WAC Resources

A Brief Blockchain Glossary

Primer on Blockchain Culture & Technology
  • Blockchain: A distributed ledger, or in the words of mathematician Jean-Paul Delahaye, like a "large computer notebook, shared, unforgeable and indestructible." It is a technology for maintaining a reliable record of transactions with no central controlling body. The word blockchain refers to the way data is stored, as a chain of blocks of transactions.

  • Cryptocurrency is short for "cryptographic currency". It refers to a digital currency (digital asset) issued using cryptographic protocols on a peer-to-peer basis, without the need for a central bank, and allowing payments without the need for intermediaries. (see also token)

  • DAO: A Decentralized Autonomous Organization is a blockchain tool for communities to make decisions according to pre-programmed rules of membership and voting, and to jointly hold and use cryptocurrencies and other crypto assets such as NFTs. A DAO often also means an organization or group of people collaborating for a common goal, using the DAO technology for managing funds and making decisions.

  • Digital fingerprint or hash refers to a short string of data created with a cryptographic technique, to reliably identify a file of any size, much like how a fingerprint identifies human beings. Even the tiniest change in a file will result in an entirely different digital fingerprint.

  • Digital signature: A digital signature is a short string of data created using a secret key and the digital fingerprint of the message being signed. A valid signature attests to the message having been signed by the key's holder, and having been preserved in unaltered form since the signing.

  • Fiat: In macroeconomics, fiat money means a currency not directly backed by a commodity such as gold or silver, differentiating it from commodity money. In crypto culture, it is used as a (quasi-derogatory) term for government-issued legal tender, differentiating it from cryptocurrency; even though most crypto tokens, including Bitcoin, also also not backed by any commodity, and many are in fact created 'by fiat' (see minting).

  • Minting: The act of creating a new crypto token, by publishing a transaction to a blockchain, asserting its existence. In the case of an art NFT, this can be considered analogous to signing a physical artwork.

  • NFT: A Non-Fungible Token is a crypto token, much like a unit of cryptocurrency, but instead of a monetary unit, it represents a specific valued entity, such as an original artwork, a digital collectible, an access key to a service, etc. While a cryptocurrency represents an amount of something, an NFT in contrast, represents a specific thing.

  • Smart contract: A program running on the blockchain, implementing predefined business rules. It is smart contracts that make applications like NFTs or DAOs possible.

  • A Smart contract wallet is a smart contract built for the purpose of managing crypto assets. It acts as a programmed layer between your wallet (signing key) and the assets, allowing business logic to be implemented, such as requiring multiple stakeholders to sign a transaction, or allowing custody to be transferred to a new managing wallet in case of a compromise. (see also Wallet)

  • Token: A crypto token is a unit of value managed on a blockchain. In general parlance, the word cryptocurrency is used to describe a blockchain platform's native currency, such as Ether (ETH) on Ethereum, or Tez on Tezos, while the word token can mean any unit of value. (Every cryptocurrency is a token, but not every token is a cryptocurrency.)

  • Wallet: A wallet can mean the secret key allowing access to a blockchain account or group of blockchain accounts (typically encoded in modern blockchain applications as a series of 12 or 24 English words, and sometimes referred to as a "seed phrase" or "recovery phrase"). It can also mean a software or hardware tool that stores and utilizes such secret key(s) to access and interact with a blockchain. (see also Smart contract wallet)

  • Web3: A buzzword typically used to describe the online ecosystem that has emerged from decentralized smart contract platforms such as Ethereum and Tezos. It is used synonymously with expressions such as 'crypto technologies' or 'the cryptosphere'.

More here: Financial Times NFT Glossary and OpenSea NFT Art Glossary