Different Types of Blockchains for Crypto Newbies

June 12, 2024
@Justin Wise
Lead Technical Analyst, Co-Founder


Amidst the buzz and financial gains of the Cryptocurrency markets, it’s crucial not to overlook the revolutionary technology that's driving it all. Blockchain Technology, often hailed for its role in transforming digital transactions, is the game-changer at the heart of this digital revolution.

At its core, a blockchain is a distributed database. It allows data to be stored across thousands of servers in different geographic regions while letting anyone on the network see everyone else's activity in real-time. This makes it incredibly difficult for a single user to control or tamper with the data. 

Blockchain technology emerged as a groundbreaking solution to an age-old security challenge: the Byzantine General’s Dilemma. This dilemma, in simple terms, ponders how an army general can securely communicate with his Lieutenant, knowing that enemy spies are likely to intercept and tamper with the message. The General is left with no certainty that his Lieutenant receives an unaltered message, nor can he trust any communication he receives. 

Satoshi Nakamoto, the pseudonymous creator of Bitcoin, solved this problem with the mechanism behind the Bitcoin Blockchain: Proof of Work. By requiring the Miners, responsible for validating transactions and maintaining the network's security, to perform expensive computational calculations to arrive at a special cryptographic hash that each unique block is marked with, Blockchains were born. 

Going back to the Byzantine General’s Dilemma, the solution is to encode each message in such a way that is time-consuming, expensive, and difficult to reproduce or forge. Once the message is encoded (hashed), any alteration will be immediately evident or prohibitively expensive or time-consuming.

Blockchains do this every day: securely encrypt financial transactions as messages, securely transmit these messages to network participants, and maintain an irreversible ledger or log of all historical messages.

Three fundamental attributes of blockchain technology are immutability, transparency, and decentralization. Each of these characteristics plays a vital part in fostering trust and security within the network.


Immutability, a fundamental aspect of blockchain technology, is the bedrock of its integrity and trustworthiness. When we say a blockchain is immutable, we mean that once data is recorded, it's beyond alteration or deletion by any single entity. This unyielding characteristic is what makes blockchains so secure and reliable for transactions and data storage.

Thanks to cryptographic hash functions, a blockchain can maintain a permanent and unalterable record of all transactions. Once a transaction is recorded on a blockchain, altering it is practically impossible without the network's consensus.

Consider the act of writing on stone. Once the information is etched, it's nearly impossible to erase or overwrite without leaving clear signs of tampering. Blockchain operates on a similar principle; once data is entered, it's like etching information into stone. It becomes permanent and tamper-evident.

The immutability of a blockchain is primarily achieved through the use of cryptographic hash functions. Each block in the blockchain contains a unique digital fingerprint called a hash. This hash is created by running the block’s data through a hash function. Crucially, hashes are designed to be unidirectional, meaning you can produce a hash from the data but not derive the original data from the hash. Furthermore, each new block includes the previous block's hash, creating a chain of dependencies.

If an attempt is made to alter any information in a previous block, the hash of that block will change. This change would invalidate all subsequent blocks because their hashes would no longer correctly reference the altered block's new hash. Revalidating all subsequent blocks would require enormous computational power to recreate each block's hash and the consensus of the network, which is highly improbable in a decentralized system.


Another pivotal feature of blockchain technology is its transparency. Every transaction is visible to all participants and can be audited in real-time. This level of openness is a powerful tool in reducing fraud and fostering trust.

Imagine a bank built entirely of glass, where every transaction inside is visible to anyone walking by. Blockchain provides a similar level of visibility. Every transaction is visible to all participants and cannot be hidden, which promotes fairness and accountability.

The technical mechanism behind blockchain’s transparency lies in its distributed ledger technology. Each transaction on the blockchain is recorded in multiple copies of the ledger distributed across various nodes in the network. This distribution ensures that no single node can unilaterally alter the information. If a node attempts to introduce a change that is inconsistent with other copies, the network will reject this change, thereby maintaining the integrity and transparency of the ledger.

