What is Blockchain?

Blockchain seems complicated, and it definitely can be, but its core concept is quite simple. A blockchain is a type of database. To be able to understand blockchain helps first to understand what a database is.

A database is a collection of information that is stored electronically on a computer system. In databases, information, or data, is typically structured in table format to allow for easier searching and filtering for specific details. What is the difference between someone using a spreadsheet to store data rather than a database?

Large databases achieve this by housing data on servers that are made of powerful computers. These servers can sometimes be built using hundreds or thousands of computers to have the computational power and storage capacity necessary for many users to access the database simultaneously. While a spreadsheet or database may be accessible to any number of people, it is often owned by a business and managed by an appointed individual who has complete control over how it works and its data.

So how does a blockchain differ from a database?

Storage Structure

One key difference between a typical database and a blockchain is the way the data is structured. A blockchain collects information together in groups, also known as blocks, that hold sets of information. Blocks have specific storage capacities and, when filled, are chained onto the previously served block, forming a chain of data known as the “blockchain.” All new information that follows that freshly added block is compiled into a newly formed block that will be added to the chain once filled.

A database structures its data into tables, whereas a blockchain, like its name implies, structures its data into chunks (blocks) chained together. This makes it so that all blockchains are databases, but not all databases are blockchains. This system also inherently makes an irreversible timeline of data when implemented in a decentralized nature. When a block is filled, it is set in stone and becomes a part of this timeline. Each block in the chain is given an exact timestamp when it is added to the chain.

Spreadsheets are designed for one person, or a small group of people, to store and access limited amounts of information. In contrast, a database is intended to house significantly more significant pieces of information that can be accessed, filtered, and manipulated quickly and easily by any number of users at once.