Blockchains have been around the block for some time now. Everybody knows it as the stepping stone behind Bitcoin, but its (hi)story goes back a while more. Let’s take a look at the beginning of the blockchain system and its evolution through the years. But, first of all, what exactly is the blockchain?
What is a blockchain?
A blockchain is a shared database operated by a network of computers (nodes). Every node adds information and maintains a copy of the entire database, creating a decentralized database. The information is stored in a digital format and structured in data blocks that are chained together ( hence the name.)
Each node of the network maintains a copy of the distributed ledger of transactions, ensuring no single point of failure. Blocks of data are added one after the other, and they are immutable and permanent. The first block of data in a blockchain network is called the Genesis block. It records the initial transactions ever made on that specific blockchain. Before a new block of data is added to the chain, it must be validated through a consensus, like Proof-of-Work or Proof-of-Stake.
Blockchain Technology Timeline
1979 - The Merkle Tree: Computer scientist Ralph Merkle describes an idea for public key distribution and digital signatures in his Ph.D. thesis. This approach is named the “tree authentication” or the Merkle Tree, and it provides a data structure for individual records verification.
1982 - Setting up the stage for blockchain: American computer scientist and cryptographer David Chaum first describes a vault system meant to establish, maintain and trust computer systems in his Ph.D. dissertation. Chaum is considered “the grandfather of cryptocurrency,” as his dissertation is the first known proposal of a blockchain protocol, including many elements used nowadays.
1991 - Timestamping digital documents: Stuart Haber and W. Scott Stornetta publish an article that proposes an innovative solution to prevent users from altering the timestamps of electronic records. They envisioned a cryptographically secured chain of blocks where nobody could tamper with the documents' timestamps. A year later, they incorporated the Merkle tree in their design, thus enabling multiple document certificates on a single block.
1998 - The Bit Gold rush: Computer scientist Nick Szabo introduces the idea of a decentralized digital currency named "Bit Gold." He publishes a whitepaper proposing a timestamped hash chain that uses hash cash, an early version of the Proof-of-work consensus. Bit Gold never materialized, though, remaining just at the idea stage.
2000 - Emergence of cryptographically secured chains: Stefan Konst presents his model of cryptographically secured chains where any entry in the chain can be traced back from the beginning to prove authenticity.
2008 - A new era begins: A developer or a group of developers under the pseudonym Satoshi Nakamoto release the whitepaper for Bitcoin, establishing the model for a blockchain. This model was built on the concepts and technologies created in the previous decades.
2009 - A star is born: Nakamoto takes Bitcoin from concept directly to reality, implementing the first blockchain as the public ledger for transactions made using the Bitcoin cryptocurrency. The system was set up so there will never be more than 21 million bitcoins ( out of which almost 19 million have already been mined.) At its inception in 2009, one bitcoin was worth less than a cent. At the time of writing this article, it's around $47.000, fluctuating from an all-time highest of $68.000. If there was ever a time to invest in this currency, it was 2009, but sadly nobody invented time machines yet.
2014 - Blockchain’s turning point: Blockchain technology is separated from the Bitcoin cryptocurrency, and its other applications are explored. Vitalik Buterin publishes a whitepaper proposing a decentralized application platform. Ethereum is launched, introducing smart contracts; computer programs that represent financial instruments like bonds. Financial institutions and other industries start to pay a closer look to blockchain technology, recognizing its potential.
2017 - Where cute cats come into play: Canadian studio launches CryptoKitties, a game where players can purchase, collect, breed and sell virtual furballs. It is considered one of the early attempts to deploy blockchain technology for leisure purposes using NFTs.
2021 - NFTs go mainstream: Although NFTs already existed for several years, this is when they reach stardom status, with several industries adopting them, including the art world and the gaming industry.
2022 - Win.app revolutionizes the gaming industry: This year, a new stepping stone will take place in the blockchain's history: the launch of Win.app, a Web3 platform for blockchain-powered skill-based games. With its proprietary WIN SDK, any developer will be able to instantly deploy crypto rewards and NFTs in any game with just two lines of code, soaring the play-to-earn gaming model directly into the stratosphere.
Since it appeared, blockchain technology has disrupted currency and various industries, and it’s not going to stop any time soon. We can only imagine what the future holds in store for us, but one thing is sure. The future will happen on the blockchain!
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