Industry Expert on Semantics of Blockchain

Industry Expert on Semantics of Blockchain

In his last Friday’s article on Medium, Nic Carter unpacks the meaning of the word ‘blockchain’ and urges people to use it more consciously

Nic Carter, a co-founder of, says that the meaning of ‘blockchain’ has been diluted to the extent that the word now defies the English grammar itself by refusing to have an article. It is not the blockchain, neither is it a blockchain. It is just capitalized Blockchain.

‘Blockchain’, Nic explains, is now a marketing tool for countless ICOs and IBMs of the world that have little to nothing to do with actual ‘chains of hash-based proof-of-works’, which is the precise term Nakamoto used in the whitepaper.

With that said, the Bitcoin data structure is in fact a chain of blocks in that it is a linear collection of data elements each referencing its predecessor. But this is not the only defining criterion of a blockchain. The more important aspect of a blockchain is the proof-of-work network consensus that makes such architecture resistant to any unilateral attempt to change or censor it, whereas enterprise, private and permissioned ledgers fail meet this criterion.

The whole system was built with an adversarial context in mind. Hostile governments had shut down all previous attempts at e-cash. They certainly would have shut down Bitcoin if they could have. Thus, it was built for purpose.

Nic Carter, partner @ Castle Island Ventures, co-founder @

Nic then hypothesizes an alternative turn of events in which Bitcoin was never invented and doubts that many of the currently popular ‘blockchain’ projects would remain so. He names Ripple, Corda, Hyperledger, Litecoin, and Ethereum as riding on the massive popularity of Bitcoin.

The word ‘blockchain’ itself, Nic says, does not do due justice to the novel trustless and censorless way of storing and recording data. He emphasizes the importance of using the word ‘blockchain’ more consciously, quotes an excerpt on Newspeak from Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four and explains:

Eliminate the word 'freedom' from popular use, and eliminate the desire for freedom entirely, so the theory goes. Additionally, [Orwell] strongly felt that sloppy language was indicative of muddled thought, and used as a way to sneak indefensible assertions past an unwitting reader.

Nic Carter, partner @ Castle Island Ventures, co-founder @

Nic addresses private blockchainers urging them to be honest about what they are building; computer scientists to stop mocking laypeople for using the word in a general diluted sense; and regulators to use more specific terms like ‘public blockchains’.

I believe that in five or ten years, we will look back at the popularity of ‘blockchain’ and be slightly embarrassed. The term will seem as archaic as 'surfing the world wide web' or using the 'information superhighway'. Consider this an open solicitation for replacements to the term. Let’s move on.

Nic Carter, partner at Castle Island Ventures, co-founder at

Dive deeper into the semantics of ‘blockchain’ by reading Nic’s full article on Medium.

Earlier Finrazor brought clarifications on the definition of a blockchain by collecting industry experts’ opinions.


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