Bitcoin And Blockchain Or BTC Vs DLT: History Of Two Buzzwords Often Mistaken For One Another

Bitcoin & Blockchain: The History Of Two Tech Buzzwords Often Mistaken For One Another

If you have been connected to the crypto space, you must be aware of how people have often mistaken the two very important words in the decentralized space, Bitcoin and blockchain. While Bitcoin is the peer-to-peer decentralized financial system based on the blockchain technology, people often confuse between the two terms for one another.

The main reason behind the confusion can be attributed to the sudden rise in popularity of Bitcoin back in 2017, up until then people really did not care what Bitcoin was or what technology it worked upon. However, the boom in prices brought in a ton of attention to the virtual currency.

It is interesting to note that the Blockchain term was not even used in the original white paper of the Bitcoin. The term blockchain simply refers to a system of blocks interconnected to each other forming a chain, thus the name blockchain. Since Bitcoin's public ledger also make use of data blocks to register the transaction, and the term blocks, as well as chain, have been referred separately several times in the original white paper thus Blockchain became quite a common reference.

When Did The Term Blockchain Come Into Existence?

So, it is clear that the term Blockchain did not originate from the original Bitcoin white paper. Even the earliest Bitcoin developers have reported that Satoshi only referred to Bitcoin's Proof-of-Work chain in several public forums. However, the first ever use of the term is estimated to come from Satoshi himself back in 2010, a year after the release of Bitcoin.

Satoshi first used the term Blockchain on the Bitcoin-specific forum called Bitcoin Talk that he created. The reference was not also from a technology-specific point of reference, as Satoshi used it in sentences like,

“How much did it take to download the Bitcoin blockchain” (the complete database of Bitcoin)

Thus, it is clear that the term blockchain was coined by Satoshi himself but accidentally and not as a synonym to Distributed Ledger Technology (DLT), it was a mere reference to the database of the whole network. It is still unclear when the term blockchain gained the reputation with which it is being used today.

However, many believe that the term gained traction through professional organizations and individual hesitance to align themselves with bitcoin in its early days when it was most famous as the virtual currency for criminal activities. Mike Hearn, a bitcoin developer explains,

“I think it became popular around the time people started going to Washington [D.C.] and trying to make bitcoin respectable by divorcing the currency from the underlying algorithms.”

The term blockchain helped the industry understand that Bitcoin is currency while the system of a decentralized network that it works upon can be separated from the token. Thus, the decentralized world realized that the underlying technology can be used for various purposes apart from the financial aspects of it. This is the time when the term Private Blockchain emerged. Google data trends suggest that the term got popular around 2015.

Long term cryptocurrency developer Greg Slepak explained,

“Initially, people said ‘blockchain’, and then, thanks to a great PR campaign, we were blessed with the much improved ‘blockchain,’ single-word, probably thanks to a community-wide effort near and around the Bitcoin Talk forums.”

Apart from Block & chain combining to form one word “Blockchain”, it was also noticed that anything which is not Bitcoin was referred to as “a blockchain” while Bitcoin got to keep “the blockchain” giving credence to the fact that it was the first.

Was Bitcoin The World's First Blockchain?

The answer is a big No, although the term came into existence only after the invention of Bitcoin, however, the technology of DLT and cryptography (two main concepts on which Bitcoin works) have been there well before Satoshi even thought of creating Bitcoin.

The Bitcoin white paper takes cryptographer Stuart Habe's timestamping into consideration, which is presumably the first ever blockchain to have existed and called Surety. Haber believes Satoshi cited his work for the exact same reasons. However, Haber also notes that his system was quite different from the Bitcoin as it is centralized and taken care of by one single company.

The explanation is given by Haber surely makes things tricky as Blockchain is predominantly seen as a decentralized technology with distributed power, however, it is also important to note that there is no specific single definition of the technology.

The Webster dictionary definition of the term reads,

“A chain in which the alternate links are broad blocks connected by thin side links pivoted to the ends of the blocks, used with sprocket wheels to transmit power, as in a bicycle.”

While the Google Definition says,

“A system in which a record of transactions made in bitcoin or another cryptocurrency is maintained across several computers that are linked in a peer-to-peer network.”

Many veterans of the decentralized space believe that the word has become so popular and widely used that the actual meaning becomes quite vague.

Haber's Blind Man Analogy

In order to end the complications surrounding the actual meaning of the word, Haber gave an interesting Indian Parable to make understand the real meaning. The Parable says a group of blind men came across an elephant, and they started to touch to figure out what the animal looks. However, the answer to each one is different depending upon which part of the animal they are touching.

One who touched the trunk believes its a snake, while the one who got hold of its leg, believes its a tree trunk. The same is also true in case of the Blockchain term, its actual meaning is totally dependent upon how it is being implemented and used. He noted,

“Some definitions will be completely silly, showing that people don’t understand what they’re doing, but there will also be a bunch of accurate descriptions of various parts of the vast body of work.”

In conclusion, we can say that the term Blockchain does not have any specific meaning to it, and it totally depends upon its use.

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