Can public blockchain be permissioned?

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by Lumai Mubanga

Can public blockchain be closed blockchain at the same time?

We often refer to the public blockchain when discussing bitcoin, Ethereum and other related platforms. What comes to our minds on the first impression is that these are permissionless and anyone can join and leave at will. However, can public blockchain be used for permissioned solutions? Can public blockchain be permissioned?

Users need to know the core differences between public and private blockchain as well as open and closed blockchain and how these relate to each other. This article will focus on the public blockchain that is open and closed.

When we discuss public versus a private blockchain, we also need to understand what open and closed public blockchain mean and what we can and cannot do on these platforms.

Read and write rights

The idea behind open and closed blockchain is all about who has the right to read and write on the blockchain. Solutions designed for implementation on the blockchain should therefore take into consideration whether the platform is open or closed i.e. whether it can be written to or can be read from.

When referring to a public blockchain, however, many refer to is actually public open blockchain, where anyone can come in and write and read data from the platform. Public blockchain platforms like Bitcoin, Ethereum, Litecoin are what are referred to as permissionless but are designed to increase and protect the user’s anonymity.

Public and Permissioned?

Nevertheless, here is a paradox. While they are called public, they are strong in ensuring that users are anonymous and carry out transactions privately! Thus, the name permissionless suits in because if the user is unknown, and there is no way of identifying individuals, there is no way of creating permission or access rules for users to abide by making permissionless suitable on the other hand.

So, can public blockchain platforms like Ethereum that are permissionless be used to build permission solutions? The answer lies in understanding how public blockchain is designed. We think about public blockchains by default as permissionless platforms but in actual fact, it can be used to create permissioned solutions. Permissionless blockchain by nature, are platforms that protect user anonymity. And, if the platform hides user identity, then there really will be no way of creating permissions, role-based access and controlling what data can be read or written to. So, if permissionless can be used to create permissioned solutions, how does anonymity support user control in terms of who reads and write what? The secret lies in enabling the built-in tools that private blockchain use. That though depends on you, the designers and developers to create the permissioned model. Of course, this would include some kind of identity management system to be incorporated.

In some situations, this will be an ideal designed without necessarily resorting to using permissioned or permissionless exclusively. In other cases, some solutions will demand that user anonymity is greatly guarded. The proliferation of so many cryptocurrencies is enough evidence to show that many users demand anonymity.

So, a public blockchain can be permissioned provided the user, designers and developers enable the inbuilt permissioned modules and identity management tools.

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