How and Where to Buy NFTs: A Beginner’s Guide

Few predicted NFTs would suddenly become the talk of the town in 2021 when they were first introduced in 2014. Reports show that NFT trading volume was around $10 million in Q3 2021, a massive 704% increase from the previous quarter. This was just the start.

To many, NFTs add a visually appealing and creative element to the crypto world often perceived as excessively techy and complicated. 

Afterimage, audio, and video NFTs too hold, with NFT shards on their way, crypto investors are scrambling to jump on the fast-moving NFT bandwagon in time. 

If you wish to become an NFT investor, this article will explain the steps of how to buy an NFT and where to buy them, introducing you to the most popular marketplaces.

Where to Buy NFTs

There are different marketplaces to buy different types of NFTs and each levy a specific fee for transacting on their platform, so you should aim to choose a cost-effective platform for buying your NFTs.

OpenSea

OpenSea, established in 2017 by Alex Atallah and Devin Finzer, is the biggest marketplace to buy, sell, and trade different types of NFTs across marketplaces and Blockchains. The company is based in North America and has its headquarters in New York City.

The platform hosts around 30 million NFTs on Ethereum, Polygon, and Klaytn blockchains. Apart from providing a platform to trade in NFTs, Open Sea aims to provide an integrated marketplace where developers can build and launch their NFTs. It supports Ether and around 150 other crypto tokens. 

So you can use the OpenSea marketplace for buying a range of NFTs such as art, game NFTs, sports and music NFTs, utility NFTs such as keys to own gaming collectibles or gaming DAOs, enter particular Discord communities, and so on.

Binance NFT

Binance is a crypto exchange as well as a popular NFT marketplace. It was established as a crypto exchange in 2017 by Changpeng Zhao and was based in China. Later, the company headquarters moved to the Cayman Islands.

People can buy, mint, and trade NFTs with the Binance NFT marketplace. It hosts some top NFT creators such as X-Metaverse, Big Time Studios, NFT_Pride, NFKings, and Seek Tiger. You can access different NFT collections such as Mafia Land NFTs, DinoX World Avatars, GiiiO role NFT, X-Metaverse Box, and Atlantis Metaverse Genesis NFT. Binance NFT also hosts features such as the mystery box feature from time to time where players get a chance to win rare and unique NFTs.

Aside from Gaming NFTs, the platform also offers NFTs from categories like Art, Sports, Entertainment, Collectibles, E-sports, and Premium NFTs.

Foundation

The Foundation marketplace brings creators and collectors together on a platform to build and trade NFTs. It was established in February 2021 and is owned by Kayvon Tehranian hailing from San Francisco, California. Through Foundation, collectors can mint our buy images, video, and 3D artwork. A creator can create an art NFT on Foundation only through an invitation received by another creator, unlike other NFT platforms.

Rarible

Rarible was founded by Moscow-based Alexei Falin and Alex Salnikov in 2019.  It is headquartered in Delaware, United States. It hosts NFTs on Ethereum, Polygon, Tezos, and Flow blockchain and features a massive NFT collection ranging from art, photography, games, metaverse, music, domains, DeFi, Memes, Punks, NSFW, etc. 

The software-giant Adobe partnered with Rarible in Dec 2021 to display content credentials of the listed NFTs to make it easy to protect and verify digital content.

SuperRare

This NFT marketplace was launched in 2018, where NFT lovers can collect and trade mainly art-oriented NFTs. 

The platform introduced its token in 2021 when the artists and collectors in the community formed their DAO. Some of the prominent investors at SuperRare include Mark Cuban, Ashton Kutcher, and Samsung Next. The company is owned by John Crain, Johnathan Perkins, and Charles Crain and is based in the United States.

Project Specific Marketplaces

You can also buy specific NFT assets from their respective marketplaces. For example, NBA Top Shot is the marketplace to purchase official GIFs from the National Basketball Association. There is also an NFL All Day market for limited-edition NFL moments. Music lovers can visit the Musician Marketplace to buy NFTs of music compositions and platforms like Async Art, explicitly meant for programmable art. 

