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What is Bitcoin and how does it work?
This article was written to educate people about bitcoins. That is, details on what a bitcoin is and how it works.
Here is a list of the topics we will discuss in this post:
- What is a bitcoin?
- Basic Components of Bitcoin
- Key Concepts in Bitcoin
- What is bitcoin mining?
- Bitcoin Cash and its Features
- Bitcoin: Mitigating Attacks
- How to Choose a Bitcoin Wallet
Now, without further delay, let's start with the definition of bitcoin.
What is a bitcoin?
Bitcoin is a digital currency introduced in January 2009. It is a form of cryptocurrency that is operated through a decentralized network.
Bitcoin is an online payment system that is not dependent upon any central body; it works on a decentralized system that is not regulated by the government of any country or a central bank.
In the Bitcoin system, encryption techniques are used for the generation and regulation of units of currency and the verification of all transactions involving these funds.
Bitcoin is often traded online for goods and services from sellers who accept it as payment.
Bitcoins have no physical existence; only their balances are present on a transparent public ledger. Anyone can access the ledger of Bitcoin publicly.
Every Bitcoin transaction is verified through a process known as mining. The people who perform the mining process are called miners. Mining is a complex process that requires massive computational power.
Note: Bitcoin is not considered legal tender in many parts of the world, despite its massive popularity.
Note: The abbreviation for bitcoin when it is traded is BTC.
Basic Components of Bitcoin: How Does Cryptocurrency (Bitcoin) Work?
Bitcoin is a form of cryptocurrency, which is a digital currency that works independently of any central authority. Bitcoin has been tremendously successful since its launch in 2009.
To get a deeper understanding of how cryptocurrency works, we can divide it into four basic components, which are explained further:
The term "cryptography" is defined in its own article. However, I did provide some background information. And the remaining three articles will be discussed in this post, beginning with the following paragraph.
Bitcoin Component: Bitcoin Software
The heart of bitcoin is its dynamic software, which regulates bitcoin transactions and deposits.
The definition of bitcoin and how it functions are all explained when we look at the features of the Bitcoin software.
The Bitcoin program is always available seven days a week and 24 hours a day.
The software checks and approves all the valid transactions in the bitcoin network. Transactions are highly secured, and legitimacy is tested with bitcoin software every time.
Bitcoin Component: Cryptography
Cryptography in the bitcoin network refers to encryption techniques that are applied.
Bitcoin would never be as big a success as it is today if there was no cryptography.
Cryptography techniques are one of the basic components of Bitcoin networks. The transfer of bitcoin virtually among different parties is secured using encryption techniques.
The techniques of cryptography are purely mathematical, and they can only be comprehended by computers. That is what makes them highly secure.
Bitcoin Component: Hardware
To regulate and solve cryptography, advanced hardware is also required.
Bitcoin-specific hardware is created for mining in particular. For detection and validation of hashes, high computing power is essentially required.
The bitcoin blockchain is a complex program that cannot be accessed fully with personal computers or smartphones.
Bitcoin Component: Role of Miners and Game Theory
Game theory in bitcoin drives the role of miners. The gaming mechanism used in bitcoin mining facilitates interaction between multiple players where the result of one player's efforts is dependent on the actions of others. This has an impact on the interactions and behaviors of network miners.
The bitcoin software issues a cryptography challenge once every ten minutes, which miners all around the world compete to solve. A miner who successfully solves a mining puzzle is rewarded with a bitcoin.
Key Concepts in Bitcoin
To get an understanding of what bitcoin is and how it works, you need to be familiar with the following key concepts:
- Blockchain: Blockchain technology is an essential part of the bitcoin system. It is a decentralized and distributed public ledger where the database is secured and validated by a large group of people.
- Cryptography: Cryptography is a key concept in Bitcoin. It refers to all the encryption techniques that are applied to transactions and data in the bitcoin network for security and authenticity. These are purely mathematical techniques of data encryption that are only understood by machines and computers.
- Wallet: A crypto wallet is a digital application that is used to manage, store, and transfer bitcoins.
- Ask price: This is the price at which buyers are attempting to purchase a bitcoin asset.
- Bid price: The "bid price" in the bitcoin network refers to the price at which someone is trying to sell a bitcoin asset.
- Private key: A private key and a crypto wallet are the two things that are needed to complete a transaction in bitcoin. This private key is a long series of random digits that must be kept secret.
- Nodes: All the computer machines that make up the blockchain network of bitcoin are called nodes. All these machines store information about every transaction that is performed in a system. When a new transaction is performed, the data is updated and sent to all the nodes in the bitcoin network.
What is bitcoin mining?
Bitcoin mining is a process in which new bitcoins are created and come into circulation. This process tracks and validates transactions in the Bitcoin network.
Mining is the work that must be done to verify and check all money transactions. The process of mining creates bitcoins as a reward.
The Process of Bitcoin Mining
The process of mining is quite complex; it creates new bitcoins by solving transaction tracing puzzles. It requires specialized computer systems that contain highly specialized chips that are competent at solving mathematical puzzles.
