Public in this case, means, well… public. The code is viewable, as well as editable by anyone in the community. The community as a whole decides on the rules.
A private blockchain has rules and is kind of like an invite-only party. A private blockchain is usually around for a very specific purpose, and because of this, it has fewer decision-makers and is all-around easier to maintain.
While different, a private and public blockchain can happily co-exist.
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