A blockchain is a data structure that makes it possible to create a digital ledger of transactions and share it among a distributed network of computers. It uses cryptography to allow each participant on the network to manipulate the ledger in a secure way without the need for a central authority.
Once a block of data is recorded on the blockchain ledger, it’s extremely difficult to change or remove. When someone wants to add to it, participants in the network — all of which have copies of the existing blockchain — run algorithms to evaluate and verify the proposed transaction. If a majority of nodes agree that the transaction looks valid — that is, identifying information matches the blockchain’s history — then the new transaction will be approved and a new block added to the chain.
The blockchain architecture allows a distributed network of computers to reach consensus without the need for a central authority or middleman. A good example is in financial services, where trades are often verified by a central clearinghouse that maintains its own central ledger. Using that process, it can take days to settle a transaction, and the clearinghouse typically collects some kind of fee.
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