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What is a blockchain? GeekWire’s guide to this game-changing technology and its vast potential – GeekWire

Most technologies touted as “game-changing” are just somewhat modified versions of something already in use. Blockchains are different, and while it will take some time to work out the kinks, they could one day make as much of an impact on the world as the database, smartphone or web browser.

If you’ve heard of bitcoin — and unless the state of the world has forced you to stop following the news, you probably have — you’ve heard of the most widely used implementation of a blockchain. But the technology that makes a blockchain special has a large number of potential uses, and cloud computing companies are starting to make it available to their customers.

“When I (recently) heard that Estonia had basically redone its health care system and put all its national health care records on a blockchain, my ears really picked up,” said Jay Bartot, chief technology officer at Madrona Ventures Labs, who was hired last year by Madrona Venture Group to focus on helping startups explore new technologies.

So, what is the blockchain? Let’s sort it all out.

What exactly are we talking about again?

A blockchain is, well, a chain of blocks. It’s a method for sharing a record of an online transaction in a secure and trustworthy way that allows both parties to have a copy of that record without either party having to maintain that record.

The main chain (black) consists of the longest series of blocks from the genesis block (green) to the current block. (Caption and image courtesy Wikimedia Commons / cc 3.0)

Most digital transactions have a middleman, like a bank that verifies Party A has the funds and has duly transferred them to Party B in a trusted fashion. The blockchain allows you to skip the bank and transfer money, information, or other services directly to another entity over the internet in a method that both parties can trust.

Source: What is a blockchain? GeekWire’s guide to this game-changing technology and its vast potential – GeekWire

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