Blockchain terminology

This living document is a non-exhaustive list of key blockchain terms. Click through on each term for a longer explanation.


Block height

Block height is the current block number in the blockchain. By measuring the current 'height' of a blockchain, one can see the progress that the network is making.


Block

A block is the primary element of a blockchain; it is where transaction data is permanently recorded and stored.


Blockchain infrastructure

What it means to power blockchain infrastructure on proof of stake networks, and how a blockchain infrastructure platform-as-a service-provider does it.


Blockchain

A blockchain is a form of peer-to-peer network which uses cryptographic hash functions to build an unchangeable, distributed ledger.


Bond

A bond is an amount of cryptocurrency that an operator locks to their own validator.


Byzantine fault tolerance

Byzantine fault tolerance is a mechanism that enables a decentralized, trustless network to function even in the presence of malfunctioning or malicious nodes.


Canary network

Kusama is considered a canary network, an experimental blockchain environment with real economic conditions. It serves as a proving ground where developers can build and deploy products, services, and other code functionality for the Polkadot ecosystem.


Client types

Blockchain client types have different uses within the context of a network. Examining the differences between the four basic client types can help you choose the right type for your needs.


Cluster

Cluster is a Bison Trails specific term. A cluster is a network-specific node(s) and its supporting infrastructure, such as load balancing tools and monitoring and alerting services.


Consensus mechanism

A consensus mechanism, or consensus algorithm, is the system used by blockchain network participants (validator nodes) to come to agreement on what information will be permanently stored in the blockchain. The consensus mechanism defines how participants verify transactions, in order to achieve distributed (group) consensus on the validity of the data stored in the blockchain.


Cryptographic primitives

Cryptographic primitives, or crypto primitives, are low-level cryptographic algorithms that form the basic building blocks of a protocol.


Custodial

Custodial asset management is the service of storing and protecting cryptocurrency assets, allowing the owner to hold, move, and protect their digital assets via a third-party provider.


DAO

DAOs, or decentralized autonomous organizations, are collectively-owned and -governed organizations that use smart contracts to set and execute their rules.


Decentralized application

A decentralized application (sometimes called a Dapp) is a piece of software that communicates with a blockchain (or other P2P network) using a smart contract as its business logic.


Decentralized exchange

A decentralized exchange (DEX) is a platform that allows for peer-to-peer exchange of digital assets.


DeFi

DeFi stands for decentralized finance and represents a category of financial products and services built on blockchain technology.


Delegate

Delegating is the process of contributing one’s digital assets to a public validator, to help conduct PoS validation and earn rewards.


Digital signatures

Digital signatures are requirements for any working blockchain; their attributes are of paramount importance and can profoundly impact the characteristics of a blockchain.


Ecosystem

A blockchain ecosystem represents the components and communities that participate in, interact with, or are interoperable with the blockchain, including outside technologies.


Epoch

An epoch is an era of time within a blockchain network.


eth2 terminology

A non-exhaustive list of key terms to understand the eth2 protocol, as defined by the Bison Trails Protocol Ops Team.


Gas

Gas is the Ethereum blockchain’s fee for conducting a transaction or executing a smart contract.


Genesis

Genesis is the beginning of a blockchain and the genesis block is the first block.


Hash

A hash is the unique "fingerprint" of a data record.


HSM

HSM remote signers are the safest way to manage and use private keys on blockchain networks.


Interoperability

Interoperability is the ability to communicate and share information between blockchains, or to transfer native assets from one blockchain network to another.


Mainnet

A mainnet is a fully deployed and developed protocol in which transactions are broadcast, verified, and recorded onto the blockchain.


Network

A blockchain network is a system of devices connected via the internet, working together to create and validate a ledger of the transactions happening within their shared system.


Networks and protocols, tokens and coins

What’s the difference between a protocol and a network? Why are digital assets sometimes tokens and sometimes coins? A look at the language of blockchain basics.


Node

A node is a computer or server that participates in a proof of stake blockchain network and allows it to function.


Oracle

An oracle is a service that provides off-chain data to smart contracts on a blockchain.


Parachain

Parachains are application-specific blockchains attached to the Relay Chain in the Polkadot and Kusama networks.


Proof of stake

Proof of stake validation is a blockchain consensus method.


Proof of work

Proof of work is a blockchain consensus method.


Protocol

A blockchain protocol is a set of rules that defines the mechanisms by which all participants of a blockchain must interact with each other.


Slashing

Slashing is a mechanism built into proof of stake blockchain protocols to discourage validator misbehavior.


Smart contract

A smart contract is a self-executing program on a blockchain that controls and/or documents legal events or actions according to preset terms.


Stablecoin

A stablecoin is a digital asset designed so its value experiences minimal volatility, or fluctuation in value, over time.


State

A blockchain’s state is its formal status at a given point in time, including what information it contains and who is participating in it.


Substrate

Substrate is the modular blockchain framework on which Edgeware and Kusama are built, and the foundation for the whole Polkadot ecosystem.


Sybil Attack

A Sybil Attack is a common form of attack on a blockchain network. Sybil Attacks, a familiar threat for peer-to-peer networks, are attacks in which a malicious entity takes over control of a network by creating a large number of mirroring pseudonymous entities, thus enabling the attacker to seize control of voting or consensus mechanisms.


Tendermint

Tendermint is software for securely and consistently replicating an application on many machines.


Testnet

A testnet is a trial version of a blockchain used to identify bugs and other issues.


Tokenization

Tokenization is the process of turning some piece of data, asset, or a digital representation of a physical item into a token that can be transferred or stored on a blockchain network.


Trustless system

A trustless system is any system in which trust between parties is not required for it to function.


Virtual machine

A virtual machine (VM) is a virtual environment that runs in an app window on your physical computer (“the host”) and acts like a completely separate computer system (“the guest”).


Wallet

A cryptocurrency wallet stores your public and/or private keys (passwords) that allow you to access the tokens you have stored on the blockchain.


Web 3.0

Web 3.0 refers to the decentralized web, run by distributed networks, with machines and users interacting with both data and one another without a third-party as an intermediary.



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About Bison Trails


Pioneering Blockchain Infrastructure®

Bison Trails is a blockchain infrastructure platform-as-a-service (PaaS) company based in New York City. We built a platform for anyone who wants to participate in 25 new chains effortlessly.

We also make it easy for anyone building Web 3.0 applications to connect to blockchain data from 33 protocols with Query & Transact (QT). Our goal is for the entire blockchain ecosystem to flourish by providing robust infrastructure for the pioneers of tomorrow.

In January, 2021, we announced Bison Trails joined Coinbase to accelerate our mission to provide easy-to-use blockchain infrastructure, now as a standalone product line. The Bison Trails platform will continue to support our customers. With Coinbase’s backing, we will enhance our infrastructure platform and make it even easier to participate in decentralized networks and build applications that connect to blockchain data.

Blockchain Terminology

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