What Is Blockchain and How Important Is It?

Blockchain is a decentralized and distributed digital ledger technology with a number of features that give it the potential to revolutionize various industries.

Valerie Wetlaufer

June 12, 2023

12 Min Read
blocks chained together

Table of Contents:

Blockchain technology is growing in popularity and importance, and for good reason. It has the potential to revolutionize many industries, from finance to healthcare to data management.

Blockchain was first introduced in 2019 as the infrastructure of bitcoin. Since then, it has only grown in usage and popularity. This guide will explain what blockchain is and how it works.

What Is Blockchain?

Blockchain is a decentralized and distributed digital ledger technology that allows multiple parties to maintain a shared database without the need for a central authority. It was originally introduced as the underlying technology behind bitcoin, the first cryptocurrency, but its potential applications go far beyond digital currencies.

At its core, a blockchain is a chain of blocks, where each block contains a list of transactions or other data. These blocks are linked together in chronological order, forming a chain. It can be thought of as a big spreadsheet that keeps track of information that can be shared or viewed by anyone.

Blockchain technology has the potential to revolutionize numerous sectors, including finance, supply chain management, healthcare, voting systems, and more. It enables secure and transparent peer-to-peer transactions, eliminates the need for intermediaries, and provides a new level of trust and efficiency in various processes.

What Are the Benefits of Using Blockchain?

The key features of blockchain that differentiate it from traditional databases are:

  1. Greater transparency: Every transaction or data entry in a blockchain is recorded in a transparent and permanent manner. In public blockchains, which are open to anyone, the entire transaction history is available for anyone to see. This means that anyone can view the details of transactions, such as the sender, receiver, and the amount involved. This transparency promotes accountability and trust among participants since all activities are open for scrutiny.

  2. Elimination of third parties: Unlike traditional databases that are usually stored on a third-party server, blockchain is decentralized. It is maintained by a network of computers, known as nodes, which participate in the validation and storage of the blockchain data. This decentralized nature makes blockchain resistant to single points of failure and ensures that no single entity has complete control over the system.

  3. Faster transactions: The consensus mechanism used in a blockchain network can impact transaction speed. Some consensus algorithms, such as proof of stake (PoS) or delegated proof of stake (DPoS), can process transactions more quickly compared with algorithms like proof of work (PoW) that require extensive computational resources. These algorithms aim to reduce the time and energy required for reaching consensus among the participating nodes, thus enabling faster transaction processing.

  4. Low transaction costs: Blockchain technology has the potential to reduce transaction costs compared with traditional systems in certain scenarios. Blockchain allows for direct peer-to-peer transactions without the need for intermediaries such as banks, clearinghouses, or payment processors. By removing these intermediaries, blockchain reduces the associated fees and costs typically incurred in traditional financial transactions. This can be particularly beneficial for cross-border transactions, where intermediaries and currency conversion fees can be significant. Blockchain technology can streamline and automate various processes, reducing the need for manual interventions and paperwork.

  5. Increased security: Blockchain offers increased security through its decentralization, immutability, and cryptographic techniques. Transactions are validated and added to the blockchain using consensus algorithms, which require agreement among the participating nodes. This consensus mechanism ensures that only valid transactions are included and prevents malicious actors from tampering with the data. These features make blockchain well-suited for applications where security, trust, and integrity of data are paramount.

  6. Immutability: Every transaction or data entry in a blockchain is recorded in a transparent and permanent manner. Once a transaction is added to a block and recorded in the blockchain, it becomes extremely difficult to alter or delete it. Each block contains a cryptographic reference to the previous block, forming a chain of blocks. Changing the data in one block would require changing the data in all subsequent blocks, which is computationally infeasible due to the decentralized and secure nature of blockchain. This immutability of the blockchain helps maintain the integrity and reliability of the recorded information.

  7. Ability to track data: In a blockchain, data is typically recorded as part of transactions. These transactions can represent various types of information, such as financial transactions, asset transfers, or other data entries. Each transaction is associated with specific data that needs to be tracked, and transactions are grouped together into blocks. Each block contains a collection of transactions along with a unique identifier called a cryptographic hash. The hash is a digital fingerprint of the block's data, and it also includes a reference to the previous block in the chain, forming a chronological order of blocks. Because the blocks are stored in a distributed ledger, no single entity has complete control over the data, and multiple copies exist for verification and tracking.