There are dedicated marketplaces for particular NFT-based game items, such as Axie Marketplace for items used in the popular ‘Axie Infinity’ game. It also has its own token, and the users should have these tokens to buy things from the Axie Marketplace. Mintable is another platform for unique music, art, games, animation, and media collectibles.

SolSea, another marketplace on Solana, lets creators mint NFTs with embedded licenses and display the Rarity Rank of the NFTs listed. 

Other NFT marketplaces include Nifty Gateway, Thetadrop, etc. NFTs on the Rarible and SuperRare marketplace is also available on OpenSea.

Let us now move on to the steps to buy an NFT.

How to Buy NFTs

  1. Buy Crypto Tokens from a CeFi or DeFi Exchange and Add Funds in the Crypto Wallet

First, you need to have the crypto tokens to possess your desired collectibles. You should buy the tokens supported in the NFT marketplace from where you wish to buy NFTs. Some marketplaces have their own tokens to transact. You can purchase these tokens from any DeFi exchange such as Coinbase, Binance, Gemini, etc. 

Once purchased, you should send the tokens to your wallet, like the Metamask wallet, to be able to use them for the purchase. You can check here if you want to learn how to set up the metamask wallet. Remember to have sufficient units of the crypto token in your wallet to pay for the NFT and the Gas fees involved in the transaction; the Gas fee is the transaction charge for the computation effort involved in facilitating transactions on the Ethereum Blockchain. Gas fees vary according to the traffic on the network. 

  1. Open the Marketplace

You can now open your chosen NFT marketplace and register on it. You will then scroll through the different types of NFTs offered. You can filter through the various collections offered to hunt for the NFT you wish to possess.

  1. Place Your Bid

You will find items under ‘Auction,’ where you can bid the price you wish to pay, or you can buy the item directly. NFT sellers auctioning items provide the Auction time, the previous selling price, and the cryptocurrency they are accepting from the buyers on the marketplace.

  1. Payment

Link your wallet to the marketplace using the ‘Connect Wallet’ button to proceed with the purchase. Once the transaction is successful, you will see the amount deducted and find the NFT stored in your wallet. You can also store your NFTs on offline hardware wallets such as Trezor or Ledger.

The NFT value is generally determined by markets, with floor prices naturally setting the bottom-end range. Other factors could be the uniqueness and the artist’s reputation.

Final Thoughts: Keep Your NFTs Safe! 

This should be about everything that you need to know for you to be able to buy an NFT. One last word of advice: if you are an NFT enthusiast and wish to mint and trade NFTs, you should be careful of NFT scams that can make you lose your crypto funds and NFTs through phishing attacks on your crypto wallets. 

Keep in mind NFTs and cryptocurrency is very new and they can be volatile– you should never invest more than you can afford to lose in a volatile market such as NFTs.

Layer-1 vs. Layer-2 Blockchains: What You Must Know

Bitcoin did the heavy lifting of creating a peer-to-peer decentralized and tokenized financial network. One person can send another person halfway around the world $1,000,000 in BTC for a paltry $20, sometimes even as low as a dollar and change. 

The problem is that microtransactions, such as sending a friend $4 for a cup of coffee, cost the same. 

Similarly, Ethereum created an entire galaxy of possibilities for DeFi, NFTs, and other decentralized applications. However, the breadth of its value has also been one of its detractions– as network gas fees skyrocket in times of extremely high traffic, making using the network ludicrously expensive for users and developers alike. 

CryptoKitties, an early sensational NFT game, nearly ground Ethereum’s network activity to a halt in 2018 due to the throng of transactions. Even today, gas fees can be hundreds or thousands of dollars to mint a new Ethereum-based NFT. 

