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Communications of the ACM


A Hitchhiker's Guide to the Blockchain Universe

A Hitchhiker's Guide to the Blockchain Universe, illustration

Credit: Andrij Borys Associates / Shutterstock

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It is difficult these days to avoid hearing about blockchain. Blockchain is going to be the foundation of a new business world based on smart contracts. It is going to allow everyone to trace the provenance of their food, the parts in the items they buy, or the ideas they hear. It will change the way we work, the way the economy runs, and the way we live in general.

Despite the significant potential of blockchain, it is also difficult to find a consistent description of what it really is. A recent Google search for "blockchain technical papers" returned nothing but white papers for the first three screens; not a single paper is peer-reviewed. One of the best discussions of the technology itself is from the National Institute of Standards and Technology, but at 50-plus pages, it is a bit much for a quick read.9


John Schlesinger

It is not true that distributed consensus cannot be achieved in the presence of one faulty participant. The proof of this, cited in the article, is only for asynchronous protocols. Synchronous protocols can achieve consensus when some participants are faulty. See Gray and Lamport Consensus on Transaction commit 2004 for a discussion of this

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