So What is a Blockchain?
A blockchain is basically an open, distributed, encrypted, online database platform that can record transactions between two parties efficiently and in a verifiable and permanent way. It is typically managed in a peer to peer network and maintains that any data on it cannot be retroactively modified or edited. It has a decentralized consensus and autonomously manages itself. There is no central authority. Bitcoin is the posterboy for blockchain as its this most well known and widely used, though there are other blockchains like Ethereum.
What Use Are They To Me?
The excitement and buzz over blockchain and cryptocurrencies exist for many reasons. One reason is that Bitcoin and other cryptocoins have been skyrocketing in value and they are seen as potential get-rich-quick investments. Another reason is that they are alternative currencies which can be used to buy and sell things online. Their utility and security make them reliable forms of money, albeit they have the stigma (accurately so) of being used to buy illegal goods and services in a secretive, discreet manner. Beyond this simple use, many see them as having potential for uprooting the entire financial system and revolutionizing the way we make contracts, buy-and-sell, and exchange information.
“But you can’t use them to buy groceries or get gas or buy things at the mall.” Yet. It is true that many online vendors including Overstock.com, Subway, Expedia and many more do accept Bitcoin now. These technologies are clearly still developing and not fully understood by many people. However, their potential is intriguing and blockchain looks like its here to stay. For now, the interest is building and more investment and resources are going towards building and growing blockchain for the better. Whether their growing interest and value will lead to bigger and better things, or just result in a popularity bubble that eventually crashes the value is yet to be seen. Some predict it is a bubble that will be rendered useless and valueless in the future. Others predict it will revolutionize money, citing that it will become even more valuable, the more people use it.
”Imagine what will happen when the next three billion people come online and the opportunities for value creation that will follow — particularly in markets where there is no legacy infrastructure in place and decentralized technology can leapfrog financial institutions, real estate, capital markets, identity platforms (and more) as we know them in the developed world.” – Jalak Jobanputra of recode.net
As Jobanputra alludes to, Bitcoin has become massively important to citizens in the Venezuelan economic crisis. Citizens from countries all over the world have significant interest in Bitcoin and cryptocurrency, usually related to economic opportunity. As always, time will tell, but if the history of Bitcoin is any indicator, its value will continue to grow and other blockchains will sprout and flourish.