However, problems are usually followed by problem solvers. Hundreds of developers have dedicated their professional lives of late to either building decentralized apps to help scale projects like Bitcoin or Ethereum or creating more scalable networks from the ground up. 

Layer-1: The underlying blockchain architecture. For example, Bitcoin and Ethereum.

Layer-2: A network that sits on top of Layer-1, which facilities network activity. For example, the Lightning Network and Raiden Network.

The following Layer-1 vs. Layer-2 blockchain guide explores both approaches and how they contrast. 

Layer-1 vs. Layer-2 Blockchains: The Basics

Layer-1 updates usually involve consensus protocol changes or sharding

As you may know, Bitcoin and Ethereum use a gawky but effective consensus protocol called Proof-of-Work (PoW). It’s good at what it does because it works. However, as network activity grows, its limitations become unbearable for many. 

PoW requires miners to solve cryptographically-difficult equations via computational power– hence Bitcoin mining facilities that are just warehouses with specifically designed computers running 24/7/365

At times, transactions can take way too long for convenience’s sake and become very expensive. Bitcoin can manage about seven transactions per second, whereas Ethereum can do 15-20. 

Proof-of-Stake (PoS) is a relatively newer protocol; rather than computation power, it relies on people (validators) staking a certain quantity of holdings to validate transactions.

Changing consensus algorithms can be a divisive ordeal, and switching from PoW to PoS on a network as large as that of Bitcoin or Ethereum would require achieving agreement among the majority of participants, which can be extremely difficult. 

Sharding is another Layer-1 scaling strategy. Sharding breaks transaction sets into smaller chunks called shards, which the network can process at a much faster rate. Think of cutting a PBJ sandwich into small pieces (shards) versus eating it bite by bite. Each small piece you eat is a finalized transaction, whereas the latter approach would require the whole sandwich to be eaten before the transactions are final. 

Attempting to implement scalability measures on a Layer-1 blockchain would require a full or partial network update, which is a slow and contentious process; if things go sideways, the entire network could face enormous damages. 

Many projects have been launched to provide users the scalability that the more legacy cryptocurrency projects have struggled to do. 

For example, chains like Solana, Cosmos, and Cardano (yet to launch anything) have emerged in attempts to unseat Ethereum as the most popular blockchain network for dApps, primarily targeting its scalability issues and low-hanging fruit. 

The user experience tends to be much faster and cheaper on the newer Layer-1s– transactions on Osmosis, a decentralized exchange built on Cosmos, cost around a penny. In contrast, the Ethereum DEX UniSwap can cost dozens or hundreds of dollars. 

However, the opportunity to scale the world’s most popular Layer-1s instead of launch new ones from the ground up is an admirable and lucrative challenge accepted by many. 

They do so through Layer-2 blockchain innovation

Layer-2: Attempts at Scalability

Layer-2s are essentially sandboxes for creativity with minimal or zero disruption to the underlying network.

There are two types of Layer-2 blockchains: state channels and nested blockchains.

A state channel allows for two participants who would otherwise interact on the blockchain to interact off the blockchain, limiting the congestion of the network. 

Imagine Bitcoin’s or Ethereum’s blockchain as a 10-lane superhighway with bumper-to-bumper traffic. A state channel would be the back-road approach you could take to avoid driving into a slow, expensive network and get to your end destination at a fraction of the time and cost. 

Here’s how state channels work: 

  1. A blockchain segment is sealed off through a smart contract or multi-signature means, where all participants agree on the conditions. Lightning Network and Raiden Network used Hashed Timelock Contracts (HTLCs) for their state channels. 
  2. The transaction participants can then directly interact without needing to submit their request to the miners on the Layer-1. 
  3. When all the transaction sets on the state channel are complete, the final state is added to the blockchain. 

So, while a transaction is technically not “final” until added to the blockchain, state channel projects like Bitcoin’s Lightning Network and Ethereum’s Raiden Network effectively carry out the role of policing and verifying transactions. 

