There are good reasons and bad reasons to use blockchains. In conversations with people thinking about blockchain use cases, I have noticed common confusions and conflations arising from words initially used in a narrow context (usually to describe bitcoin’s blockchain) being understood more generically for blockchains. In this post I hope to untangle some of these common misconceptions.
Over the past year I’ve been asked my thoughts about ‘loyalty points on blockchains’ many times. The thinking seems to be bitcoin -> digital currency -> digital tokens -> loyalty points and at first pass it feels like a natural extension of a theme. People read about cryptocurrency trading and interoperability then think “Wouldn’t it be really cool if I could exchange my loyalty points for other ones, or if I could buy and sell them with real money?”.
This post attempts to describe how I understand the purpose of loyalty points, and in this context, how applicable blockchains are as a technical solution.
In the context of data security, the immutability of data stored on blockchains is important. What do people mean when they say “Blockchains are immutable”? In this post I try to explain the key concepts.
I am often forwarded news articles of blockchain experiments run by banks or large companies, questioning “Why are they using a blockchain for this internal use-case?”.
Given that a blockchain is meant to replace a trusted external third party, or is meant to create trust between entities who don’t fully trust each other, an internal blockchain seems a contradiction in terms.
However, many of the publicly declared experiments, pilots and proof of concepts have focused on blockchains for internal use cases, ie a blockchain where there may be one or more nodes, but all under control of the same organisation, often within one department.
Although there has been much recent discussion about public (permissionless) vs private (permissioned) consortium blockchains, there has not been much debate on the virtues of internal blockchains.
This article is a gentle introduction to blockchain technology and assumes minimal technical knowledge. It attempts to describe what it is rather than why should I care, which is something for a future post.
Shorter companion pieces to this are:
- So you want to use a blockchain for that? Some common misconceptions
- Confused by blockchains? Revolution vs Evolution
- No, blockchain is not a solution looking for a problem
- A gentle introduction to immutability of blockchains