Derek Sorensen Op-Ed: Why Consensus Isn’t Just A Blockchain Thing

The word “consensus algorithm” invokes in many people’s minds the intricate mechanisms that both proof-of-work and proof-of-stake blockchains use to process transactions. But consensus algorithms aren’t unique to blockchains; they’ve been around for decades. In fact, you probably interact with technology that uses a consensus algorithm of some kind on a regular basis, and you may not realize it.

A consensus algorithm comes in handy any time we need a group of distinct machines to agree on something. These situations can get really diverse. The machines may need to agree on an account balance, a list of account holders, a password database, or how many lives a player has left in a computer game. Consensus algorithms come in all shapes and sizes too, and most often don’t look like the ones that power blockchains.