The idea is that these “batched” transaction blocks can effectively internally settle; when they do, the entire batch is added to the blockchain. As such, Lightning Network enables fast microtransactions (low fees, fast settlement), and Raiden does the same thing for Ethereum’s broader functionality. 

However, state channels have some limitations. 

Nested blockchains aim to increase scalability exponentially, whereas state channels are more linear. 

Ethereum is a popular breeding ground for decentralized apps to solve scalability issues. OmiseGO, for example, is experimenting with a nested blockchain scaling solution called Plasma. 

In Plasma, multiple levels of specific-use blockchains sit on top of the leading blockchains in parent-child connections. The parent chain then dedicates specific work to child chains, such as a social network or decentralized exchange.

The root chain still calls all the shots and sets the ground rules, but nested blockchains relieve some load. 

Final Thoughts: What You Should Know About Blockchain Scalability

While the differences between Layer-1 and Layer-2 solutions might seem exclusively technical, it’s worth considering that by collecting NFTs, holding tokens, and using dApps, you’re the direct stakeholder in the whole ordeal. 

While Ethereum enjoys a considerable first-mover advantage for NFTs (and DeFi), boasting multi-billion-dollar dApps like OpenSea, competitors are gaining on its tail. 

As an NFT investor or creator, being aware of broader industry trends like scalability is an excellent way to keep your ear to the ground, whether that be for the purpose of finding the next BAYC (on another chain) or creating the next homerun NFT brand for a diehard layer-1 alternative. 

Top NFT-Based Trading Card Games (TCGs)

NFT-based games integrate traditional gaming concepts with blockchain technology, non-fungible tokens (NFTs), and other decentralized financial elements. 

Gamers are loving GameFi (the intersection of gaming and NFTs, and even DeFi) for three main reasons: 

  1. True ownership: While in conventional digital games, players can buy in-game assets, those assets don’t actually belong to them. On the other hand, NFT-based games give players complete control over their assets– in-game assets like cards, lands, avatars, or swords are NFTs.
  2. Verifiable rarity and uniqueness: Non-fungibility makes it possible for creators to make 100% unique tokens, as well as programming different rarity levels for the assets. Naturally, some items in games will be scarcer or more useful than others, and their value should reflect that. Since everything happens on the blockchain, it’s easy to verify the scarcity, uniqueness, and authenticity of each asset.
  • Opportunity to earn income while playing: These games implement play-to-earn mechanisms. By participating in games, players can earn cryptocurrencies and in-game items that have real-world value. Many games have their own secondary markets for trading.

NFT-Based trading card games are getting so much attention because they’re a perfect mesh for most any game genre, from role-playing games to fighting games. One of the most popular gaming categories is card trading. 

For many people, training card games, or TCGs, revive childhood memories of collectible card games while at the same time offering a new way of generating revenue.

In play-to-earn NFT-based card trading games, each card is a non-fungible token (NFT), usually in ERC-721 standards. They enable the play-to-earn mechanism using common elements found in GameFi, such as an in-game currency and a marketplace. 

Here are the top NFT-based trading card games. 

Gods Unchained

Gods Unchained is the most popular trading card game in the blockchain universe. It runs on Ethereum and Immutable X. 

Gods Unchained is a free-to-play fantasy-themed turn-based, tactical card game; players must build their decks based on a strategy. 

By playing the game, you can earn common core cards. Those cards can’t be traded on the marketplace; at this point, they are not minted on the blockchain. It’s possible to increase the value of these common cards, by earning “flux”, a resource gained by winning the ranked games.

Gods Unchained has a process called The Forge, in which players who have earned enough flux can merge two identical core cards into one by spending flux. This process creates higher-quality cards, and since the forged cards are minted on the blockchain, they can be sold on the blockchain, sometimes for a hefty profit. 

Splinterlands

Splinterlands game runs on the Hive blockchain. 

You can test the game for free, but to start playing, you need to buy a starter set for $10.You can get new cards by buying packs from the shop or individual items from other players in the marketplace. You can also sell your assets on this marketplace. 