The transparent nature of blockchain technology has several profound implications:

  • Auditability: With each transaction accessible and traceable by all network participants, blockchain creates an inherently auditable environment. This is particularly beneficial for financial institutions, government agencies, and other entities that require meticulous records management.
  • Reduced Fraud: The ability for each transaction to be seen by everyone on the network discourages fraudulent activity. Any attempt at deceit or corruption will likely be quickly noticed and rectified by other participants.
  • Increased Trust: Transparency leads to increased trust among network participants. When everyone can see and verify the details of transactions, confidence in the system grows, and the need for traditional middlemen decreases.


Decentralization is the most transformative aspect of blockchain technology, radically shifting how data management and transactions are handled compared to traditional centralized systems. 

At its essence, decentralization in blockchain refers to the distribution of control and decision-making from a centralized entity (individual, organization, or group thereof) to a vast array of machines, ensuring that no single party has complete control over the entire network. This distribution also enhances the security and resilience of the network, as there is no central point of failure.

Traditional media outlets, such as television and newspapers, are controlled by their respective owners, who decide what content to broadcast or publish. In contrast, the Internet is a decentralized platform where anyone can publish information or create content without centralized approval. Similarly, blockchain allows transactions and data to be posted and validated by multiple participants across the network, eliminating the need for a central authority.

Blockchain technology achieves decentralization through its architecture, where each node in the network maintains a copy of the entire ledger. Changes to the ledger must be approved by consensus — this means no single node can alter information unilaterally. This distributed consensus mechanism is vital for maintaining the integrity and security of the data.

Blockchains form the backbone of cryptocurrencies, providing a secure and efficient way to handle digital currency transactions without intermediaries like banks. This decentralization is crucial in a world where individuals increasingly value privacy and control over their data.

As we delve deeper, it becomes apparent that not all blockchains are created equal. Different types require distinct approaches, particularly concerning who can participate in the network and who maintains the ledger. The various types of blockchains include public, permissioned, private, and consortium blockchains, each catering to specific needs and offering different levels of accessibility and privacy.

Understanding these variations is essential for anyone interested in the blockchain space, whether they are developers, investors, or simply enthusiasts looking to understand more about how this technology can be applied. As we explore these different types, we'll discuss how they operate, their advantages, and their suitability for different applications. This will provide a solid foundation for anyone interested in the potential and operation of blockchain technology.

Demystifying Blockchain Access: Public vs. Permissioned

Public Blockchains (Permissionless)

Public blockchains, also known as permissionless blockchains, are distinguished by their open-access nature. Anyone with an internet connection can join the network and validate transactions. These blockchains epitomize the original vision of decentralization, where there is no central authority; the power and control lie within the network of anonymous participants.

One of the main advantages of public blockchains is transparency. Every transaction on these blockchains is visible to anyone who chooses to view them. This transparency ensures accountability, as any user can verify every transaction. Immutability is another core benefit. Once information has been added to a public blockchain, it cannot be altered, which protects against fraud and unauthorized interference.

Famous examples of public blockchains include Bitcoin and Ethereum, which have introduced significant innovations in how money can be tracked and trusted without a centralized regulatory body. These platforms use different consensus mechanisms to maintain the integrity of the data recorded on their blockchains. Bitcoin, for example, uses a Proof of Work (PoW) system, which requires participants (miners) to solve complex mathematical problems to validate transactions and create new blocks. Ethereum, meanwhile, has transitioned to a Proof of Stake (PoS) mechanism, which selects validators based on how much Ethereum they hold and stake rather than their computational power.

Permissioned Blockchains

In contrast, permissioned blockchains control network access through strict access controls, where participants need explicit permission to join. These blockchains often operate under the governance of one or several organizations that determine who may participate in the network. This controlled access can be pivotal for businesses that require privacy and security over their internal data.

Permissioned blockchains can significantly enhance business efficiency by streamlining processes that traditionally require extensive paperwork and third-party verification. They also provide enhanced privacy since transaction visibility can be restricted to certain network participants. This is particularly useful in industries like healthcare or supply chain management, where confidentiality and selective transparency are crucial.