The individual who carries out the mining process is called a miner. The first miner who solves the math puzzle is rewarded with a bitcoin. This process of mining validates transactions on the Bitcoin network and declares them legitimate.
Bitcoin mining consumes a lot of energy.
The Bitcoin mining process requires high computational power and has very high energy requirements. In regions of the world where energy is generated using fossil fuels, bitcoin mining is considered highly hazardous to the environment.
Most professional bitcoin miners have moved to places where they can use renewable energy sources to reduce the damage to the environment.
In the initial days after the launch of the Bitcoin network, mining was performed using desktop computers that had a regular central processing unit. However, the process was extremely slow back then. Currently, the Bitcoin cryptocurrency is created by using large mining pools that are spread across wide geographical areas. These mining systems consume massive amounts of electricity.
Role of Bitcoin Miners
Bitcoin miners are a group of people who perform the process of mining within bitcoin networks.
Bitcoin miners confirm Bitcoin transactions by solving complex mathematical and cryptographic puzzles within the blockchain systems. A minor who successfully solves a puzzle is rewarded with a bitcoin generated by the process they used.
Is Bitcoin mining profitable?
Yes, it is. Bitcoin mining is attractive, as it offers very strong financial incentives. Anybody can attempt to become a miner. In the blockchain network of Bitcoin, for every block that is mined, the miner receives a bitcoin as a reward and earns the transaction fee for the transactions in that block.
As Bitcoin becomes increasingly popular, so does the arms race between miners. Miners nowadays use dedicated hardware, which offers high performance.
Bitcoin Cash and its Features
Bitcoin cash is a type of cryptocurrency that has many features similar to bitcoin but also has some differences that keep them apart. Bitcoin Cash was developed in December 2017 to increase the number of transactions that could be processed.
Features of Bitcoin Cash
- Bitcoin Cash is a payment network.
- Bitcoin cash is not owned by anyone, so it is open to being used by everyone.
- All transactions are recorded in a global ledger called the blockchain. This ledger is updated regularly, and anyone can see the complete history of ownership, so there is no potential for fraud.
- Transactions stored in the system cannot be altered.
Difference between bitcoin and bitcoin cash
Bitcoin and bitcoin cash are two very confusing terms used in cryptocurrency markets, so understanding the difference between them is very important. In the cryptocurrency market, both of these terms are used very frequently.
Bitcoin and bitcoin cash are separate currencies, and a bitcoin can never be sent to a bitcoin cash address, and vice versa.
The main difference between bitcoin and bitcoin cash is the block size.
Bitcoin Cash was developed with an increased 8GB block size to validate transactions much faster, and it provides more transactions per block.
The price of bitcoin has increased by a factor of twelve million, but the price of bitcoin cash has decreased.
Bitcoin: Mitigating Attacks
Bitcoin is perhaps the most secure cryptocurrency there is. However, some types of mitigating attacks will be discussed in this section. The system provides security at multiple levels of the bitcoin protocol. It primarily executes various sophisticated cyber attacks.
In a race attack, the attacker rapidly attempts to send a single coin to various vendors simultaneously. This attack is mostly carried out by the attacker using two machines.In the event that the vendor does not wait for the confirmation of the block before delivering the goods, they will later realize that the transaction was rejected during the mining process.
To mitigate the race attack, the vendor should always wait for at least one block confirmation of the transaction before they send out the goods.
The Finney Attack
In Finney attacks, the attacker is a miner. This miner mines a block in the bitcoin network with his transaction but does not release it in the bitcoin system. He then uses the same coin in another transaction and releases the pre-mined block. Eventually, the second transaction is rejected by other miners, but it takes some time.
To mitigate the risk of Finney attacks, the best practice is for a seller to wait for at least six block confirmations before sending the goods.
The Sybil Attack
Any malicious attacker on the bitcoin network can carry out this type of attack in a peer-to-peer network.In this attack, a node in the bitcoin system starts operating multiple identities simultaneously. This subsequently undermines the authority of the reputation system.
The goal of the Sybil attack is to get the most power in the bitcoin network so that illegal things can be done.
The following actions are useful to mitigate the risk of Sybil attacks:
- Through giving different powers to different members of the system,
- By validating the identities of members before joining a bitcoin network
- Through increasing the price of creating a new identity on the system,
How to Choose a Bitcoin Wallet
You need to choose your bitcoin wallet very carefully. Your Bitcoin wallet will be utilized as your app to manage your bitcoins and as your highly secured digital vault.
A suitable bitcoin wallet lets you send and receive your bitcoins, trade between other cryptocurrencies, and explore new ways in which you can use your bitcoins. It will also allow you to get market updates and interact with other contracts.
Following is a list of things you need to weigh when choosing your Bitcoin wallet.
- Access to private keys (owning your bitcoin)
- Backup-up features
- Free customization
- Multisig (shared wallets)
You must choose a bitcoin wallet with the highest defence and security features; the best bitcoin wallet app should be least susceptible to cyber attacks.
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