One of the highlights of Splinterlands is its cross-compatibility with multiple blockchains, enabling users to trade their cards on several marketplaces. 

In addition to selling your cards, you can earn in Splinterlands by getting its in-game currency DEC (Dark Energy Crystals). There are a couple of ways to acquire DEC in the game. First, by winning ranked battles, and second by destroying the cards you don’t use anymore. You can use DEC to buy assets from the game’s shop.

Another way to earn on Splinterlands is renting your cards via peakmonsters.

Sorare

Sorare is a fantasy football game built on the Ethereum blockchain. 

You can collect player cards and build teams, and as with real-world trading card games, the real value comes from the most valuable player cards. Depending on the rarity of the card, it can get quite expensive.

The Sorare play-to-earn mechanism enables users to participate in tournaments, where users can earn points and rewards based on their team’s performance.

Dark Country Game

Dark Country is a trading card game on the WAX blockchain with gothic-themed characters like zombies, ghosts, and haunted Indians.

In addition to cards, players can own heroes, items, and lands as NFT assets. Players can stake Dark Country assets on rplanet.io and collect cards on collect.social to gain the platform’s Racoon tokens. 

Dark Country has a weekly forging activity similar to Gods Unchained’s The Forge called Heroes Reforge and Staking. Players need to burn four heroes of the same type in order to receive a new hero with better quality. They can then stake this improved asset to earn rewards.

Dark Country has recently introduced land assets compatible with WAX and Flow blockchains. 

With lands, several new revenue generation options will be possible soon, such as land leasing and staking the platform’s in-game currency Shadow Dime (SDM) on lands.

Final Thoughts: Emerging Exciting New TCG Projects

While some may argue that the game mechanics of most NFT-based games are primitive and “not quite there yet,” TCGs marry the simplicity of a trading card game with the blockchain very well. 

A few more exciting TCG projects to keep an eye on include:

  1. Skyweaver, a free-to-play Ethereum-based game in beta mode. Players have three grades of cards: base, silver, and gold. Base cards can’t be traded, but silver and gold cards can be. You earn silver cards via ranked rewards and conquest, and gold cards via conquest.
  2. Parallel,  a science-fiction-themed card game also based on the Ethereum blockchain. The team built its own NFT drop system. The project is currently raising funds by selling drops, which contain cards. These cards will have utilities once the game development is complete.
  3. Metropolis Origins, is a cyberpunk-themed card game by QXR Studios running on the WAX blockchain. It’s a sequel to game designer Graeme Devine’s adventure game Metropolis. The game released a founder NFT pack that enables owners to play the game in beta mode. 

The evolution of blockchain card games will be one to watch, as more implementations of conventional card games on the blockchain continue to emerge.  With NFTs’ programmable nature, we can expect to see the evolution of more dynamic, and potentially lucrative and competitive, playing card games in the near future. 

What is a Rug Pull in Cryptocurrency?

A rug pull is a type of scam where the team of a cryptocurrency project suddenly exits the project, running away with investors’ funds.

Rug pulls occur particularly often on decentralized exchanges (DEX) and in the NFT world.  

DEXs allow users to trade cryptocurrencies without intermediaries; well-known examples include Uniswap, Balancer, and PancakeSwap. There is no central authority on these decentralized exchanges and users can trade anonymously. They’re primarily used to swap one cryptocurrency for another.

A typical rug pull scenario unfolds as follows. Malicious developers launch a new token and list it on a DEX. Investors can easily exchange more established tokens like ETH for this new token. Once enough investors’ funds accumulate in the liquidity pool (LP) for this seemingly legitimate token offering a high APY, developers quickly dump their holdings and drain their funds, and the new token’s value plummets to zero.

The year 2021 didn’t fall short of such scams. According to a report by Chainanalysis, this type of maneuver was the most popular one among the whole crypto fraud varieties in 2021, accounting for 37% of all scam revenue.

