At its core, blockchain is a distributed data store. As opposed to traditional data repositories, which store data in centralized servers and server clusters, blockchain creates copies of its ledger and stores it on thousands and millions of computers, also called nodes. A reasonable number of nodes must validate every new record before it is registered. Once confirmed, the record is stored in the ledger and propagated across the network of participating nodes.
What makes blockchain special? As the culmination of decades of cryptography and cybersecurity research, the mechanism underlying blockchain makes it a reliable and tamper-proof platform for exchange of sensitive information. As the blockchain relies on no centralized point of access, it has no single point of failure and is virtually hack-proof.
With the advent of bitcoin, blockchain overhauled the online financial landscape and enabled the secure transfer of monetary value in trustless environments, without reliance on third party brokers such as banks and payment platforms. Blockchain fixes a number of problems that stem from the ephemeral nature of virtual currencies, such as independent ownership and double spending. A number of platforms are using blockchain as a cybersecurity tool to prevent attacks on data stores and servers.
Smart contracts, programs that are automatically run on the blockchain after transaction completion, further expand the capabilities of the technology. Smart contracts enable the development of autonomous organizations and companies that can be run via crowd consensus and control.
How do I Get Started in Blockchain Development?
Blockchain is an infrastructural technology, which means it will underlie other software such as web and mobile applications.
Fortunately, as the technology becomes increasingly popular, the tools and applications that facilitate its use are increasing in number.
As open-source projects, the source code for popular blockchains is available for reuse and adaptation. Getting involved in the projects and different forks will require experience with GitHub, where the developers share and discuss their code.
Since most of these projects have been developed in C++, having solid knowledge of the language is almost fundamental. However there are libraries available in easier programming languages and platforms. Here are a few resources to help you get started:
If you’re a C# programmer, Blockchain Programming in C# is an in-depth and free book that will get you started on blockchain programming.
IBM Blockchain 101 is a good resource for learning blockchain development. It’s mostly focused on IBM’s own Bluemix platform and coding for Hyperledger Fabric with Go and Java, but the base knowledge can be applied to other platforms too.
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