Ripple Campus Ambassador Journal #1 — Blockchain?

In Aug 2022, I was delighted to know that I was selected to be one of the Campus Ambassadors for the XRP Ledger (a program with an acceptance rate of ~7%). I wanted to initiate this series of articles to share what I learn about blockchains and specifically the XRP Ledger as part of my journey. Hope you’ll be able to gain some insight from these as well. I hope to eventually turn this blog into some sort of a dev journal as I hop onto an XRPL dev train.

Blockchains. What the hell are those?

Blockchains are blocks of data that contain timestamps and references to the previous block (the hash of a block) chained together. Essentially, it’s a reverse linked list (for our tech-savvy folks). The blockchain can be described as a database of those blocks. Since its creation, it has evolved to have a variety of applications from finance, software, and governance to gaming. Let me give a brief overview of its history.

The first ever decentralized (emphasis on the decentralized part) blockchain was Bitcoin, created by Satoshi Nakamoto (who exactly this is, we may never know). The first block, the Genesis block, of this blockchain was mined in 2009, and the whole thing is based on the idea of revolutionizing transactions. Why would they want to revolutionize transactions?

Imagine having to send money to another party through orthodox transaction methods. But you’ll have to pay a sender’s fee to the bank for being the trusted third party to oversee the transaction. That’s the concept of trust. I can’t go back on the deal or scam another party so easily with the third party overseeing the transaction. What if there were a way to send money directly without the participation of a third party? This is what the notion of Peer to Peer (P2P) transaction is all about, and this idea gave birth to the first cryptocurrency, Bitcoin. You must be confused. “Didn’t you just say Bitcoin was a blockchain and not a cryptocurrency?” Well, we refer to both the cryptocurrency and the blockchain it’s native to as Bitcoin.

In Bitcoin transactions, proof-of-work algorithms work to validate transactions. Once a transaction is initiated, a new block is created by the nodes in the system and the proof-of-work algorithm appends this block to the chain and verifies it. Reliable transactions.

Bitcoin is completely transparent. It is a decentralized and distributed ledger. Because it’s a distributed system, all participant nodes (basically computers in the network) have a copy of the ledger, making it practically impossible to alter (immutable). Because it’s decentralized, all participant nodes are equal, and no node is higher than the others.

Bitcoin is open-source. That means no party has higher authority in this system to which everyone can contribute. Even you can commit to the codebase here (https://github.com/bitcoin/bitcoin). If you see some sort of a pattern here, you’re not alone. That’s what intrigues me regarding blockchains the most: true democracy. Though I won’t get all political here, it’s fascinating to think that several lines of code can give more power to the people, give owners more control over their assets, and establish transparency.

Bitcoin is not the first digital transaction method though, and it will certainly not be the last. Ideas have been floating around such as electronic money before Bitcoin. Bitcoin is also not the first blockchain system, but the first decentralized one. Read more from the 9-page paper by Satoshi Nakamoto (https://bitcoin.org/bitcoin.pdf) that gave birth to Bitcoin.

What’s so special about the XRP Ledger?

Though I didn’t mention them in this article, Bitcoin certainly has its shortcomings. XRPL is a blockchain that seeks to have everything that is good about Bitcoin while improving upon its shortcomings. More details to come in the next article.

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I write. Some are sincere, some are weird. But most are good.

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