Rug Pull Example #1: Fake Project Forks on OlympusDao

Imposters exploited the popularity of meme coins among crypto traders by using a dog-themed logo inspired by the Greek god of Anubis depicted with a dog’s head. Developers presented the fake project AnubisDAO as a fork of the decentralized reserve currency OlympusDAO and launched the project’s ANKH token on the Copper platform. 

The developers used pseudonyms, and the project had neither a website nor a whitepaper. Nevertheless, $60M was raised in WETH, which disappeared from the project’s liquidity pools just twenty hours after the launch.

Rug Pull Example #2: Binance Smart Chain Forks

The Binance Smart Chain (BSC) saw multiple headline-worthy rug pulls. Meerkat Finance, a fork of the Yearn Finance protocol, was supposed to be a yield farming pool. After the launch, $31M in Binance token, BNB, disappeared from the project’s LP. It’s still not clear if this was a real rug pull case. However, the projects’ Twitter accounts disappeared along with the investors’ money which is a strong indicator that the project team was involved with the scam.  

Another BSC rug pull case is the TurtleDex project, whose developers ran away with $2.5 million that had been raised as 9,000 BNB. The team drained the funds from the Binance native DEXs Pancake Swap and ApeSwap and sent them to multiple wallets to sell on the Binance Exchange.

Other projects rug pulled on the BSC DEXs are Defi100, Uranium Finance, and Stablemagnet. Defi100 marketed itself as a synthetic index token based on the total market cap of the DeFi sector. 

Rug Pull Example #3: Squid Game

When the Netflix series Squid Game soared in popularity, imposters came up with a Squid coin idea. It was supposedly a play-to-earn cryptocurrency project that promised investors to participate in online games inspired by the hit series. It was launched on Pancake Swap. 

There were many warning signs for the potential investors, like an unprofessionally written whitepaper and a recently registered website. Nevertheless, the team exit scammed with over $3M investors’ funds after the Squid currency peaked at $2,861.

Rug Pull Example #4: Fake Uniswap V2 Fork

Uranium Finance claimed to be an automated market maker (AMM) protocol forked from Uniswap V2. Stablemagnet billed itself also as an AMM. They cost the investors $32M, $50M, and $27M, respectively.

Rug Pull Example #5: Avalanche Meme Coin Goes Bust

In November 2021, it was Avalanche’s turn to experience its largest rug pull. 

SDOG coin, issued by SnowdogDAO, was supposed to be the first-ever meme coin on Avalanche, and it was launched on the native DEX Trader Joe. Eight days after the initialization, SDOG’s value plunged to $1,500 after skyrocketing to $6,000. 

The SDOG case was a bit different than a typical rug pull; the developers promised the community a buyback of the coins, meaning the company would repurchase its own coins. 

This tactic reduces the number of tokens in circulation, and in theory, supports a deflationary token environment. The actual rug pull occurred while $40M worth of SDOG coins was transferred from Trader Joe to the project’s own AMM. 

The buyback failed because an account swapped $10M worth of SDOG for other cryptocurrencies in the meantime. This was only possible if the account had the “challenge keys” required by the project’s smart contract, hinting that the rug pull was an inside job. 

Rug Pull Example #6: NFT Rug Pulls

Rug pulls can happen on centralized exchanges as well, as evidenced multiple times by NFT rug pulls. 

One of 2021’s most notorious scams was an NFT project called Evolved Apes. Thousands of investors piled their money into Evolved Apes, whose developer ran away with $2.7 million.

Another NFT rug pull incident was Baller Ape Club, a collection of 5,000 NFTs supposedly inspired by the famous Bored Ape Yacht Club collection. On the drop day, developers directed the potential investors to a fake link that repeatedly showed a warning pop-up with a transaction failed message, although the transactions were successful. In the end, $2M worth of SOL was stolen from the investors.

