Blockchain has finally entered the national public sphere. Finally, because, contrary to what can be understood by its viral appearance in the Cristina Ferreira program via Miguel Sousa Tavares, this technology is not new. It is not, at least, in the “internet age”. And it is also not developed by Americans to combat “fake news” – although this can undoubtedly be one of the uses that this way of encrypting information can have. Let us underline, however, the “can”.

Talking about Blockchain is, in a way, talking about Bitcoin, the digital currency. Yes, the same “cryptocurrency” that in 2018 came to be valued at more than 20 thousand euros per unit. Both Blockchain and Bitcoin are sister creations, coined by the same person: the mysterious Satoshi Nakamoto, a figure of whom little is known and whose real identity is not revealed.

The technological principles that justify the value of Bitcoin, in addition to speculative ones, are the encryption and decentralization of information, which makes it more reliable than would be normal. Now, these are the principles that describe what Blockchain does. Bitcoin is thus based on Blockchain technology, a kind of decentralized database.

Blockchain, created in 2008, three years before Bitcoin, is a database that works with encrypted and decentralized information chains. In short, what it does is to register a series of information that are closed in a “block”, which is stored on several different servers (as opposed to using only one to store that information, hence the “decentralization”). This makes the information more difficult to tamper with, because the possibility of changing one of the information blocks is only possible, in case it is possible to access all the points by which it is distributed.

In the case of Bitcoin, for example, it happens that each transaction is written in a block of information until there are enough transactions, at which point a block is closed and added to the chain. It should also be noted that not all cryptocurrencies use this same technology, and there are others that use it in different ways, such as Ethereum (in this case, it is possible to pay commissions to speed up the process of closing a block and speeding up transactions from one “portfolio” to another, this possibility led in June to a mistake that cost a user $ 2.6 million).

Blockchain is widely used by startups, who base their technological solutions on this way of encrypting information. And Portuguese startups are no exception in their use. Vawlt Technologies, a company that works with data security solutions that emerged at the Instituto Superior Técnico in Lisbon, uses Blockchain as one of the possibilities to encrypt sensitive information; Taikai, a startup from Porto, created a platform to develop hackathons based entirely on Blockchain technology.

Its applications are, of course, impossible to calculate and have already extended from the typical SaaS (software as a service) to the art, having, since 2017, who organize raves in the city of Berlin making it known through public Blockchain networks (ensuring that only trusted people have access to the event, without the need to control the entire process). Therefore, it is not surprising that there are those who, in fact, are developing an application for this technology that aims fight fake news on the internet. However, it is important to say that the purpose of Blockchain, as well as its emergence and time when it was created, are distinct realities from the problem that Miguel Sousa Tavares determined as the reason for its existence. In fact, with Facebook and the new social networks reaching their peak in mid-2009/2010, we can even risk saying that the creation of Blockchain precedes the problem of fake news.

A partner article

Startup Portugal, responsible for promoting the national strategy for entrepreneurship, develops its own initiatives that support startups from the idea phase to the implementation and internationalization phase. Now, he joins SAPO24 and The Next Big Idea to bring a weekly series of articles on trends and news around the world of startups and more.

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