A public1, permanent2, append-only3distributed4ledger5. A mathematical structure for storing data in a way that is nearly impossible to fake.

It can be used for all kinds of valuable data. “I’ve been working on a new electronic cash system that’s fully peer-to-peer, with no trusted third party.” These are the words of Satoshi Nakamoto, the mysterious creator of Bitcoin, in a message sent to a cryptography-focused mailing list in October 2008.

Included was a link to a nine-page white paper describing a technology that some are now convinced will disrupt the financial system. Nakamoto mined the first bitcoins in January 2009, and with that, the cryptocurrency era was born.

But while its origin is shadowy, the technology that made it possible, which we now call blockchain, did not arise out the blue. Nakamoto combined established cryptography tools with methods derived from decades of computer science research to enable a public network of participants who don’t necessarily trust each other to agree, over and over, that a shared accounting ledger reflects the truth.

This makes it virtually impossible for someone to spend the same bitcoin twice, solving a problem that had hindered previous attempts to create digital cash. And, crucially, it eliminates the need for a central authority to mediate electronic exchange of the currency. Read more from technologyreview.com…

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