For example, supply chain management businesses use permissioned blockchains to track the provenance of goods as they move from origin to consumer, ensuring the authenticity of products and optimizing logistical operations. In healthcare, permissioned blockchains can secure the sharing of sensitive patient records, ensuring that only authorized personnel can access or modify these records.

The choice between public and permissioned blockchains depends on a project or organization's specific needs and goals. Public blockchains offer unparalleled openness and security, ideal for systems where trust needs to be distributed among users. On the other hand, permissioned blockchains offer efficiency and privacy, catering to organizations that require strict control over their internal operations and data.

Striking a Balance: Consortium Blockchains

Consortium blockchains represent a middle ground between the open nature of public blockchains and the restricted access of private blockchains. These blockchains are operated by a group of organizations, which collaborate to achieve mutual benefits while maintaining certain levels of privacy and control not typically available in fully decentralized networks.

Defining Consortium Blockchains

A consortium blockchain is a partially decentralized type where the control over the ledger is shared between multiple predetermined organizations or entities. Unlike public blockchains, where anyone can participate in the validation process, or private blockchains, where a single organization governs the operations, consortium blockchains allow a group of selected parties to oversee the protocols. This setup helps to maintain the integrity and security of the blockchain while allowing for controlled access and participation.

Governance by Multiple Organizations

The governance of a consortium blockchain is designed around a framework where multiple organizations have authority over the network. This means no single entity owns the entire system, allowing for more democratic decision-making. Each participating organization in the consortium has equal rights regarding consensus and governance, contributing to a democratic and transparent decision-making process. This approach reduces the potential for abuse of power and aligns the interests of all participating parties.

Centralized Control with Decentralized Features

Consortium blockchains offer a unique blend of centralized control with decentralized features. While the overseeing authority is centralized among the consortium members, the blockchain operates on a decentralized infrastructure. This hybrid model enables faster decision-making and greater scalability than public blockchains without sacrificing the security benefits of decentralization. By distributing the control across different organizations, consortium blockchains mitigate the risks of having a single point of failure.

Benefits of Consortium Blockchains

The structure of consortium blockchains brings several advantages, including increased trust and faster transactions. Consortium blockchains enhance security and efficiency by limiting access to a blockchain network to a few trusted entities. Consortium members can trust that other members are vetted and reliable parties, which is crucial for sensitive data and transactions. Furthermore, since fewer nodes participate in the consensus process than in public blockchains, transactions can be processed more swiftly, enhancing throughput and performance.

Potential Use Cases

Consortium blockchains are particularly well-suited to industries where businesses need to operate with shared responsibilities and mutual trust but also require a higher degree of privacy than public blockchains can offer. One prominent use case is in trade finance, where multiple financial institutions can share data related to trade transactions securely and in real-time, significantly reducing the redundancy and delays that plague traditional systems. Another application is identity management, where a consortium blockchain can help ensure that identity data is handled securely, with access strictly controlled and compliance with regulations maintained across different organizations.

In conclusion, consortium blockchains offer a practical solution for industries and organizations that benefit from shared control over the blockchain without opening up network operations to the public. This balance of decentralization and central control makes consortium blockchains appealing for many business applications, where efficiency, trust, and privacy are paramount.

Beyond the Basics: Additional Blockchain Types

As we delve deeper into the blockchain ecosystem, it's evident that the technology's adaptability allows for more than just the primary categories of public, private, and consortium blockchains. Two additional types worth discussing are hybrid blockchains, which blend elements of both public and private blockchains, and private blockchains, which are geared toward specific organizational needs.

Hybrid Blockchains: Combining the Best of Both Worlds

Hybrid blockchains are innovative in that they merge the features of public and private blockchains, aiming to harness the benefits of both. This type of blockchain offers a flexible configuration wherein certain aspects can be made public, allowing for transparency and verification by the general public. In contrast, other elements remain private, accessible only to predetermined parties.

