BitCoin, Public Key infrastructure (PKI) & Blockchain

PKI is one of the earliest forms of public Blockchain infrastructure where instead of having a linear linkedlist of blocks, a DAG hierarchical tree of linked blocks are formed across few registered miners (referred to as CA).

The problem of consensus does not occur in PKI, because a single parent can have multiple child blocks, unlike the BitCoin style of blockchains where only one block can ever succeed the current block. This makes it possible to parellelize the new block (certificate) creation easy on PKI. One can think of this as multiple side-chains rooted at single (or few well-known) block(s) evolving all in parallel.

One distinct feature of this PKI chain model is, each block can have a different validity lifetime. At the time of creation of the block, the creator indicates the validity "notBefore" and "notAfter" date/times. Any verification mechanism can then traverse the chain from leaf to root, validating each of the intermediate blocks as per their individual validity lifetimes. This creates a dynamic value system that allows "payable before", or "not redeemable after" kind of scenarios. Think of gift coupons, escrows, redeemable shopping offers etc.

Another feature of this PKI chain model is, a block's validity can be dynamically revoked (even before its validity expiry) by the CA. Think of scenarios such as cancelled cheque or blocked credit card, due to violation of contract terms or fraud reports.

If it seems to have such unique desirable features, why many consider PKI as not suitable for the future, especially in the decentralized era?

One connotation is the role of Governments in deciding who gets to be the miner on a PKI, and who gets to be the "regular guys" that trust those miners. Now, on the otherhand, the promise of a decentralized future is that every one can be a miner, if one choses to be. Which is, kind of not possible in a PKI - afterall a Government can not allow any and everyone to be a CA (or can they?).

But the question is, would every one want to be a miner?

And, is BitCoin (and by extension all its linear-chain peers) so different from the Government in its operations control?

GK Palem, Blockchain Consultant
Published On: 04-Dec-2019

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