Iconics, an NFT project also launched on the Solana blockchain, had promised its investors to deliver 8,000 unique NFT artworks. Instead, collectors received a random collection of emojis. Developers ran away with $140K.

How to Avoid Rug Pulls

If you don’t want to fall victim to a rug pull event, take notice of these red flags before investing in the brand new red-hot project.

  • A DEX loophole is that audits are not obligatory for token listings. Nevertheless, legitimate projects undergo audits to convince their investors. Be wary of projects that avoid this process.
  • Can you research the individual members of the development team? Are they all anonymous or pseudonymous? Do your due diligence, and note that fake faces and fake names are common on team bios. 
  • Add skepticism if a price soars in value exceptionally fast without a fundamental cause.
  • Excessive promotion can be another warning sign.
  • Does the project have an official website, social channels, and whitepaper? If so, can you spot amateurishness in the presentation, such as rushed whitepaper typos?
  • Does the project have an active Discord or Telegram? How is its community?

Legitimate projects tend to have tens of millions of dollars in total liquidity, as well as some longevity that supports the project’s community. Look for the common elements in the cryptocurrency industry’s established projects, and try to find the same signs in upcoming projects.

Final Thoughts: Rug Pull Safety

Cryptocurrency rug pulls can trap both novice and experienced investors. Newbies are unaware of the risks behind the decentralized projects, and veterans fall prey to FOMO while seeking high-upside and hyped opportunities. 

It’s essential to know about different tools scammers use to exploit the cryptocurrency system and spot the projects built on a lie.  

lt Although blockchain is a secure, reliable, and stable technology by itself, don’t give the same sort of credibility you would to a project like Bitcoin or Ethereum to any new upstart just because it’s using the blockchain. 

What are Blockchain Protocols & How Do They Work?

Blockchain protocols allow for the recording of transactions in a trustless, distributed, peer-to-peer manner using a public ledger without the need for any central authorities. 

Blockchains have changed how the world organizes capital, data, and assets and will continue to have implications across several industries, including financial services, real estate, supply chains, etc. 

The blockchain concept had existed before Bitcoin came to public light in 2008, but Bitcoin is the first significant example of a blockchain that everyone now knows. 

Bitcoin arose to solve the fundamental problem of lack of trust in value transfer methods and peer-to-peer payments over the Internet without double-spending, meaning without spending the same set of values twice, since digital information can typically be copied. 

The public ledger that is blockchain maintains a continuously growing list of transactions and data chained and stored within blocks that are cryptographically secured from tampering or change by any parties using the network, making it immutable. 

Additionally, because it is a distributed, public ledger, all parties using the network can see the past history of transactions, and the transactions can never be removed. The ledger becomes a shared and synchronized database across all parties, allowing all transactions to be publicly witnessed and transparent via a block explorer

How Do Blockchain Protocols Work?

The blockchain is run by a network of nodes, or distributed networks of computers. These independent nodes verify the accuracy of transactions, maintain updated versions of the ledger, and record new transaction data on the public ledger. 

The ledger is built as a linked chain of blocks. Each block contains a number of transactions validated as legitimate by the network during a specific time span and then recorded in the ledger. 

Each block also includes the cryptographic hash of the prior block in the blockchain linking one block into a chain of blocks, which provides integrity of the previous block all the way back to the genesis block of the blockchain. 

The benefit of blockchain is that it allows for distributed control instead of only functioning as a distributed database where data is still controlled by one entity. This allows different parties, people, and institutions that may not necessarily trust what the other is saying is legitimate to share information without requiring a central administrator (like a governing body or central bank) to verify the information alone. 

Instead, the blockchain depends on its unique consensus mechanism, whereby nodes validate and record transaction data to reach a consensus that determines the final output of data into the ledger. 

This prevents a single, non-trustworthy player or small majority from maliciously deciding to change the record of the ledger. For Bitcoin, this would require a majority to obtain 51% control of the hash rate for the Bitcoin network, which is almost impossible to do.

