Few words are as ubiquitous as blockchain in tech conversations. But what does this technology accomplish on a mundane level? Despite the popularity of the word, its practical applications aren’t accessible, or even visible, to most of the world’s population—yet.
For a technology that’s bound to change the world for the better, there are monumental strides to be made in breaking down the significance of blockchain to the general public. Scholarly and analytical articles related to the future of blockchain abound, but the world of blockchain doesn’t have to be overly complicated.
In 2008, blockchain was invented to serve as a secure payment rail for Bitcoin. This allows every movement of the cryptocurrency to be publicly viewed and stored—but the concept didn’t stop there.
Today, blockchain is utilized beyond cryptocurrency to store data in a non-corruptible format. This allows every transaction (from sending money or a medical file) to be recorded on a ledger that can’t be altered.
The concept may sound complex, but its expanding applications in day-to-day are surprisingly simple.
At its core, blockchain isn’t a cybersecurity measure. It exists to store data in a reliable and accessible manner. However, blockchain helps prevent data breaches by malware, ransomware, and other groups looking to bring down a site with a DDoS attack. It does this by providing secure private messaging platforms, decentralizing IoT systems and storage, preventing data tampering, and ensuring downloads are safe.
One example of blockchain’s revolution of cybersecurity is the booming online casino sector. According to Business Insider, online casinos in the US brought in $402 million in the second quarter of 2020—and momentum is only building.
As online casinos expand in the US, gaming companies face special licensing, zoning, and taxation regulations, which means blockchain doesn’t just protect from DDoS attacks; it also provides a flawless receipt for online gaming groups that can handle hundreds of thousands of dollars each week.
This degree of transparency helps online casinos function with the faith of the public, as well as the institutions they must report to externally and internally. With Statista predicting the global online casino market booming to $92.9 billion by 2023, the availability of sites providing blackjack casino offers and virtual poker tables will increase manifold in the coming years.
But with blockchain, gamers have unprecedented access to transparent and secure platforms.
Social media and social networking have pervaded the professional and social lives of most of the world’s working-age population. By 2025, Statista predicts that up to 4.41 billion (over half the world’s population) will be active on a social media site.
In an era where certain social networks have come under fire for data collection, storage, and redistribution, blockchain offers a simple and profound way to protect private information. For example, Facebook’s recent acquisition of WhatsApp means the popular messaging app is no longer encrypted.
Blockchain can provide a totally private connection between two parties (should a social media group decide to use a blockchain platform). Beyond protecting information and preventing data collection, blockchain can also help legitimize the various payment platforms now being proposed by major social media networks.
For example, though Facebook doesn’t provide measures to protect the privacy of its users, it did recently incorporate blockchain to legitimize its cryptocurrency Diem (formerly known as Libra). Diem hasn’t yet launched, but it highlights the diversity of blockchain applications—though many social media users would likely prefer the platform to adopt blockchain encryption rather than another cryptocurrency.
One of blockchain’s most exciting applications has nothing to do with financial services. Because blockchain is a decentralized technology, its ledger is accessible to the public (or those who have downloaded associated platforms). For artists and inventors, this has particularly empowering applications.
Typically, banks, intermediary groups, and giant tech corporations are responsible for storing and moving data related to intellectual property. For example, popular American artist Taylor Swift recently made headlines because of her falling out with manager Scooter Braun.
As an artist, Swift didn’t own her own songs. When she left her contract with Braun and his Big Machine Label Group, he retained the rights to sell and profit from her music. Blockchain can help eliminate intermediary companies like those represented by Braun’s BMLG.
Blockchain creates an incorruptible ledger that connects each artist with their product—whether that be a necklace, a song, a painting, or even an idea. When creative property moves via blockchain platforms, it retains the virtual signature of the creator. This can eliminate labels, financial intermediaries, and tech companies used for distribution.
In other words, blockchain can help distribute creative work worldwide and empower artists to spearhead their careers.
Since blockchain first emerged in 2008, financial technology (fintech for short) has irrevocably evolved. At its core, blockchain serves to eliminate bulky and costly intermediaries that were typically responsible for providing secure financial transactions.
Banking systems are the first platforms challenged by blockchain technologies that can eliminate intermediary groups. With its incorruptible ledger, blockchain is able to tack on ‘smart contracts’ to assets, bonds, diamonds, stocks, and so on. This means there’s no longer an investment banker or asset manager that needs to do this work.
For example, an asset would retain the instructions imparted by the ‘smart contract’, which is created by the owner. From there, this asset exists securely and independently online. Its value can’t be altered, and there’s no need to pay someone to ensure the asset isn’t lost or corrupted.
Funding, investing, accounting, and auditing are other ways that blockchain is revolutionizing the world of financial services. With its ability to record and transfer vast sets of data without fear of corruption, each time-stamped transaction is no longer subject to human error.
Though financial services changed by blockchain are likely to continue affecting the private sector, governmental institutions and watchdog groups could also jump on board in order to more efficiently report on and regulate certain sectors (like online gaming, mentioned above).
Blockchain was invented to legitimize Bitcoin’s decentralized currency. Though the currency has proved trustworthy and has led to the creation of other popular cryptos like Litecoin, Ethereum, Tron, and Chainlink, the value of Bitcoin continues to swing high and low.
Though Bitcoin still has stabilizing to do, the creation of the world’s first decentralized currency has signaled a clear divergence from global centers of financial power. Those looking to opt-in to the crypto craze can use any of the popular ‘exchanges’ in order to create a ‘digital wallet’.
Again, it sounds more complicated than it is. Setting up an account with an exchange in order to create a digital wallet to store crypto isn’t much different than pairing a bank account with an intermediary like PayPal or Venmo.
From there, the practical applications of blockchain are easy to see based on what’s available for a consumer to buy with crypto in their digital wallet. More and more companies are looking to accommodate their crypto consumers, including Expedia and Lush Cosmetics.
You can donate to Wikileaks, buy a Bugatti, or take home a diamond ring. You can even attend Cumbria University in the UK, which now accepts Bitcoin. Meanwhile, in the US, certain athletes in the NFL and NBA are looking to be paid in crypto.
Blockchain will continue to expand and find applications beyond its original usage in cryptocurrency and financial services. Looking forward, blockchain may jump past currency altogether—crypto or centralized.
As a decentralized ledger, blockchain could be used to support a trade culture. After all, if two parties agree to an exchange, there’s no reason to apply market value to a product or service at all. Blockchain stores the contract, and that’s that.
On the other hand, some of the more interesting applications of blockchain are heading in the opposite direction. One fintech innovator, Evan Prodromou, recently launched his own cryptocurrency, known as Evancoin, via Ethereum’s blockchain. Evancoin marked the commodification of the innovator’s time.
The more people trying to get a meeting with Prodromou, the more expensive his time.