[Article] The Blockchain, Explained


What do you think of the blockchain explanations in this post? Think we can do better?

For fun I’ve been collecting explanations of the blockchain I’ve found in some of the posts I’ve been reading. It’s not easy to ‘splain this well.

If you like any of the attempts below, highlight the source in large grey letters at the top. The definition with the most highlights wins.

You can also submit your own definition by emailing me at [email protected]. This can either be your own original attempt, or a copy & paste from another source — if the latter please include the link.

I’ll add them to the list, and recirculate this from time to time. The goal will be to come up with a short, accurate, non-trivial definition with real explanatory power. I’ll plug this in to future writings on blockchain whenever appropriate.


I think we can do better. Will give it some thought!

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I agree with both @light and @larry with the talented minds in this forum I strongly believe we can do much better. I’ve also heard a few community members from this forum explain the blockchain much better.


It’s important to keep a particular audience in mind when explaining this technology. The explanation for the blockchain that I give a software developer or engineer is different than the explanation I give to non-technical people. For instant, this is the definition I gave in my book, for which the audience is the bit-curious layperson:

The most important and fundamental tool of a bank is a ledger, a written record of transactions and balances for each account held at the bank. Without this ledger, it would be difficult if not impossible to keep track of the ownership of assets and liabilities of both the bank’s customers and the bank itself. Similarly, a ledger is also fundamental to bitcoin. This ledger is called a “blockchain” and stores a complete record of every transaction that has been accepted by the bitcoin network since the launch of the “genesis block” at the beginning of bitcoin’s existence. The blockchain is stored and maintained by bitcoin “full nodes,” which are required for broadcasting and relaying transactions on the bitcoin network.

While the legacy banking system relies on “correspondents” and other intermediaries to move funds between banks when there is no direct connection, bitcoin instead relies on a system of peer-to-peer connections between full nodes to relay transactions to miners, and then relay blocks from miners back to the rest of the bitcoin network. After a block has been accepted as valid by a majority of nodes on the network, it will be added to the blockchain, and miners will then begin building the next block with the latest batch of transactions. New entrants to the bitcoin network will only accept the longest blockchain as valid, making it very difficult for someone to trick new nodes into downloading an inaccurate blockchain.

The book goes on to further explain mining and how blocks are added to the network in the next chapter. This explanation could be simplified even further, but you start to lose context and vital information which helps explain the “why” and “how” of blockchain technology.


The #1 thing in communications is, “know your audience”. So that I definitely agree with you on. But I don’t know if I fully agree with you on this one. I’ve witnessed talented engineers, who do not pick up on the technical description. So having stated both of those facts. There needs to be a description that works for both. And that description should excite both the laymen and the technical engineer. This is a hard task but it must be done. One of the reasons why I am super excited to be working with @light actually is because I strongly feel this particular technology can and should be summed up in a poster/illustration. This is something @ryan and I have been working on and it’s going well. But I do feel that this needs that extra bit of talented copywriting a combination between the three of us I do feel we can crack this nut. I also feel that once this communications gateway is opened, the community will benefit immensely. I have been saying this for about a month now… blockchain the technology is gaining massive amounts of momentum. I’m going to use an @light analogy, “this could be the straw that breaks the camels back”.

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Hi I wrote that post collecting all of the various blockchain explanations above - would love to include this one, if that’s OK

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Great post. Thank you for you contribution and getting this conversation started. This topic is a very serious matter for the community. We really need to get this right.


By all means, feel free to share anything I write, it’s all CC-BY-SA. Thanks for asking!

split this topic #9

A post was merged into an existing topic: Introduce yourself


i agree that for many people, conceptual and/or complex ideas need to be anchored in the visual …

what about curating some examples of blockchain visualisations from google images … eg


hi all … i followed a link from @greg to the spectrum.ieee.org website … and found this 4min video, from jun 2015, on how the bitcoin blockchain works …


Great video. However, I feel there are a few terminologies in that video that don’t quite work. I really like CNBC’s video the best so far. But It’s still not quite there. Something is missing. I feel that that something is a change in wording, a change in terminology. Check out the video. Would love to hear your feedback.


thanks @glepage … i enjoyed the cnbc videobyte …

funny how the IEEE approach video from an engineers presentation view, while cnbc use video content to anchor advertising …

regardless … both videos will help the layperson to come to grips with a paradigm shift …

and both videos are now out of date … in that they don’t cover off the recent examples of how the blockchain is being re.used … and how permissioned blockchains are beginning to emerge …

its tough for the layperson and the video makers …

i do like the 2 short videos by eris … on their home page … in that they show how the blockchain can be applied to non-currency related applications … and the graphics are strong (in addressing the imagination of the minecraft generation)