This duality allows organizations to ensure privacy and control over their data, which is crucial for business operations and sensitive information, while still maintaining a level of transparency and security assured by public blockchain features. Hybrid blockchains appeal to businesses that must keep their internal processes confidential while communicating certain information to the public or regulators.

Modular Blockchains

Modular blockchains represent a groundbreaking advancement in blockchain technology, offering a more scalable and flexible approach than traditional blockchain architectures. Unlike monolithic blockchains, where all network functions (consensus, data availability, and execution) are bundled together, modular blockchains separate these functions into distinct layers. This separation allows for specialized optimization and enhancement of each layer without affecting the others.

Understanding Celestia: A Pioneer in Modular Blockchain Technology

Celestia is a prominent example of a modular blockchain, often cited for its innovative approach to scalability and decentralization. As the first modular blockchain network, Celestia focuses on providing a consensus and data availability layer. By decoupling these functions from transaction execution, Celestia allows developers to build more efficient decentralized applications (dApps).

Key Features of Celestia

  • Decoupled Layers: Celestia separates the consensus mechanism from transaction execution. This means that the blockchain does not process transactions but ensures that transaction data is available and its order is agreed upon. This allows execution layers (or rollups) to process transactions flexibly and efficiently.
  • Enhanced Scalability: By focusing only on consensus and data availability, Celestia can handle higher volumes of data more effectively than blockchains, where all functions are interdependent. This scalability makes it an ideal foundation for developing dApps that require high throughput.
  • Increased Flexibility: Developers can create customized execution environments or rollups that operate on Celestia’s consensus layer. This flexibility allows for a tailored approach to meet specific application needs, such as optimizing for speed, cost, or security.

Practical Applications and Implications

The modular design of blockchains like Celestia is particularly advantageous for complex applications that require scalable and efficient data processing capabilities. For instance, the ability to process large volumes of transactions quickly and reliably is crucial in finance or supply chain management. Celestia's architecture allows these transactions to be processed in a decentralized yet efficient manner, providing the necessary security and transparency without the bottlenecks typically associated with traditional blockchains.

Moreover, Celestia's approach encourages innovation in the blockchain space. Providing a robust base layer that takes care of consensus and data availability enables developers to experiment with and deploy diverse execution mechanisms tailored to different needs without the overhead of maintaining these foundational aspects.

Private Blockchains: Secured and Controlled

Private blockchains operate under the control of a single entity, making them significantly different from their decentralized counterparts. In these blockchains, all the rights to write, read, and audit the blockchain may be restricted to one organization. This structure is ideal for businesses that require confidentiality and complete control over their blockchain operations.

The advantages of private blockchains are numerous, particularly regarding efficiency and scalability. With fewer nodes to manage consensus processes, private blockchains can perform transactions much faster than public blockchains. They are also more customizable, allowing organizations to adjust the rules, functionality, and security measures according to their needs.

Use Cases for Private Blockchains

  • Financial Services: Banks and financial institutions use private blockchains for everything from clearing and settlement to fraud reduction and compliance management. The control over consensus allows these institutions to maintain rigorous security standards and operational efficiency.
  • Supply Chain Management: Companies can use private blockchains to track the provenance of goods as they move through the supply chain. This increases transparency and trust between suppliers and vendors and significantly enhances the ability to verify the authenticity and condition of products throughout their journey.
  • Healthcare: In the healthcare industry, private blockchains can secure patient records, ensuring that sensitive information is shared only among authorized personnel. This helps maintain privacy, improve patient care, and reduce administrative inefficiencies.

The blockchain landscape is rich and varied, with each type serving specific technological and business needs. Hybrid blockchains provide a versatile and secure platform for companies wanting privacy and transparency, while private blockchains offer maximum control and efficiency for internal networks. Understanding these nuanced differences helps organizations and individuals choose the right blockchain technology to suit their requirements and goals, enabling them to leverage the full potential of this transformative technology.


