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Steem is the blockchain database which the social media platform Steemit plugs into. Created as an open source and publicly accessible blockchain database to support community building and social interaction with cryptocurrency rewards. In its release White Paper Steem declared itself as the first cryptocurrency that attempts to accurately and transparently reward an unbounded number of individuals who make subjective contributions to its community.[1]

Steem blockchain platform is designed to address the major barriers to adoption and monetization of a social media based economy. It mimics the same techniques used to grow major social media platforms (like Facebook, Reddit and Medium) to bootstrap a successful cryptocurrency also called Steem (see Steem Tokens).

In May 2016, before official launch and still in beta test, Steem and Steemit (the social media site that runs over Steem) co-founder Ned Scott declared to CoinReport that the uniqueness of Steem, where posts, comments and votes sit directly on the blockchain. This would allow Steem to be leveraged in a few new and different ways, including blockchain-based attribution, blockchain-based content rewards and blockchain-based reputation. The founders would like to see all of its potential leveraged and their goal is not just to create a vibrant social media platform with Steemit, but to see entrepreneurs from different walks of life leverage and integrate Steem as an open-source publishing platform.[2]

After more than a year after released a new version of the Steem Whitepaper was annouced in August 30th, 2017. It was more technically accurate based on the current version of the blockchain.[3] A few days after the Steem Bluepaper was released, it was designed to be a helpful guide to Steem protocol that could be comprehensible to the widest range of people. It integrates the feedback gathered since launch about what people felt was missing from the original Whitepaper, features that have been added, and links to more technical documents for those who want to dive deeper into particular aspects of the protocol. It too will be hosted on Github and the proposal is become a living document that can be updated and improved over time.[4]

Censorship and Blockchain-based Attribution

All Steem user's actions are publicly recorded on the blockchain and can be publicly verified. Individual websites that rely on Steem may censor content on their particular site, but content published on the blockchain is inherently broadcast traffic and mirrors all around the world may continue to make it available.

Under blockchain-based social media, a creator or author would always be able to point to a public record and timestamp showing proof of their content origination. In a circumstance where a creator would like to address those who have re-shared without permission or attribution, blockchain-based records provide public proof that the content was posted by a particular user at a particular time. In the future, blockchain-based attribution could come to be recognized by governments for its authenticity and could hold weight in court, which would give content creators greater powers to control their work.

Performance, Scalability and Consensus Algorithm

The Steem platform is built upon Graphene, the same technology that powers BitShares, another blockchain network created by Dan Larimer, also a co-founder of Steem and Steemit with Ned Scott. This technology has been demonstrated sustaining over 1,000 transactions per second on a distributed test network and can easily scale to 10,000 or more. Steem is capable of handling a larger userbase than Reddit.

With Steem, block production is done in rounds. Each round 21 witnesses are selected to create and sign blocks of transactions. Nineteen (19) of these witnesses are selected by approval voting, one is selected by a computational proof-of-work, and one is timeshared by every witness that didn’t make it into the top 19 proportional to their total votes. The 21 active witnesses are shuffled every round to prevent any one witness from constantly ignoring blocks produced by the same witness placed before.

Because the active witnesses are known in advance, Steem is able to schedule witnesses to produce blocks every 3 seconds. Witnesses synchronize their block production via the NTP protocol. A variation of this algorithm has been in use by the BitShares network for over a year where it has been proven to be reliable.

In August 7th, 2017, the @steemitdev profile publishes that they change the Steem server program from a single application that handled the p2p code, the database, plugins, and APIs to a multiple appbase. Now, everything is a plugin and only needs to communicate with other plugins that they directly depend on. This increased level of modularity allows for quicker development, easier code review, and greater parallelism. The Steemd was single threaded, however, they are well along in the process of making it multithreaded. The blockchains were originally designed to use 1 CPU core but this was not ideal because all of Steem Witness computers actually have 8 burners (CPU cores) and the server was only using 1 each.[5]

Steem Ecosystem

In August 2016 Ned Scott declared to CoinDesk that entrepreneurs and developers have already created 50 different tools over the Steem blockchain network, such as Catch a Whale (which tracks where whales have recently voted) and SteemMarket (which lets users buy, sell and rent goods with Steem). He said: "The people showing up to use this are going directly to the blockchain. We don't have the authority to tell them not to. In fact, we implore it. What we set out to do is build an ecosystem and that’s exactly what’s happening." In February 2017, there were 118 different Steem apps listed on the site SteemTools.[2]
Read more on Steem Ecosystem.


  1. Steem White Paper : - Retrieved in July 16th, 2017
  2. 2.0 2.1 Steemit Bridges Blockchain and Social Media, But How Does It Work? Written by Jacob Donnelly (@jaycodon), published in CoinDesk in August 13th, 2016
  3. A Radically Updated Steem Whitepaper Escrito por @steemitblog en Steemit o 30 de Agosoto de 2017
  4. Announcing the Steem Bluepaper! poir @steemitblog en Steemit en 2017/09/07
  5. Steem Blockchain Update August 2017 Written by @steemitdev and published in Steemit in August 7th, 2017


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