Blocks and Blockchain
Today we’ll talk about a phenomenon called block height. Any cryptocurrency holder can encounter it – periodically technical support of crypto services asks users to patch their wallets to a certain block height. Therefore, we will try to find out what it is and why it is needed. But let’s start with a simple one.
You are most likely already familiar with these concepts, but just in case we will conduct a shallow excursion. Most digital currencies are based on blockchain technology, including the largest: Bitcoin, Ethereum, Litecoin, etc.
This technology is an account book, which consists of many pages. Everything that happens within the framework of one cryptocurrency is recorded on these pages if it is confirmed and agreed upon. Each blockchain has some differences – these are consensus protocols, and algorithms, and the speed of transactions, and the mining method. But any of them, one way or another, consists of blocks (pages).
Any transaction that users carry out first automatically places the pool in memory. After the miners extract a certain amount of these operations from the pool memory, create a candidate block (not confirmed) and with the help of powerful equipment solve the cryptographic task.
The one who first solves this problem will extract the correct hash, which confirms the validity of the operation, and adds it as a block to the blockchain. Miners receive financial incentives for this, and users receive a perfect transaction.
Despite the fact that the blockchain does not have a single controlling center, it should have a beginning in any case. This beginning is the zero block – Genesis, from which the further chain comes. Thus we come to the main topic of our review.
Block height in blockchain
The most basic description of block height is that it is an expression of the total number of individual blocks that are part of a particular chain. Block height shows how stably new blocks are detected and added to a particular chain over time.
Central to the functionality and security of any cryptocurrency is maintaining the blockchain of which it is a part. Remember that cryptocurrencies are not physical coins or vaults, they are sets of encrypted transactions stored on the blockchain and are supported by decentralized networks. Each block contains information that links it to a past block and qualifies as part of a block chain.
The very last block in the chain will contribute to the next. Inside each block is a data set that stores information about transactions in this network. Therefore, the block height indicates how many blocks preceded any single block, as part of the whole chain. For example, if you look at the height of the block 235, then in the sequence in front of it there will be 235 blocks.
This is due to the fact that the score actually starts from scratch (from the genesis). When the miner successfully hashes the block header, the block is added to the chain, and the height can be determined by the number of previous ones. However, it also happens that several blocks will have the same height. This is possible if several miners simultaneously successfully created a block in the blockchain.
This actually happens with some regularity. When the same block is confirmed more than once, it can potentially create a so-called “fork”. In such cases, a fork may occur – one chain will turn into two or more. If this happens, all nodes in the network must decide which block to add to the blockchain. The one that receives the most votes and will be recognized as valid. And the duplicate will remain unverified and not attached to a single distributed book.
Since multiple blocks can have the same height in a particular chain, the block height should not be used as a globally unique identifier. The uniqueness of the block lies in the hash of its header, and not in its height.
This means that the block height is most relevant in the context of the corresponding block chain. For example, take Bitcoin and the block height at 568824. Or the block height in Ethereum is 7419945. The block height does not give us the transaction ID, nor does it indicate the market value. Height shows only the complexity of mining and, therefore, the level of security of a particular currency.
What is the importance of block height in blockchain technology
Block height is an important part for many reasons. For example, it demonstrates the size of the blockchain and the larger it is, the more there are checking nodes in it that guarantee its legitimacy. Consensus protocols and block height, in a sense, are two sides of the same coin.
The central part of Satoshi Nakamoto’s concept for the Bitcoin blockchain is to use a hash function that is computationally complex so that not every node can receive a target hash. As a result, the height of the block increases when the nodes match in a particular block chain.
So if someone fakes the blockchain, he will have to compete with the current block height of the authentic currency, and this, in fact, is impossible. Given the processing power needed for mining, making a fake blockchain will require almost uncountable energy and processing power. Block height is a simple way to monitor the growth and size of the blockchain. But knowing the growth and size of the blockchain has its usefulness.
Observing the growth of any cryptocurrency on the blockchain gives us an idea of complexity, popularity, and also indicates the quality of consensus on the network. The height does not give us detailed information about the actual block. Nevertheless, this makes it possible to see how fast the blockchain is growing, that is, it is another tool for measuring and comparing cryptocurrencies.
Update wallet to block height
When the developers of the blockchain, the currency of which the user has, ask him to update his wallet, this means that it is necessary to synchronize the cryptocurrency storage and the distributed ledger. In simple terms, when the block height is 100, and your wallet sends transactions to the blockchain with a height of 99, then where do they go?
The correct answer is nowhere. Most often, such synchronization occurs automatically, because doing it manually every 10 minutes, for example, for Bitcoin, or every 15 seconds for Ethereum is impossible. But in any device or program, a crash may occur and then the transactions will go into the dark and come back. An inexperienced user can look for the cause of this error for a long time, but it is enough to contact technical support to understand the problem. Synchronization is available in any storage, it can take up to 24 hours and it must be done when you first set up your wallet.
Block height is not the most important piece of data that can be seen in the blockchain explorer. Nevertheless, this allows you to get a little more information to analyze the authenticity of the currency or determine its relevance. Also, the height of the block is a point of contact between the blockchain and the cryptocurrency wallet, and without this contact, transactions will become impossible.