In 1983, the American cryptographer David Chaum conceived an anonymous cryptographic electronic money called ecash. Later, in 1995, he implemented it through Digicash, an early form of cryptographic electronic payments which required user software in order to withdraw notes from a bank and designate specific encrypted keys before it can be sent to a recipient. This allowed the digital currency to be untraceable by the issuing bank, the government, or any third party.
In 1998, Wei Dai published a description of “b-money”, characterized as an anonymous, distributed electronic cash system. Shortly thereafter, Nick Szabo described bit gold. It was 2009 when the first decentralized cryptocurrency, bitcoin, was created by presumably pseudonymous developer Satoshi Nakamoto. It used SHA-256, a cryptographic hash function, in its proof-of-work scheme.
What is Cryptocurrency?
A cryptocurrency or crypto is a collection of binary data which is designed to work as a medium of exchange wherein individual coin ownership records are stored in a ledger which is a computerized database using strong cryptography to secure transaction records, to control the creation of additional coins, and to verify the transfer of coin ownership.
According to Jan Lansky, a cryptocurrency is a system that meets six conditions:
- The system does not require a central authority; its state is maintained through distributed consensus.
- The system keeps an overview of cryptocurrency units and their ownership.
- The system defines whether new cryptocurrency units can be created. If new cryptocurrency units can be created, the system defines the circumstances of their origin and how to determine the ownership of these new units.
- Ownership of cryptocurrency units can be proved exclusively cryptographically.
- The system allows transactions to be performed in which ownership of the cryptographic units is changed. A transaction statement can only be issued by an entity proving the current ownership of these units.
- If two different instructions for changing the ownership of the same cryptographic units are simultaneously entered, the system performs at most one of them.
What is Blockchain?
A blockchain is a growing list of records, called blocks, that are linked together using cryptography. Each block contains a cryptographic hash of the previous block, a timestamp, and transaction data (generally represented as a Merkle tree).
The timestamp proves that the transaction data existed when the block was published in order to get into its hash. As blocks each contain information about the block previous to it, they form a chain, with each additional block reinforcing the ones before it.
Therefore, blockchains are resistant to modification of their data because once recorded, the data in any given block cannot be altered retroactively without altering all subsequent blocks.
The blockchain was popularized by a person (or group of people) using the name Satoshi Nakamoto in 2008 to serve as the public transaction ledger of the cryptocurrency bitcoin, based on work by Stuart Haber, W. Scott Stornetta, and Dave Bayer.
The identity of Satoshi Nakamoto remains unknown to date. The invention of the blockchain for bitcoin made it the first digital currency to solve the double-spending problem without the need for a trusted authority or central server.
Difference between Blockchain and Cryptocurrency?
Blockchains can enable decentralized platforms which require a cryptocurrency. The blockchain is the technology that serves as the distributed ledger and allows a network to maintain consensus. Distributed consensus enables the network to track transactions, and enables the transfer of value and information.
Cryptocurrencies are the tokens used within these networks to send value and pay for these transactions, or to provide network incentives. Furthermore, you can see them as a tool on the blockchain, in some cases serving as a resource or utility, or even to digitize the ownership of an asset.
No, they are not same. Blockchain is the technology that allows for cryptocurrencies to work. It is a decentralized and digital ledger of transactions used for cryptocurrencies and other assets/functions. It is important to separate the technology behind cryptocurrencies from the actual cryptocurrencies.