How Blockchain Technology Could Help People Take Control Over Their Own Data Part 4

Examples of financial and non-financial blockchains.

 

Regular websites that allow accessing information on blockchains are typically called explorers.

Most people know about blockchain technology in connection with Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies, which are financial applications of blockchain technology. This means that typically a cryptocurrency blockchain would only allow the blocks of the blockchain to store information about financial transactions.

 

Example of a financial blockchain

For example, here you can see a blockchain explorer for the Bitcoin network: https://www.blockchain.com/en/explorer On the top of the page, under the menu, you will see a table with columns height, age, transactions, and so on. Height means the number of the block on the blockchain or the distance of the block (hence the word “height”) from the very first block. For example, the height of 500,000 means that a blockchain has over half-a-million blocks. The number of the blocks on a blockchain depends on how quickly the blockchain is creating the blocks, which is something creators of a blockchain decide when launching a network. For instance, the Bitcoin blockchain tries to create a block of its blockchain every ten minutes. Other network try to create a block every 2 minutes or even every 60 seconds. Obviously, the faster a network creates the blocks, the more blocks it will have. The next column on the first page of the Bitcoin blockchain explorer is age. This column shows how long ago the network created the block. For example, if the age of a block is five minutes, it means that the network has created the block five minutes ago. The age is the parameter of the table that is constantly changing. If you visit the page, spend a few minutes studying it, and then refresh it, you will see that the numbers in the “age” column will change. If the network adds yet another block, it will appear as a top line in the table, with other blocks moving down.

The field that says “transactions” shows how many transactions a particular block includes. Typically, on the Bitcoin blockchain the number ranges from a few hundred transactions to a few thousand transactions. The next field is “total sent,” which shows the total amount for all the transactions in a block similarly to how a page in a financial spreadsheet would show the total amount for the page.

 

Example of a non-financial blockchain

As stated above, blockchains can contain all kinds of information, including images, music and more. One of such platforms is Steemit. Steemit is social media blockchain with headquarters in New York City. Similarly to other blockchain networks, Steemit does have its own currency, but the platform is much more than a cryptocurrency platform. Even when it comes to currencies, Steemit has not one, but several currencies including STEEM and Steem Dollars.

Just like Bitcoin and other blockchains, Steem solves an existing problem and has its own philosophy.

With existing social media networks, it is the users of the networks who create content on the platforms, but it is the networks that profit from the content. In short, the business model of Facebook works like this: the platform is free to use. Users create content. Facebook distributes the content and inserts ads in between free content, which is how it makes money. While doing so, the platform also collects a lot of data about preferences of its users. It then uses the data to improve ad targeting, which is the same as to say to help advertisers sell more and sell better. The issue is very similar to the issue with customer identities when the information that belongs to one party is used by a different party for commercial reasons.

One of the guiding philosophies of Steem blockchain is that it defines contribution in a very broad way. Contribution on the Steem blockchain is not just about posting content, liking it or sharing it. It is also about supporting the platform via keeping its cryptocurrency in an account as a debt with a deadline and about having ownership stake in the platform. You can see how the blockchain of the network works by visiting its explorer located here: https://steemblockexplorer.com/

For example, block #24,031,362 (you can visit its page here: https://steemblockexplorer.com/block/24031362) has information about 156 transactions, including claims of rewards balance, post likes, replies to post, information about users following other users, and more.