Originally published in 2018 and now at 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 about the technology underlying blockchain apps.
The book covers both the theoretical and practical aspects of Blockchain and aims to provide readers with a deep understanding of it as well as the foundation for building Blockchain applications. The third edition of the book comprises 22 chapters, up from 13 in the first edition. They cover all topics relevant to Blockchain, such as cryptography, cryptocurrencies, Bitcoin, Ethereum, including four new chapters on consensus algorithms, Serenity (Ethereum 2.0), tokenization, and enterprise blockchains.
InfoQ has taken the chance 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 quite significantly. Some of the ideas that contributed to the evolution of blockchain technology include novel cryptographic protocols, new consensus algorithms, new privacy techniques, and extensive work on scalability. Moreover, innovative types of blockchain, developed to address limitations in the underlying technology, have emerged, along with a deep interest in the adoption of blockchain technology in enterprise settings. Each of these changes inspired us to update the book with the latest industry developments.
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 the Blockchain ecosystem?
Bashir: This book has new chapters on some of the latest topics, including consensus algorithms, Ethereum 2.0, tokenization, and enterprise blockchains. Consensus algorithms is not a new topic from the computer science perspective but have gained renewed interest due to its application in the blockchain, being a distributed system. Consensus algorithms allow blockchain participants to agree on a state of the blockchain and is key to the integrity of the protocol. Many traditional protocols like PBFT and RAFT have made their way to blockchain world and has been adopted to provide agreement, safety and liveness guarantees to blockchains. Newer 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. Also, as anticipated, tokenization has emerged as the most prominent application of blockchain technology. Entire new ecosystems such as DeFi, payment systems, and many other DAPPs, tokens etc. have been developed on Ethereum and other platforms to make traditional processes more efficient. Moreover, an entirely new ecosystem of tokens has emerged, which opens up many new prospects in many industries.
InfoQ: Since you first wrote this book, how much has the Blockchain economy become a reality? Do you see any stumbling blocks? Can Blockchain be still viewed as a technology in search for an application?
Bashir: Blockchain economy indeed has become a reality. A recent report suggests that people are looking to invest in Bitcoin more than Gold. Recently Bitcoin passed $20,000 mark, and it is a clear indication that the economy indeed has been impacted by blockchain. Moreover, Decentralized finance, with more than 16 billion dollars value locked in, is a clear sign that blockchain has become part of our economy. Even if it is not fully regulated, scams and frauds do happen, many people prefer traditional finance, many people don’t understand it, it is a small fraction of total economy, but … its already a reality.
InfoQ: The new edition of the book includes extended coverage of Blockchain scalability. Could you explain what progress has been done 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 area. Scalability solutions such as ZK-rollups, lightening network, state channels, plasma are all new technologies that have been developed to address the scalability issue of blockchain. This trend is only expected to grow.
InfoQ: When it comes to other factors that have been limiting Blockchain large-scale adoption, such as privacy, regulatory and compliance, etc., how has the general landscape changed?
Bashir: Generally, I think there is more adoption, people know more about it, even if its only Bitcoin, the underlying technology, i.e. blockchain is still relevant and in my personal experience, people have become a lot more inquisitive about cryptocurrencies and blockchain in general. Of course, in the general public, this interest is mostly due to cryptocurrencies. Still, significant enthusiasm in industry and academia has been seen in the last few years, which is evident from the new innovations and abundance of quality research papers in this field.
InfoQ: Speaking of Blockchain use beyond currencies and finance, in what other domains is Blockchain finding 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 to real estate, medical, IoT, machine learning, gaming industry, government, health, music, media and even sports industry. The critical advantage of blockchain technology is secure and ready data sharing with other participants or counterparts in the network. This immediately brings down the cost of additional infrastructure, data transfer challenges and security arrangements. Actors in an ecosystem can interact directly with each other without any third party, which makes this a far more cost-efficient mechanism as compared to traditional trusted third-party models. Specifically, in healthcare, a medicine supply chain can benefit from blockchain by stopping counterfeiting of medicines. IoT can leverage the P2P communication, security guarantees provided by Blockchain and consensus algorithms to realize efficiency and security with comparatively lower cost and less demanding implementation challenges.
InfoQ: Last but not least, in recent years we have witnessed the rise of Enterprise Blockchain. Could you explain what it is about and what key challenges does it address?
Bashir: Enterprise blockchains allow an enterprise to benefit from blockchain technology. Public blockchains are not much suitable for many enterprise use cases due to performance, privacy and access control requirements. Still, they can be modified to allow enterprise use cases to be implemented on the blockchain. Enterprise blockchains can run within an organization or a consortium of different organization with primary goals of achieving efficiency in business processes and lowering cost. One prime example might be the ability to readily share data securely with other organizations which result in increased trust or running a payment and settlement network between banks without requiring costly reconciliation processes.
Imran Bashir has 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 both 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 companies in Europe’s financial capital, London.