Let’s talk about proxy servers, before we go into Blockchain. Privacy is everything in today’s internet. We use Virtual Private Networks to connect to remote locations without comprising the integrity of our identity. What we essentially do, is hop over different networks until the host can’t retrace the steps back to you. However, every node or router or packet switch you cross marks you digitally. If a capable hackers gets to work, there are chances to trace your identity even over Virtual Private Networks or VPN’s. Also, there is one more thing, the dark net or deep web. Which also protects your identity in a whole new way. The onion routers which are not connected to the routers in the conventional internet, take you to the places you want without registering any of your contact information. Again an amazing feat at security and anonymity. But, really, what is security and anonymity in Blockchain sense? We will deal with it in just a bit.
How does Blockchain technology works?
Blockchain technology traces back to Satoshi Nakamoto, a group or an individual (it was not confirmed) who conceptualized the technology and wrote a paper called “Bitcoin: A Peer-to-Peer Electronic Cash System” on october 31, 2008. Just after an year later in 2009, the first application of Blockchain came into light – Bitcoin. We all know how complicated those crypto-currencies can be. However, the technology in itself is intuitive and naive. The fundamentals of this piece of tech were lying around for a while, and a better of version of this tech is already in use – Internet.
Now that we have established some basic facts and figures, what is Blockchain?
Let’s say Alice wants to transfer some kind of data to Bob. What she would conventionally do is go to her email hit send. Then it gets transferred to the person she desires, in this case Bob. If she wants to send it to multiple persons at the same time, she can do that too. In this process her digital signature is thrown all over the internet and anyone with legal support and good networking knowledge can come after her identity and the data transmitted very easily.
What Blockchain essentially does is, the data is first segmented and sent over to all the nodes in the peer to peer network. Then those nodes, will take that data and authenticate it and send it forward to the recipient. In this way we are not entrusting our identity and data to a third party service like Google or any other service we may use.
At this stage you may be probably confused. Allow me to explain in detail.
Taking the same example as above, Alice first installs a client service application which can support Blockchain. Now she puts in some data in the client and hits send. At the network level, this data is segmented into small data packets and thrown all over the network. These packets are collected at all the nodes which have Blockchain client applications installed. So, these nodes take these packets of data and add a time stamp on it and also validates the previous time stamps. There is one more thing these nodes do, they also add an encrypted string of characters called hash on to this packet of data. Once they are done validating some number of data transmissions they group it in a block and release it into the network. Once they do it, the recipient receives the information with one confirmation. As more and more nodes collect the same block and add their own time stamp and encrypted text the number of confirmations increase and the piece collected at the end will be authenticated strongly. The user will know that whatever that is sent to him is verified.
There is one question lingering. How is it going to protect the identity of the said person. In Blockchain community you don’t give your own credentials but you will be given a pseudonym under which everyone in the network will validate your information. They can trace back to your pseudonym but they can’t tie it to your real self in physical world, unless you or someone who knows your pseudonym and speaks out. The intermediate nodes are helping to transmit your piece of information and validate it in the process. This Blockchain can’t be applied to email or any other regular services you use via internet. Blockchain is a very complicated procedure which may take hours to transmit and validate a particular string of data since each node is presented with a problem (in the form of encrypted text called hash – more on this later in the next article) to solve before adding their time stamp. That way, it protects the system from overloading and hacking. Since each one of the nodes take time to solve the problem and then add their time stamp, which means you can’t send the same set of data strings to multiple persons. Because if you do, the other nodes will reject that piece of information since it has already been added in the block chain at an earlier time stamp.
This might be little weird. Because we want to transmit a piece of information to a lot of people at a time and Blockchain is not helping you do that. That is because you are understanding it from the wrong vantage point. You have to see Bockchain as a digital ledger which keeps all the information and no one can ever alter that. That is because every time someone tries to alter a block of data, even if they get through the first hash or the encrypted text, at the same time thousands of other nodes are adding more number of blocks on to that chain. Which means in order to alter one block of data, you need to alter all the block before it and behind it including the ones that are being added right now. That is just impossible to deal with. This is the reason behind the security. The kind of security you get in Blockchain is different. In normal sense, security lies in hiding your data whereas in Blockchain you secure a piece of information by literally broadcasting it to the world. This is a ledger that no one ever can change but only view. This kind of acts like a database onto which you can write and read but not alter once you have written on it successfully.
Blockchain though it has been around for a while, researchers discover the potential of this technology. We are sure that 2018 is going to drive this tech and we may even see some amazing user oriented application very soon. We never expected torrent networks, an application of peer to peer networks take off so successfully. Though Blockchain is no way related to torrents, except for p2p, we are going to see a drift in user applications very soon. We have got to give it up for Satoshi Nakamoto, for making this truly decentralized. The power lies with people and people alone!