As new transactions are added to the blockchain, the prior transactions become more difficult to manipulate. With 13,000+ live Bitcoin nodes today on the network, it becomes almost impossible for a bad actor or hacker to remove past blocks from the chain or publish fraudulent data to the ledger. 

Different Types of Blockchains

While the above details the Bitcoin blockchain, there are several types of blockchains with their own style of reaching consensus, governance, and other factors. 

Ethereum is a platform for decentralized blockchain projects such as dApps, decentralized Finance (DeFi), Non-Fungible Tokens (NFTs), and smart contracts. 

NFTs are blockchain-based tokens that each represent a unique asset such as a piece of digital content, media, art, or other tokenized asset and verify its ownership and authenticity. NFTs are designed to be cryptographically verifiable, unique or scarce, and easily transferable.  

Any developer and project in the world can use the Ethereum public blockchain in a permissionless manner to launch their own tokens, including NFTs, as long as it adheres to the specifications of the Ethereum network. 

Today, the Ethereum network regularly facilitates the flow of tens of billions of dollars of value, with over $150B USD of value currently locked in smart contracts on its network as of Q4 2021 to facilitate decentralized asset exchange such as involving lending, insurance, and payments. 

Ethereum network Total Value Locked in DeFi, Source: https://defillama.com/chain/Ethereum 

Due to the adoption of DeFi and NFTs, Ethereum has recently become so widely used that using the Ethereum network has become cost-prohibitive for many users today due to high transaction fees and congestion on the network. 

NFT Trade Volume 2021, Source: The Block

Thus, many participants have explored other Layer-1 blockchain platforms that offer similar decentralized applications like Ethereum, with lower transaction fees and varying decentralization and security profiles.

Other Layer-1 blockchain protocols involve blockchains with varying performance and utility to target niche or enterprise sectors, such as Avalanche, Flow, Solana, and Terra, and have also innovated with new consensus algorithms, blockchain architectures, and execution environments. 

As alternatives for specialized tasks, certain purpose-built niche blockchains have arisen, such as high-performance blockchains for creating NFTs such as Flow, blockchains for making supply chains more efficient, or others to help move and store different types of information at a higher throughput than on major public blockchains such as Bitcoin.

Unlike the general-purpose blockchain of Ethereum, Flow is built to efficiently scale for billions of people interacting with NFTs such as in-game items. Flow was created by Dapper Labs, the team behind NBA Top Shots and CryptoKitties. 

Flow improves upon Ethereum specifically for the use case of NFTs to create fast, proof of stake-powered consensus without the sharding in ETH 2.0, near instant finality without reducing decentralization, in contrast to Ethereum’s 12-60 second time-to-finality, and is scalable for the large demands of a growing blockchain gaming industry while being inexpensive to use. 

Solana is another high-performance public blockchain created to track transactions in a specific sequence, optimizing scalability over decentralization, and enabling scalable apps and NFTs for developers and users, with extremely low transaction fees and high throughput.

Final Thoughts: Blockchain Use Cases

Blockchain as a technology can be used for any use case, enterprise or otherwise, that deals with the transfer of data or value in some form. 

It has the potential to revolutionize the financial services industry due to removing the need for intermediaries such as payment processors. Any industry that involves agreements, which is almost every business in the modern economy, can benefit from the use case of smart contracts, which are agreements denoted in code. 

Elections, voting, and governance, in general, are another use case of blockchain that can become more transparent and easier to participate in for all parties. 

Rights to intellectual, physical, or creative digital property is another use case that blockchain makes easy to authenticate and transfer as tokenized assets, in the example of NFTs. 

Due to the decentralized, trustless, and immutable nature of blockchain technology can create several innovations and impact many industries that will continue to change the organization and transfer of data and assets.  

While Bitcoin was the original blockchain that came to public light, Ethereum and other more niche and specific blockchains are where the majority of modern-day development is happening.