Blockchain 101

Blockchain basics for developer topics.

This is Alchemy API's comprehensive guide to getting familiar with blockchain. There are tons of articles out there now, but this is a curated reading list (plus a few videos). We will cover blockchain basics from both technical and contextual perspectives.

1. Bitcoin

Start with bitcoin since it is the first blockchain and has a succinct white paper. Read the white paper and watch this video. After watching the video, go back and read the white paper again. It should make more sense the second time.

  1. Bitcoin white paper
  2. Bitcoin explained (basic) video

2. Ethereum

Next jump into Ethereum. At a high level, Ethereum is like bitcoin, but instead of just payments, the blocks can store and execute smart-contracts (programmable contracts). Read and watch the following, multiple times if necessary.

  1. Ethereum overview - just read the first page, you can explore the other pages later
  2. Ethereum creator Vitalik Buterin explains Ethereum
  3. Ethereum history and development - read the parts that are interesting to you
  4. This article covers all bases and introduces some of the largest players/projects in the space

Ethereum 2.0: As more and more transactions are added to the blockchain, how can Ethereum scale? These articles explore scalability in layer 1 (things like sharding or Proof of Stake rather than Proof of Work) and layer 2 (things like off chains).

  1. Ethereum Layer 1
  2. Ethereum Layer 2

3. Why is Blockchain Important?

Now that you have a basic understanding of blockchain, read these articles about why blockchain matters, current use cases, and future implications.

  1. Why decentralization matters
  2. 5 best uses for blockchain
  3. Blockchain's potential uses cases by sector or read this similar summary of blockchain application to different industries
  4. Current use cases - a bit hodge podge but interesting projects
  5. Naval Ravikant’s Cryptocurrencies Tweets

4. Ethereum Block Details

For block details and blockchain mechanics, here are a few important concepts to grasp:

  1. Ethereum is turing complete while bitcoin is not. In brief, we are used to programming languages that are Turing Complete, and can be programmed to solve any computational problem given enough time and space. Before most computer languages were turing complete, machines were not able to solve multiple computational problems - ie a machine can add, but not multiply. This is the most significant difference between Ethereum and Bitcoin, in that the Ethereum blockchain can be used for smart contracts since it is programmable.
  2. Merkle Trees are the data structure of blocks on the blockchain. The key point is that its very fast/efficient to check if a transaction/block is true, although more computationally intensive to write. Read this piece on Merkle Trees and watch this video
  3. What's in a block?
  4. Read actual Ethereum blocks as they are added
  5. Get Logs is the most computationally expensive query

5. Cool Projects in the Space

The blockchain space has seen a lot increasingly more action. We, Alchemy API, act as as blockchain infrastructure provider amongst other things, and work with a lot of cool projects that are built on top of the Ethereum blockchain. Here are some of our customers and links to their platforms.

We want to keep this as current as possible. Please reach out with suggestions and follow us on Twitter @AlchemyPlatform!

6. Ecosystem Learning

Alchemy is always publishing useful guides for our ecosystem to learn more about web3. Here are some articles to check out:

OpenSea API Overview
What is the Ethereum Virtual Machine?
What are alternatives to Infura?
What are Web3 wallets?
How to Create a Successful NFT Project