  8. Variety of applications: Blockchain has numerous applications, from cryptocurrencies and financial services, where it initially gained popularity, to supply chain management, healthcare, identity management, intellectual property protection, energy, sustainability, and even government and voting. As blockchain continues to evolve, we can expect further innovations and applications in diverse sectors.

  9. Increased concurrency: While blockchain technology is known for its decentralized and secure nature, it faces challenges in terms of achieving high levels of concurrency due to the consensus mechanisms and the nature of the blockchain itself. However, there are some approaches that can be taken to address concurrency in blockchain, such as sharding, which is a technique where the blockchain is divided into smaller partitions called shards. Each shard can process its transactions and smart contracts independently, thereby increasing the overall capacity and concurrency of the blockchain network. Sharding allows multiple transactions to be processed concurrently across different shards, improving scalability and performance.

  10. Hampered counterfeiting: Blockchain can help hamper counterfeiting in various industries through immutable and transparent records, supply chain transparency, product verification, smart contracts and tamper-evident features, authentication, and anti-counterfeiting platforms that have emerged. By leveraging these features, blockchain technology can significantly hamper counterfeiting by providing a secure and transparent system to track, verify, and authenticate products. This has implications for industries such as luxury goods, pharmaceuticals, electronics, and others where counterfeit goods pose significant risks to consumers and brand reputation.


Where Can You Use Blockchain?

Numerous uses for blockchain technology have emerged across various industries and sectors.

Stock Trading

One of the many ways blockchain is used in stock trading is through the issuance and trading of security tokens, which represent ownership or fractional ownership in traditional assets like stocks, bonds, and real estate. Security token offerings (STOs) leverage blockchain's transparency, security, and programmability to create digital securities that can be traded on compliant platforms, potentially increasing liquidity and accessibility for investors.

Supply Chains

Blockchain technology offers several advantages for supply chain management by enhancing transparency, traceability, efficiency, and trust among participants. For example, blockchain enables end-to-end traceability of products, allowing participants to track the movement and origin of goods at each stage of the supply chain. By recording transactions and relevant data on the blockchain, including details about suppliers, manufacturing processes, transportation, and quality inspections, stakeholders can verify the authenticity, quality, and compliance of products.


Blockchain solutions in healthcare are still in the early stages of development, and ongoing research and pilot projects are exploring the full potential of the technology in this field. Some potential uses are improving private healthcare data security, interoperability, patient privacy, and overall healthcare management.

Real Estate

As with other industries, the security and transparency offered by blockchain are attractive. One use in real estate is providing a secure and decentralized platform for storing and sharing real estate data, such as property valuations, transaction history, and market analytics. Blockchain can enable data marketplaces where property data can be exchanged securely between industry participants, including real estate agents, appraisers, and investors.

Art & Collectibles

The integration of blockchain in the art and collectibles industry is continually evolving, creating new opportunities for artists, collectors, and investors. As the technology matures, it holds the potential to transform how artworks and collectibles are created, bought, sold, and authenticated. One of the most common uses of blockchain in this field is through NFTs (non-fungible tokens). NFTs are unique digital assets that can represent ownership or proof of authenticity for digital artworks, collectibles, or other digital items. Blockchain ensures the scarcity, ownership, and provenance of these digital assets, opening up new possibilities for artists and collectors in the digital art space.


Blockchain-based crowdfunding platforms can connect project creators with backers from around the world. Blockchain technology eliminates geographic barriers and enables direct peer-to-peer transactions, allowing projects to reach a broader audience and backers to support projects irrespective of their location.


Among many applicable uses of blockchain in gaming, it can enhance trust and transparency by implementing provably fair algorithms. These algorithms use cryptographic techniques to ensure that game outcomes are generated fairly and cannot be manipulated by developers or third parties. Players can verify the fairness of game mechanics and have confidence in the integrity of the gaming experience.

Smart Contracts

Blockchain can support programmable contracts known as smart contracts. These are self-executing agreements with predefined rules and conditions encoded into the blockchain. Smart contracts can automate and enforce the terms of an agreement without the need for intermediaries, reducing costs and increasing efficiency in various industries.


Blockchain's transparent and immutable nature can simplify auditing processes for banks. It provides an auditable record of transactions and activities, enabling regulators and auditors to verify compliance with regulatory requirements. Blockchain can streamline the reporting and reconciliation of financial data, reducing errors and improving regulatory compliance.


