the network is not large enough. 

4 They are not fully anonymous because if you can connect transactions to an identity, then you can subsequently connect the public key of those transactions to that identity. 


Previous Page  1  2  3  4  5  Next Page 

Sign up for CIO Asia eNewsletters.