Frequently asked questions

What is Chain?

Chain is a technology company that partners with organizations to build, deploy, and operate blockchain networks that enable breakthrough financial products and services. We are the authors of the open source Chain Protocol, which powers the Chain Core blockchain platform.

Chain was founded in 2014 and has raised over $40 million in funding from Khosla Ventures, RRE Ventures, and strategic partners including Capital One, Citigroup, Fiserv, Nasdaq, Orange, and Visa.

What is Chain Core?

Chain Core is enterprise software that enables institutions to issue and transfer financial assets on permissioned blockchain networks. Using Chain Core, institutions can launch and operate a blockchain network, or connect to a growing list of other networks that are transforming how assets move around the world.

Chain Core Developer Edition is free and available for download here.

Organizations that wish to run Chain Core in production environments can learn more about the Chain Core Enterprise Edition, licenses, and support here.

When is Chain a good fit?

Chain’s technology sits at a conceptual midpoint between decentralized cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin and centralized custodial models like a bank. On any given Chain blockchain network, the creation, control and transfer of assets is decentralized among participants, but the operation of the network is governed by a designated set of entities known as a federation. This model allows firms to move financial assets of all kinds with the seamlessness of digital currency while maintaining the governance standards, scalability, and privacy required in financial markets.

The assets on Chain blockchain networks are not new cryptocurrencies but are rather issued assets like currencies, securities, derivatives, gift cards, and loyalty points. Because these types of assets are issued by financial institutions and governments, we’ve designed Chain’s protocol and platform around the needs of these issuers and the firms that custody these types of assets. In fact, we’ve designed Chain’s software together with leading financial organizations in an iterative, use-case driven process over several years.

Here are some examples of why firms are launching blockchain networks using Chain’s technology:

  • To move money internationally more quickly
  • To transfer securities directly between asset managers
  • To serve as a secure ledger for tracking assets across divisions of a large organization
  • To enable a next-generation mobile banking solution
  • To create a loyalty points system for a consortium of brands
  • To issue digital gift cards onto a network that can support multiple wallet vendors
  • To create automated insurance contracts
  • To issue central bank currency digitally to improve the payments system in a country
Who are Chain’s customers?

Chain works with leading companies including Visa, Nasdaq, Fiserv, Citigroup, Capital One, Orange, State Street, MUFG, and many more. We would be delighted to hear from your organization, too.

We measure our success by whether our partners’ networks succeed and work closely with them on the design, go-to-market, and operation of every solution we power.

Learn more about our enterprise offerings.

What's a blockchain?

A blockchain, also known as a distributed ledger, is a shared, immutable database designed specifically for securing and transferring financial assets. Unlike a traditional database that manages balances on behalf of users, the assets on a blockchain are controlled directly by the owners of those assets through the use of secure, cryptographic keys.

By analogy, a cryptographic private key is similar to a physical key that secures a safety deposit box. And a blockchain is like a virtual network of these safety deposit boxes. When an entity wants to spend their money, they take their key, open their box, select the amount they wish to spend, and deliver those funds into the box of the recipient. The recipient is now in control of those funds since they hold the key to their box.

Why does this matter? Because when asset owners remain in control of their assets, they can move them directly to counterparties over a network without depending on intermediaries.

This new, more secure model of financial infrastructure reduces the costs and risks of asset movement to market participants in industries as varied as payments, banking, capital markets, insurance, trade finance, and supply chains. It also enables the creation of new types of financial products and services that were never before possible.

Chain’s technology is specifically designed for moving financial assets in permissioned, high-scale environments that require enterprise-grade security and privacy. Chain powers not one, but several, blockchain networks deployed and operated by our partners that serve different markets and use cases.

Learn more about Chain’s technology.

What is a digital asset?

A digital asset is a financial instrument – like a dollar, bond, derivative, or gift card – that is cryptographically issued, held, and transferred on a blockchain. This novel medium for assets, which is similar to bearer instruments like cash, but digital, is better suited to the security and innovation requirements of modern financial applications than centralized ledgers that immobilize assets and depend on messaging and reconciliation.

How are digital assets created?

Just as cryptographic private keys are used to custody and secure digital assets, private keys can issue digital assets as well. A cryptographic issuance key is mathematically linked to a public asset ID, which is similar in concept to an ISIN or CUSIP.

To mint new units of a particular asset, the issuer signs an issuance transaction with the issuance key for that asset ID and specifies the number of units, additional reference data, and the destination address on the network.

Because the digital assets on Chain blockchain networks are originated by participants on the network, it is up to those issuers to determine when, how many, and to whom they issue assets.

A given blockchain network can have any number of asset IDs and any number of units of those assets.

Read more about how asset issuance works.

What kinds of assets are being digitized?

Chain’s customers span payments, banking, capital markets, insurance, monetary authorities, and related financial industries. The asset classes being digitized and issued onto blockchain networks include government-issued currencies and bonds, corporate securities, derivatives, and branded currencies like gift vouchers and loyalty points. The motivation for deploying a blockchain network ranges from increasing efficiency and security to achieving a strategic goal, like transforming a market by offering a product or service that cannot be built on existing platforms.

What is unique about Chain’s technology?

The Chain protocol is premised on the following design goals:

  • Issued financial assets
  • Permissioned network access
  • High transaction volumes
  • Confidentiality of transaction data
  • Network upgradability
  • Programmable transactions

For more detail, read the Chain Protocol Whitepaper.

Chain Core, which implements the Chain Protocol, is designed for:

  • Hardware Security Module (HSM) integration
  • High availability
  • Performance
  • Scalability
  • Upgradability

Learn more about Chain Core.

What services does Chain offer?

In addition to delivering the industry-leading blockchain infrastructure platform, Chain offers solution design studies, application development, technical support, and network services to our partners that are building and operating production networks.

Organizations using the free Chain Core Developer Edition can acquire monthly support and training retainers to augment their team’s efforts and ensure they take full advantage of the capabilities and security features of our blockchain architecture.

How does Chain work with its partners?

While Chain is a technology company, we partner deeply with our customers to help them design, deploy, and operate blockchain networks effectively and securely.

A typical engagement begins with a design study and continues as we support network operations.

See an example of our partnership model here.

Does Chain launch their own networks?

We do not launch our own networks. Instead, Chain partners with our customers to launch and operate networks under our partners’ brands. There is no single “Chain network” but rather several networks that serve the asset classes, geographies, and use cases driven by our customers.

Is there a Chain Testnet?

Yes, the one exception to the rule about Chain launching networks directly is the Chain Testnet, which is a single, open network that enables developers to quickly and easily build test applications using Chain Core. The Chain testnet is operated by Chain, Microsoft, and the Initiative for Cryptocurrencies and Contracts (IC3), a collaboration of Cornell University, Cornell Tech, UC Berkeley, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and the Technion.