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What are public and private keys?
What are public and private keys?
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Written by Avalanche
Updated over a week ago

Think of a real life neighborhood framework for a public key, public address, public seed, private seed, and private key:

  1. Public Key: Imagine each house in one neighborhood has a unique doorbell with a nameplate. This nameplate acts as the public key. It is visible to everyone and is used to identify the house and its owner.

  2. Public Address: The public address is like the mailing address of the house. It is a more user-friendly representation of the doorbell's nameplate. When people want to send mail or packages to a specific house, they use the mailing address instead of the nameplate.

  3. Public Seed: The public seed is like the blueprint of all the houses in the neighborhood. It contains the necessary information to generate the doorbells' nameplates (public keys) for all the houses.

  4. Private Seed: The private seed is like a master blueprint that only the neighborhood manager (owner) has access to. From this master blueprint, individual blueprints for each house (private keys) can be generated. The reason why it’s extra private as a master blueprint is the owner of such a blueprint has not only the general knowledge of what the outside homes look like, but also access to inside each individual home, i.e, Bank robbers use master blueprints rather than regular construction blueprints to get direct detail of inside the bank, including the safe to plan their robbery operation.

  5. Private Key: Each house has a unique key that only the homeowner possesses. This key unlocks the door and grants access to the house. This individual house key is like the private key, which allows the owner to control the assets associated with a specific address.

Now, let's tie it all together:

  • When someone wants to send assets to a particular user, they use the recipient's public address (mailing address) to specify the destination.

  • The public address (nameplate) is derived from the recipient's public key, which is generated from the neighborhood's public seed (blueprint for all the houses).

  • On the other hand though, the recipient uses their private key (individual house key) to access the crypto associated with their public address. The private key is derived from the private seed (master blueprint) that only the user possesses.

  • Similar in concept, just as a master key (private seed) can unlock all the houses in the neighborhood, having control of the private seed means having access to all the private keys and addresses associated with it in the wallet.

For any additional questions, please view our other knowledge base articles or contact a support team member via the chat button. Examples are for illustrative purposes only.

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