A blockchain is a decentralized, distributed and public digital ledger that is used to record transactions across many computers so that the record cannot be altered retroactively without the alteration of all subsequent blocks and the consensus of the network. This allows the participants to verify and audit transactions inexpensively. A blockchain database is managed autonomously using a peer-to-peer network and a distributed timestamping server. They are authenticated by mass collaboration powered by collective self-interests. The result is a robust workflow where participants' uncertainty regarding data security is marginal. The use of a blockchain removes the characteristic of infinite reproducibility from a digital asset. It confirms that each unit of value was transferred only once, solving the long-standing problem of double spending. Blockchains have been described as a value-exchange protocol. This blockchain-based exchange of value can be completed quicker, safer and cheaper than with traditional systems. A blockchain can assign title rights because, when properly set up to detail the exchange agreement, it provides a record that compels offer and acceptance.
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.
Let’s switch gears quickly before we get back to talking about trust mechanisms. We’ll define what a “smart contract” is. The first blockchain that was popularized is obviously the Bitcoin blockchain. But the functionality of Bitcoin is very limited. All it can do is record transaction information. It’s only useful to keep track of the fact that Alice sent Bob 1 Bitcoin.
@Tradle. Thanks for elaborating. I’m also thinking about these things – and hear lots of other people talk about them – but I *really* struggle with the concept. It all comes down to the table I drew in this post: https://gendal.me/2014/12/19/a-simple-model-to-make-sense-of-the-proliferation-of-distributed-ledger-smart-contract-and-cryptocurrency-projects/
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The witnesses who put more funds in escrow have a greater chance of mining (or minting) the next block. The incentives line up nicely here. There are only a few witnesses and they get paid to be witnesses, so they are incentivized to not cheat. If they do cheat and get caught, they not only get voted out in favor of the next eagerly awaiting witness, they lose all the funds they had in escrow.
As RSK plans to host all types of clients and smart contracts: financial industry players, educational institutions, large importing companies, government and individuals, which means they are full on attack mode on Ethereum’s business model. There are endless opportunities within a market with unlimited potential and we could now see a first real competitor for Ethereum, that has a big hashrate, secure network, safer environment for developers, much higher throughput and solved scalability issues.