Originally published in 2018 and now in its third edition, Packt Publishing Mastering Blockchain aims to provide a comprehensive introduction to Blockchain and targets developers, students, and anyone interested in building Blockchain applications or learning. of the underlying technology to blockchain applications.
The book covers both theoretical and practical aspects of Blockchain and aims to provide readers with an in-depth understanding of it as well as the basics of building Blockchain applications. The third edition of the book has 22 chapters, compared to 13 in the first edition. They cover all blockchain-related topics such as cryptography, cryptocurrencies, Bitcoin, Ethereum, including four new chapters on consensus algorithms, Serenity (Ethereum 2.0), tokenization, and enterprise blockchains.
InfoQ took the opportunity to speak with Mastering Blockchain author Imran Bashir to learn more about the book and the current Blockchain landscape.
InfoQ: What motivated you to write the 3rd edition of Mastering Blockchain?
Bashir: Since the publication of the previous edition, blockchain technology has evolved a lot. Some of the ideas that have helped the evolution of blockchain technology include new cryptographic protocols, new consensus algorithms, new privacy techniques, and extensive work on scalability. Additionally, innovative types of blockchain, developed to address the limitations of the underlying technology, have emerged, along with a strong interest in the adoption of blockchain technology in businesses. Each of these changes prompted us to update the book with the latest developments in the industry.
InfoQ: The latest edition of the book includes new chapters on consensus algorithms, Serenity (Ethereum 2.0), and tokenization. Could you briefly explain what these new developments bring to the Blockchain ecosystem?
Bashir: This book contains new chapters on some of the latest topics including consensus algorithms, Ethereum 2.0, tokenization, and enterprise blockchains. Consensus algorithms are not a new topic from an IT perspective but have gained renewed interest due to their application in blockchain, being a distributed system. Consensus algorithms allow blockchain participants to agree on a state of the blockchain and are key to the integrity of the protocol. Many traditional protocols such as PBFT and RAFT have made their way into the blockchain world and have been adopted to provide guarantees of agreement, security and liveliness to blockchains. New variations of these traditional algorithms like IBFT and better protocols like Hotstuff and DiemBFT have also been developed which have introduced many more unique and better properties. Moreover, as expected, tokenization has become the most important application of blockchain technology. Entirely new ecosystems like DeFi, payment systems and many other DAPPs, tokens, etc. were developed on Ethereum and other platforms to make traditional processes more efficient. In addition, a whole new ecosystem of tokens has emerged which opens up many new perspectives in many industries.
InfoQ: Since you first wrote this book, to what extent has the blockchain economy become a reality? Do you see any stumbling blocks? Can Blockchain Still Be Considered As A Technology In Search Of An Application?
Bashir: The blockchain economy has indeed become a reality. A recent report suggests that people are looking to invest more in Bitcoin than in gold. Recently, Bitcoin broke the $ 20,000 mark, and this is a clear indication that the economy has indeed been affected by blockchain. Additionally, decentralized finance, with a value of over $ 16 billion locked in, is a clear sign that blockchain is now part of our economy. Even though it is not fully regulated, scams and frauds do occur, a lot of people prefer traditional finance, a lot of people don’t understand it, it’s a small fraction of the total economy, but… it is already a reality.
InfoQ: The new edition of the book includes extensive coverage of Blockchain scalability. Can you explain the progress made in this area?
Bashir: A lot of work has been done on scalability. Solutions such as ZK-rollups, lightning network, state channels, plasma are all new technologies that have been developed, indicating significant progress in this field. Scalability solutions like ZK-rollups, Lean Network, State Channels, Plasma are all new technologies that have been developed to solve blockchain scalability problem. This trend is only expected to increase.
InfoQ: As for other factors that have limited the large-scale adoption of Blockchain, such as privacy, regulation and compliance, etc., how has the general landscape changed?
Bashir: In general I think there is more adoption, people know more, even if it’s only Bitcoin, the underlying technology i.e. blockchain is still relevant today and in my personal experience, people have become much more curious about cryptocurrencies and blockchain in general. Of course, in the general public, this interest is mainly due to cryptocurrencies. Yet significant enthusiasm in industry and academia has been observed in recent years, which is evident from new innovations and the abundance of quality research material in this area.
InfoQ: Speaking of using blockchain beyond currencies and finance, in what other areas is the blockchain research application?
Bashir: Blockchain introduced with Bitcoin and cryptocurrencies, other industries can benefit from this fantastic technology. Already, a wide range of applications of blockchain technology has found its way into real estate, medical, IoT, machine learning, gaming industry, government, healthcare, music, media. and even the sports industry. The essential advantage of blockchain technology is the secure and easy sharing of data with other participants or peers in the network. This immediately reduces the cost of additional infrastructure, data transfer challenges and security arrangements. Actors in an ecosystem can interact with each other directly without any third parties, making it a much more cost effective mechanism compared to traditional trusted third party models. Specifically, in healthcare, a drug supply chain can benefit from blockchain by stopping counterfeit drugs. The IoT can take advantage of P2P communication, security guarantees provided by Blockchain, and consensus algorithms to achieve efficiency and security with comparatively lower cost and less demanding implementation challenges.
InfoQ: Last but not the least, in recent years we have seen the rise of enterprise blockchain. Could you explain what it is and what are the main challenges it addresses?
Bashir: Corporate blockchains allow a business to benefit from blockchain technology. Public blockchains are not very suitable for many business use cases due to performance, privacy and access control requirements. Nevertheless, they can be modified to allow the implementation of business use cases on the blockchain. Enterprise blockchains can operate within an organization or a consortium of different organizations with the primary goals of achieving business process efficiency and reducing costs. A great example might be the ability to easily share data and securely with other organizations, which translates into increased trust or running a payment and settlement network between banks without requiring expensive reconciliation processes. .
Imran Bashir holds an M.Sc. in Information Security from Royal Holloway, University of London, and has a background in software development, solution architecture, infrastructure management and IT service management. He is also a member of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) and the British Computer Society (BCS). Imran has extensive experience in the public and financial sectors, having worked on large-scale IT projects in the public sector before moving to the financial services industry. Since then he has worked in various technical roles for different financial firms in the European financial capital, London.