As we have explored throughout this guide, blockchain technology presents a complex but fascinating array of choices, each suited to different needs and goals. Understanding the key differences between public, permissioned, and consortium blockchains is essential for anyone looking to engage effectively with the cryptocurrency space.

Key Differences Between Blockchain Types

Public blockchains are open, allowing anyone to join and participate in the network. Their decentralized nature promotes transparency and immutability, making them ideal for scenarios where trust among participants is minimal. Bitcoin and Ethereum are quintessential examples, using consensus mechanisms like Proof of Work and Proof of Stake to validate transactions and secure the network.

Permissioned blockchains, however, restrict who can participate in the network. Access control mechanisms are in place, often governed by one or several organizations, which makes them more suitable for businesses that require privacy and have specific regulatory compliance needs. They offer a blend of the blockchain’s inherent benefits while tailoring accessibility to ensure operational efficiency and data confidentiality.

Consortium blockchains strike a balance between public and permissioned systems. They are governed by a group of organizations rather than a single entity, offering a democratic form of control. This setup is beneficial for projects where multiple stakeholders need to interact while maintaining high levels of security and privacy. Consortium blockchains are commonly used in finance and supply chain management, where participants need to rely on a secure and transparent method of recording and processing transactions.

The Importance of Understanding Blockchain Types

Gripping these distinctions is vital for newcomers and seasoned participants alike to successfully navigate the crypto landscape. Each type of blockchain serves specific purposes and provides particular benefits. Whether engaging in cryptocurrencies, developing new applications, or implementing blockchain for enterprise solutions, the choice of blockchain can significantly influence the success and efficiency of these endeavors.

The Evolving Nature of Blockchain Technology

Moreover, blockchain technology continues to evolve at a rapid pace. Innovations such as hybrid blockchains, which blend characteristics of both public and private blockchains, are emerging to address even more specific needs, offering versatility and tailored functionality. This ongoing development means that the landscape of blockchain technology is continually expanding, with new possibilities for its application being explored every day.

As blockchain technology matures and more use cases are discovered and perfected, the potential for its impact across various sectors of the economy is immense. From enhancing transparency in government operations to revolutionizing supply chain logistics, blockchain is a pivotal technology in the digital age.

In conclusion, the journey through the diverse types of blockchains reveals a technology of considerable depth and capability. By understanding each blockchain type's distinct features and advantages, individuals and organizations can make more informed decisions, aligning their strategic goals with the most appropriate blockchain solutions to foster innovation and growth in the ever-evolving digital landscape.

Call to Action

As we delve into blockchain technology's intricate and dynamic domain, the potential for innovation and transformation across various industries is immense. For those of you newly acquainted with this technology through our exploration of public, permissioned, private, and consortium blockchains, your journey is just beginning.

We encourage you to explore specific blockchains or applications that have piqued your interest further. Whether it's the widespread decentralization of Bitcoin, the corporate governance of permissioned blockchains, or the collaborative environments of consortium blockchains, each offers unique perspectives and possibilities. Engaging with these technologies directly will deepen your understanding and potentially spark ideas for their application in your own fields.

Numerous resources are available to aid in exploration for those eager to expand their knowledge. Online platforms such as Coursera and Udemy offer comprehensive courses on blockchain technology and its application in cryptocurrencies. Websites like Blockchain.com provide learning materials, real-time data, and insights into various blockchain operations. Additionally, joining forums and community groups on platforms like Reddit and LinkedIn can facilitate discussions and connections with other enthusiasts and experts in the field.

By immersing yourself in these resources and communities, you can stay at the forefront of blockchain innovation. Blockchain's evolution is continuous, and staying informed through credible sources will help you navigate this rapidly changing landscape. Whether you are considering an investment, planning a new business model, or simply curious about the technology, the knowledge you gain will be instrumental in guiding your decisions in cryptocurrencies and beyond.

Embark on this enlightening journey, embrace the learning curve, and discover the vast potential of blockchain technology. Your proactive engagement could shape the future of this groundbreaking field.

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