A blockchain is a decentralized peer-to-peer database architecture with built-in encryption and complex protocols for verifying data before adding it to the database. We think of blockchains as the foundation of cryptocurrencies because it was the introduction of Bitcoin that first gave blockchain technology a highly visible profile outside of computer science classes. Blockchains are still primarily used as the foundation of crypto coins and tokens, but the architecture is well-suited to applications in a wide variety of industries.
This article would be significantly shorter if blockchain evolution had stopped with the introduction of Bitcoin. Many of the most promising applications of this innovative database architecture rely on blockchain smart contract technology. It is the ability to manipulate blockchain data with executable code that is stored in blocks that makes the blockchain such a flexible foundation for applications in a wide array of situations.