Sometimes separate blocks can be produced concurrently, creating a temporary fork. In addition to a secure hash-based history, any blockchain has a specified algorithm for scoring different versions of the history so that one with a higher value can be selected over others. Blocks not selected for inclusion in the chain are called orphan blocks.[22] Peers supporting the database have different versions of the history from time to time. They keep only the highest-scoring version of the database known to them. Whenever a peer receives a higher-scoring version (usually the old version with a single new block added) they extend or overwrite their own database and retransmit the improvement to their peers. There is never an absolute guarantee that any particular entry will remain in the best version of the history forever. Because blockchains are typically built to add the score of new blocks onto old blocks and because there are incentives to work only on extending with new blocks rather than overwriting old blocks, the probability of an entry becoming superseded goes down exponentially[23] as more blocks are built on top of it, eventually becoming very low.[1][24]:ch. 08[25] For example, in a blockchain using the proof-of-work system, the chain with the most cumulative proof-of-work is always considered the valid one by the network. There are a number of methods that can be used to demonstrate a sufficient level of computation. Within a blockchain the computation is carried out redundantly rather than in the traditional segregated and parallel manner.[26]
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Public blockchains: a public blockchain is a blockchain that anyone in the world can read, anyone in the world can send transactions to and expect to see them included if they are valid, and anyone in the world can participate in the consensus process - the process for determining what blocks get added to the chain and what the current state is. As a substitute for centralized or quasi-centralized trust, public blockchains are secured by cryptoeconomics - the combination of economic incentives and cryptographic verification using mechanisms such as proof of work or proof of stake, following a general principle that the degree to which someone can have an influence in the consensus process is proportional to the quantity of economic resources that they can bring to bear. These blockchains are generally considered to be "fully decentralized".
It might seem that this technology is beneficial for any business, but it is not. Quite often projects fail to justify their will of public or private blockchain implementation. The key reason to use blockchain is the inefficiency of existing centralized solution that is slow, expensive, and lacks transparency and reliability. In other cases, blockchain isn’t required.
In October 2014, the MIT Bitcoin Club, with funding from MIT alumni, provided undergraduate students at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology access to $100 of bitcoin. The adoption rates, as studied by Catalini and Tucker (2016), revealed that when people who typically adopt technologies early are given delayed access, they tend to reject the technology.[85]
Now, making experimental or rapid changes to Bitcoin is very risky and so change happens slowly. So if the one-size-fits-all architecture of Bitcoin doesn’t suit a particular use-case, you have a problem. You either have to use an entirely different cryptocurrency (or build one!). Or you have to use (or build) a centralized service, which brings new risks.
However, the Lightning Network would, again, require a change to the existing Bitcoin protocol. (Though again it would be a “soft fork,” i.e. the existing blockchain would remain fully valid.) And/or — you guessed it — a Lightning sidechain. What’s more, one of the changes it requires, the elimination of transaction malleability, is handled by the Segregated Witness work in Sidechain Elements. (correction: all of of the changes required are incorporated into Elements Alpha — it’s Lightning-ready out of the box.)
@tradles – thanks for taking the time to explain this. OK – so I get the debate around blockchain bloat and the (grudging) inclusion of OP_RETURN, etc., but what I’m missing is that I can only really see one scenario where embedding any identity data into the blockchain makes sense…. and that’s when I want to *associate* an identity with a transaction I’m performing.

This type of permissioned blockchain model offers the ability to leverage more than 30 years of technical literature to realize significant benefits. Digital identity in particular, is fundamental for most industry use cases, be it handling supply chain challenges, disrupting the financial industry, or facilitating security-rich patient/provider data exchanges in healthcare. Only the entities participating in a particular transaction will have knowledge and access to it — other entities will have no access to it. Permissioned blockchains also permit a couple of orders of magnitude greater scalability in terms of transactional throughput.
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