Blockchain technology offers several potential applications for government, such as enhancing the integrity and transparency of voting systems, recording land and property registries, and improving the transparency and accountability of public finance management. As blockchain adoption continues to evolve, governments around the world are exploring various use cases to harness the potential of this technology in delivering better services, increasing transparency, and fostering trust between citizens and the government.

Data Exchange

Blockchain enables secure and transparent data sharing among multiple parties. Instead of relying on centralized servers, blockchain-based platforms allow participants to directly exchange data while maintaining control over their own data privacy and security. Smart contracts can be employed to define the terms and conditions of data sharing, ensuring that data is shared only with authorized parties.

Innovation & Infrastructure

Blockchain can be used to establish a transparent and immutable record of intellectual property rights, such as patents, copyrights, and trademarks. This helps protect the rights of innovators, streamline licensing processes, and facilitate innovation by ensuring proper attribution and compensation for intellectual property.

Crypto Mining

Blockchain is the underlying technology that powers cryptocurrencies like bitcoin, and crypto mining plays a crucial role in maintaining the security and integrity of blockchain networks. Blockchain networks, particularly those based on proof of work consensus mechanisms like bitcoin, rely on mining to validate and secure transactions. Miners use computational power to solve complex mathematical puzzles, which allows them to add new blocks of transactions to the blockchain. This process requires significant computational resources and energy consumption.

Hacks & Fraud

While blockchain technology is generally considered secure, it is not completely immune to hacks and fraud. For example, phishing attacks and social engineering scams can target blockchain users. Malicious actors may impersonate legitimate entities or create fake websites or wallets to trick users into revealing their private keys or sensitive information. Users should exercise caution and verify the authenticity of websites, applications, and communication channels to avoid falling victim to such scams.

Is Blockchain Still Relevant? Was It Ever?

Blockchain technology continues to evolve with new applications and use cases, but many still wonder what its relevance is, and if it's a wise realm to explore considering 2022's series of chain reactions of collapses and failures, including that of the large crypto exchange FTX.

"The one unique thing about this situation versus other financial collapses and calamities and disasters, everything that occurred here is on the blockchain. ... Every single transaction will be found, and so there's no hiding from it," Shark Tank host and investor Kevin O'Leary told Forbes.

Legal scholar Kevin Werbach explains in his recent book, The Blockchain and the New Architecture of Trust, that "the most significant innovation of blockchain is not governmental or even technological but emotional: the creation of 'a new form of trust,' in which you put your confidence in a store of information without relying on any single person to authenticate it — trust the system, not its parts."

The potential uses for blockchain continue to grow, and it seems trust is returning, and more businesses are adopting the technology, making it very much still relevant in 2023.

Blockchain FAQs

How is blockchain technology different from traditional databases?

Blockchain differs in several key ways from a traditional database, including decentralization, transparency, data immutability, security, and scalability.

Is blockchain a secure way to store data?

Blockchain employs cryptographic techniques to secure data transactions and ensure the authenticity and integrity of the data. Transactions on the blockchain are cryptographically signed, making it computationally difficult for malicious actors to forge or manipulate transactions without the corresponding private keys.

What is the difference between bitcoin and blockchain?

"The blockchain in the simplest terms is a ledger — a method of record keeping — that was introduced to the public by bitcoin, which is a cryptocurrency. Unlike conventional records kept by one bank or accountant, the blockchain ledger uses a bunch of computers that each add new entries visible to everyone," said New York Times reporter Nathaniel Popper, author of Digital Gold: Bitcoin and the Inside Story of the Misfits and Millionaires Trying to Reinvent Money.

How can features of blockchain support sustainability efforts?

Blockchain can be used to track and verify carbon emissions, facilitating transparent and accurate carbon footprint calculations. This can enable organizations to monitor and manage their environmental impact more effectively. Blockchain-based platforms can incentivize carbon reduction efforts and facilitate carbon offset transactions.

How does blockchain technology help organizations when sharing data?

Blockchain provides a secure and tamper-resistant environment for data sharing. Each transaction recorded on the blockchain is cryptographically linked to previous transactions, making it extremely difficult for malicious actors to alter or manipulate the data. This ensures data integrity and enhances the security of shared information.

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