The blockchain is an encrypted, distributed database or ledger that keeps track of every transaction made within a network. Blockchains store information across networks of computers and each transaction is publicly available and visible to network members.
Three primary characteristics of blockchains:
1.) Decentralized. No central institution such as a government or bank owns the Blockchain, and volunteer maintenance helps the network continue to function.
2.) Distributed. The blockchain is stored on a decentralized network, allowing ownership of the network to be distributed throughout community members.
3.) Encrypted. Transactions are stored in encrypted blocks on blockchains making it exceedingly difficult for malicious actors to corrupt or alter network activity.
The potential applications for blockchain are still being explored. In addition to financial transactions, blockchain will likely open up need possibilities for voter fraud prevention, supply chain management, and other key industrial needs.