By Robert Mao

5 Graphics To Help You Understand Blockchain

In the autobiography, Lyman Abbott, editor-in-chief of The Outlook, recorded his father's words, "Since ancient times nine out of ten philosophical and theological debates are just disputes about the meaning of a noun.” Abbott commented: “My father’s words were wise, but the older I am the more I feel that my father's math is still a little wrong. In fact, the remaining tenth is also just a debate on nouns.”

The Basic Building Blocks of Blockchain

Like the meaning of cloud ten years ago, today's blockchain industry is full of names and words that represent diametrically opposing ideas. Here are a few examples:

“centralization” and “decentralization” “public chain” and “private chain” “permission chain” and “permissionedless chain."

More recently, we are starting to see another set of ideas work through the industry that include terms like: "sidechain", "sub-chain", "root chain", "main chain", "state channel", "lightning network", or even "layer 0", "layer1", "layer2.” So what does it all mean? The reality is that many of these terms of just meaningless "nouns" where a company or technology attempts to differentiate an idea of business. Because many blockchains ideas are still new and not fully realized many people will fall into a debate about which term or example is correct. Are these terms all correct? Do they truly represent an industry where there are no clear concepts of how the technologies or capabilities work?

The answer is actually right in front of us. If one was to simply study the core attributes of blockchain and decentralization you quickly realize that the technology actually defines itself and doesn’t require a lot of buzzwords or “nouns” to explain something that in fact can be simply understood.

Shown below, since most web applications follow a similar design we have included a schematic diagram of a standard “internet application” on the left side, and on the right side we have detailed out a standard decentralized application.

graphic01

If you just take a quick glance at the diagrams you can easily see similar architectures on the left and right sides of the image. For the internet application, developers and engineers are already very familiar with the concepts and understand that it “should be like this.” However, when you really look at the fundamental design you should also be aware that this architecture has survived against fierce competition for nearly 20 years. We’ve seen a host of new applications, new reference designs, new technologies, new databases and so on be used by developers, but in the end, this design has proven resilient, and long-standing due to its successful combination of core services and functionality. Now, if you look again at the right-hand column, this is the same model that ArcBlock has used for its interconnected blockchain architecture along with other blockchain thought leaders like Cosmos. So, let’s look at how they are similar.

Web 应用 Dapps
Application Various Web Applications (Browser, mobile apps, etc) Various decentralized apps (including apps taht can e used on browsers and ddevices)
Framework Application Frameworks: PHP, Ruby/Ruby on Rails, Python/Django, Javascript / Nodejs, etc. Blockchain Dev Frameworks Forge, Cosmos SDK,Substrate
Node Web Server Blockchain Node, example ABT Chain Node
Internet Internet that supports TCIP/IP Protocol Blockchain Network: ABT Network,Cosmos Hub

At the core of every internet application is the database. Since the early days of the internet, there have been countless database technologies competing for the "mainstream.” Of course, only a few survived and today the SQL language has become the common language for unifying most database queries, such as ODBC and JDBC. Connected middleware, components such as the ORM (Object Relationship Mapper) of the application development layer have become standard design patterns.

Now, if we add access to the database from the internet application, it is similar to a DApp adding access to the previous generation of popular blockchains in the blockchain application, for example, let's look at the following diagram:

graphic03

So are they similar? The short answer is of course yes. Using this referenceable architecture from an internet application, I believe that many people will suddenly understand the architecture of the blockchain network and the role of decentralized applications in this system.

It really shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone that these types of similarities are repeated over and over again in the development of computer-centric technologies. If we look at other examples, we can see that the architecture of the Internet, in fact, has many similarities with the telecommunications networks of the past. While many technologies represent a quantum leap in capabilities and represent potential disruptions to the “standard” technology leaders, we still need to consider these new technologies from the perspective of reliability and if we replace our old technologies with new technologies, will these new technologies be reliable and stable enough for systems to continue to work.

graphic05

Even after thirty years, the Internet still has not completely replaced the telecommunications network, although, in the public mind, the value and importance of the Internet have far exceeded the telecommunications network. However, if you go back in time twenty years you might remember that the Internet was just a “value-added data service” in the eyes of most telecom operators, and it was simply an additional service that they could charge users for.

Over the years telecommunication companies have continued to evolve, along with others like Comcast/Xfinity or other cable operators that were at one point delivering television programming that then morphed into other data services including access to a LAN network, and then to the internet, or more recently “triple play” offerings that combined services like TV, internet and phone into a single service. Interestingly enough, the triple play in many ways was the precursor to the next generation blockchain network. If you have Xfinity or one of the other leading cable providers, you’ve probably used their latest single box to connect to all of Xfinity services that in reality are just different apps being delivered as data services through the internet. In reality, it is a very basic example of today’s interconnected blockchain network.

graph04

Today, ArcBlock, Cosmos (formerly Tendermint) and Polkadot are several of a handful of companies that are actively developing and deploying interconnected blockchains and networks and are presenting a clear and viable future on how to build and use the next generation of data services.

The biggest feature of these companies' products is the interconnected blockchain network. We believe that as more and more people understand the structure of the blockchain, most companies will adopt similar architectures due to the reliable design and ability to deliver services and users seamlessly. Both ArcBlock's and Cosmos released their interconnected blockchain networks during the first quarter of 2019, while Polkadot has released several test versions, and their engineering blog mentions that they will finally release the first production of their network later this year that can support up to 100 blockchains. ArcBlock and Cosmos have now already announced that they can support unlimited numbers of blockchains on their networks.