How Does Distributed Consensus Work?
An overview of key breakthroughs in blockchain technology — and why Nakamoto Consensus is such a big deal
Distributed systems can be difficult to understand, mainly because the knowledge surrounding them is distributed. But don’t worry, I’m well aware of the irony. While teaching myself distributed computing, I fell flat on my face many times. Now, after many trials and tribulations, I’m finally ready to explain the basics of distributed systems to you.
Blockchains have forced engineers and scientists to re-examine and question firmly entrenched paradigms in distributed computing.
I also want to discuss the profound effect that blockchain technology has had on the field. Blockchains have forced engineers and scientists to re-examine and question firmly entrenched paradigms in distributed computing. Perhaps no other technology has catalyzed progress faster in this area of study than blockchain.
Distributed systems are by no means new. Scientists and engineers have spent decades researching the subject. But what does blockchain have to do with them? Well, all the contributions that blockchain has made wouldn’t have been possible if distributed systems hadn’t existed first.
Essentially, a blockchain is a new type of distributed system. It started with the advent of Bitcoin and has since made a lasting impact in the field of distributed computing. So, if you want to really know how blockchains work, a great grasp of the principles of distributed systems is essential.
Unfortunately, much of the literature on distributed computing is either difficult to comprehend or dispersed across way too many academic papers. To make matters more complex, there are hundreds of architectures, all of which serve different needs. Boiling this down into a simple-to-understand framework is quite difficult.
Because the field is vast, I had to carefully choose what I could cover. I also had to make generalizations to mask some of the complexity. Please note, my goal is not to make you an expert in the field. Instead, I want to give you enough knowledge to jump-start your journey…