Trustless blockchains and their implications in new networks

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By: layerthree

Introduction

Does a trustless blockchain mean that trust is not a factor in the network you’re working with? Or, does it mean you can’t trust the blockchain?

This was a confusing topic here, as well, so we’re going to dive in and try to clear it up.

Trustless: the old and the new

The Old

Let’s start with a look at Merriam-Webster’s definition of the word “trustless”, which should give a clearer view of why this subject is so confusing. Per Merriam-Webster:

trustless: not deserving of trust

A few synonyms Merriam-Webster provides are doubtful, uncertain, skeptical. Antonyms are certain, sure, positive

But, but..!

If you’re here, you’re likely familiar enough with the blockchain space that you’ve almost undoubtedly heard the word “trustless” described as a selling point.

So, what gives? Is Merriam-Webster wrong?

The New

Just as all languages are constantly evolving, we may be getting a firsthand view to an active definition transition right before our eyes. In the blockchain space, the definition of trustless takes on a whole new meaning:

trustless: one entity does not have authority over a system, so participants do not need to trust each other

In other words, in most present-day systems, there is an intermediary, such as a bank, that verifies the transaction’s legitimacy. In a trustless system, immutable computer code makes the decision.

What are the benefits

One of the main positives of a trustless system is that this code is known up-front, by both (or all) parties involved.

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