I am newbie to block chain. AFAIK, blockchain is a distributed database that maintains a continuously-growing list of records called blocks secured from tampering and revision.

How does this technology be explained in terms of OSI 7 layer model?



3 Answers 3


The blockchain is a data structure that every node in the network independently builds, based on messages that are exchanged in a network.

Blockchains don't prescribe what this network protocol looks like. The OSI model is a way to describe layers in a network, not data structures.


This might technically be incorrect, however philosophically it is the only way to explain "the blockchain" without going in this cryptocurrency-"asset/value transfer"-rubbish which really is not what the blockchain is about.

So, lets assume there are 8 layers. The 8. layer is the blockchain layer, its whole purpose is to answer the question

who did what when

on protocol level, ie. accessible and available for all like FTP/HTTP (TCP/IP) for data transfer.

Now it should make more sense to you why asset transfer and votings and patents and author's rights and backoffice optimization are all use cases for blockchain technology: "who did what when".

taken from: https://monax.io/explainers/ecosystem_applications/

  • To know who did what when, use a log file with auditors. A blockchain does not make things magically immutable - it does so through the use of consensus algorithms among a set of trusted parties (PBFT, private blockchains), or through economic incentives in public (Proof of Work, public network). The latter only works when there is a subsidy to incentivize convergence, something that isn't available for general purpose logs. Jan 20, 2017 at 18:41
  • you are perfectly right for a specific context or environment, eg. a organisation, a company, etc. Then of course auditable logs are the best fit for this and a blockchain doesn't make sense at all. I was thinking of a environment of several parties, probably even in competition, which do not have processes or rules to set up a "auditable log" since there is no admin, no processes, no agreed-upon rules. Then a common "infrastructur component" which answers the question permissionless and decentrally is what you need.
    – Ice09
    Jan 21, 2017 at 21:11
  • If you want permissionless, you need economic incentives instead of trusted parties. Logging can't provide those, a currency can. Jan 21, 2017 at 21:54
  • For sure, that's why logging is completely different use case here. Permissionless must go with economic incentives and since there are no trusted parties, the blockchain with incentives is the only possibility to enable "who did what when" in a public permissionless environment. In a permissioned, (private/consortium) chain with trusted parties you could argue that auditable logging or a central audit database might also fit, but I would challenge this since "trust" is not identical to having an common infrastructure and processes you need to set up a central solution.
    – Ice09
    Jan 23, 2017 at 9:55
  • In short: having a "currency" (ie. economic incentives) in a blockchain is a fundamental part of permissionless public chains to work, but that's all it is, a basis for other things to build upon and not the key feature of a blockchain. The key feature is the answer to "who did what when" on protocol level. One "implemetation" of this key feature is currency. Another one is voting, "proofing", auditing, timestamping, "who did what when", permission- and trustless.
    – Ice09
    Jan 23, 2017 at 10:22

AFAIK, blockchain is a distributed database [...]

In a distributed database there is usually a coordinated distribution of data across nodes such that individual nodes only have a subset. The Bitcoin blockchain is not a distributed database of this sort. There is no coordination and no centrally managed subsetting.

Bitcoin's blockchain is a replicated database. Every full node has a complete copy.

[...] that maintains a continuously-growing list of records called blocks secured from tampering and revision.

True. Really it is a list of records of transactions. You can think of blocks as like pages in a transaction journal.

How does this technology be explained in terms of OSI 7 layer model?

It isn't and can't be.

The ISO OSI 7-layer model was mainly associated with the X25 data network. It is obsolete. It does not apply to the Internet which has it's own 4-layer model.

The Bitcoin network protocol is at the application layer in this 4-layer model. It mostly uses TCP at the transport layer and IP at the inter-network layer.

The Bitcoin network protocol allows each Bitcoin node to gossip with a handful of peer nodes in order to exchange data including blockchain data items such as blocks and transactions etc. In this way blockchain data percolates across the planet.

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