What is a public blockchain and how does it differ from a private one?

What is a Public Blockchain?

A public blockchain is a decentralized and transparent digital ledger that records transactions across a network of computers. It is accessible to anyone who wants to participate and view the data stored on the blockchain. Public blockchains are often associated with cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin and Ethereum, as these networks rely on the technology to secure and validate transactions.

The Key Characteristics of Public Blockchains

Public blockchains possess several key characteristics that set them apart from other types of distributed ledger systems. These include:


Public blockchains operate in a decentralized manner, meaning that no single entity has control over the network. Instead, multiple participants, also known as nodes, maintain a copy of the blockchain and work together to validate and verify transactions. Decentralization ensures the integrity and security of the network, making it resistant to censorship and tampering.


One of the defining features of public blockchains is transparency. All transactions recorded on the blockchain are visible to anyone who wants to inspect them. This transparency fosters trust and accountability since all participants can independently verify the accuracy of the data stored on the blockchain.


Public blockchains employ cryptographic mechanisms to secure the network and ensure the integrity of transactions. Through consensus algorithms like Proof of Work (PoW) or Proof of Stake (PoS), nodes reach an agreement on the validity of transactions before adding them to the blockchain. This consensus process makes it extremely difficult for malicious actors to manipulate or tamper with the data on a public blockchain.


Public blockchains are open to anyone who wants to participate. Anyone can join the network, validate transactions, and even create new blocks as a miner. This accessibility encourages widespread adoption and innovation within the blockchain ecosystem.

Advantages of Public Blockchains

Public blockchains offer several advantages over other types of distributed ledger systems, such as private blockchains. Some of the key advantages include:

Trust and Security

Public blockchains, due to their decentralized nature and consensus mechanisms, provide a high level of trust and security. The transparency of transactions ensures that all participants can verify the authenticity of data, minimizing the risk of fraud or manipulation.

Censorship Resistance

Public blockchains are resistant to censorship as no central authority has control over the network. Transactions cannot be blocked or altered by any single entity, allowing for freedom of transactions and information exchange.

Community Governance

In public blockchains, governance is typically achieved through consensus among participants. Decisions regarding protocol upgrades, changes, and improvements are made collectively, ensuring that no single entity can unilaterally alter the rules of the network.

Disadvantages of Public Blockchains

While public blockchains have numerous advantages, they also face certain challenges. Some of the disadvantages include:


Public blockchains, especially those with high transaction volumes like Bitcoin, face scalability issues. The limited number of transactions per second that can be processed on the network can result in slower transaction times and higher fees.

Energy Consumption

Public blockchains that use energy-intensive consensus mechanisms like Proof of Work require significant computational power, leading to high energy consumption. This issue has raised concerns about the environmental impact of public blockchains.

What is a Private Blockchain?

In contrast to public blockchains, private blockchains are permissioned networks that restrict access to a select group of participants. These participants are typically known and trusted entities, such as businesses, organizations, or consortiums. Private blockchains are often used in enterprise settings to streamline operations and enhance efficiency.

The Key Characteristics of Private Blockchains

Private blockchains possess several characteristics that differentiate them from public blockchains. These include:

Permissioned Access

Private blockchains require participants to obtain permission before joining the network. This permission is typically granted by a central authority or consortium that governs the blockchain. The limited access ensures that only trusted entities can participate in the network and validate transactions.


Privacy is a crucial aspect of private blockchains. Unlike public blockchains where transactions are transparent and visible to all, private blockchains allow for selective disclosure of information. Participants have control over who can view and access the data recorded on the blockchain.

Higher Efficiency

Private blockchains often offer higher transaction speeds and lower fees compared to public blockchains. With a limited number of participants, the consensus process can be more streamlined, enabling faster validation and confirmation of transactions.

Advantages of Private Blockchains

Private blockchains offer several advantages that make them appealing for specific use cases, such as:

Enhanced Privacy

Private blockchains provide greater control over data privacy. In industries where confidentiality is crucial, such as healthcare or finance, private blockchains allow for secure and selective sharing of sensitive information.

Efficiency and Scalability

Private blockchains can handle a higher volume of transactions compared to public blockchains, making them suitable for enterprise applications. With a limited number of participants, the consensus process can be faster, resulting in quicker transaction speeds and reduced costs.


Unlike public blockchains, private blockchains offer greater flexibility and customization options. Participants can tailor the blockchain to suit their specific needs and requirements, allowing for efficient integration with existing systems and processes.

Disadvantages of Private Blockchains

Private blockchains also come with their own set of challenges and limitations, including:


Private blockchains rely on a central authority or consortium to grant permissions and govern the network. This centralization can undermine some of the core principles of blockchain technology, such as decentralization and censorship resistance.

Trust Requirements

Participants in private blockchains must trust the central authority or consortium governing the network. This reliance on trust can be a barrier for applications that require a high level of decentralization and transparency.


Public and private blockchains serve different purposes and cater to distinct use cases. Public blockchains offer decentralization, transparency, and trust, making them ideal for applications requiring censorship resistance and community governance. On the other hand, private blockchains provide enhanced privacy, scalability, and customization, making them suitable for enterprise applications that prioritize efficiency and confidentiality. Understanding the differences between public and private blockchains is crucial for selecting the most appropriate technology for a given scenario.

George Brown

Hello, Prior to becoming a senior copywriter at TypesLawyers, George worked as a freelance copywriter with several clients. George Brown holds a B.B.A. from Harvard University United States of North America and a J.D. from Harvard Law School.

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