The search results for “what is blockchain” are a circus of confusing answers.
Blockchain is a shared, immutable ledger that facilitates the process of recording transactions and tracking assets in a business network - IBM
A blockchain is a growing list of records, called blocks, that are linked together using cryptography. - Wikipedia
Blockchain represents a new paradigm for digital interactions and serves as the underlying technology for most cryptocurrencies. - NIST
These words are fuzzy: records, blocks, linked, ledger, facilitates the process, business network, digital interactions. And this is just the first sentence of their descriptions.
Here’s how I would begin:
A blockchain is a special type of computer.
Because you’re reading this, I assume you’re well-read in legendary computer scientist Jon von Neumann. Of course, you know his famous 1945 First Draft of a Report on the EDVAC set the definition of a modern computer that is still used today. For you stragglers — or who didn’t research it for a newsletter this week — it can be summarized that a computer is “a device that accepts input, processes data, stores data, and produces output.”
According to this definition, a blockchain is a computer. Just like your phone is a computer that processed information to show you this email.
This is important. It grounds the buzzword in something tangible.
Next, I would explain that this special type of computer is interesting because it is a social computer. Meaning it is controlled by not just one participant, but a group. Any changes to the data are agreed upon and published transparently by the group. This is a useful alternative to trusting any single entity with control of your stuff.
Web3 is about exploring all the use cases for this special computer.