Bitcoin has become a worldwide phenomenon due partly to its incredible innovation in terms of technology and cross-border payments, but also because of its unbelievable market performance over the last decade.
The original cryptocurrency was even voted the top performing asset of the past decade, and there is no denying why. So, how does it all work? Today we’re uncovering everything you need to know about the inner workings of the most powerful cryptocurrency.
Before we dive into how Bitcoin works, let’s cover the basics. Bitcoin is a peer-to-peer electronic payment system that was launched in 2009 by Bitcoin's creator, Satoshi Nakamoto, an anonymous entity that remains a mystery to this day. The Bitcoin blockchain ignited blockchain technology, propelling it into the 21st century and allowing anyone connected to the internet to embrace the new age of technology.
Bitcoin was designed as a response to the global financial crisis and set to be a decentralized payment system that was exempt from banking institutions’ central authority and errors. Over the past decade, the cryptocurrency has increased in value, hitting $20,000 for the first time in 2017, again in December 2020, before soaring to highs of $68,789.63 in November 2021.
The Bitcoin blockchain network has also paved the way for many other virtual currencies, of which there are currently over 20,000. The industry has grown into a sizable $1 trillion market (valued at one stage at over $3 trillion), most of which has Bitcoin to thank. Bitcoin currently dominates the market with a 40% share and has created a name for itself in the mainstream as more and more businesses decide to accept Bitcoin.
How exactly does Bitcoin work?
Now that we’ve covered the basics, let’s get into the nitty-gritty. As previously mentioned, Bitcoin is a peer-to-peer digital currency that does not rely on any third-party financial institutions, banks or governments. Instead, the network and all Bitcoin transactions are operated by a network of nodes (computers) and miners. Users store Bitcoin in a digital wallet.
In simple terms, miners are responsible for verifying transactions while nodes keep records of all the transactions on the Bitcoin network. All transactions are added to the blockchain, which is a public ledger of all activity on the Bitcoin network. This is a simple look at how Bitcoin mining works.
Looking more deeply into this, let’s say one person in Belgium is sending Bitcoin to someone in England. The Belgium person will enter the Bitcoin address (also known as a wallet address) of the recipient and indicate how much they would like to send. The Bitcoin wallet through which it is being sent will calculate the transaction fees, the Belgium person will confirm (also checking they are happy with Bitcoin's price), and the Bitcoin transaction will enter a “mempool” of new transactions.
From here, Bitcoin miners will fight to solve a complex mathematical puzzle and the first one to do so correctly will be allowed mine the next block and verify all pending Bitcoin transactions (the process of Bitcoin mining). The miner will then verify that all senders of the transactions have sufficient balances, and the transactions will be executed.
The miner will then add the new block to the blockchain, and it will be circulated amongst the network. Once all the nodes approve, they will all update their blockchain records with the new block.
The person in England will then get a notification to say that they have received the Bitcoin transaction, and will most likely require 3 confirmations before being able to access the funds (some digital wallets and merchants require 6 confirmations). Confirmations are represented by new blocks added to the blockchain following the block with that specific transaction. Blocks take 10 - 40 minutes to be created due to the Bitcoin mining process.
While this is how Bitcoin transactions take place, other cryptocurrency transactions might vary slightly.
Where do new Bitcoins come from?
Satoshi Nakamoto designed the cryptocurrency to be deflationary in nature, intending the price to increase over time as opposed to decreasing like fiat currencies, offering not only a reliable payment method, but also an investment opportunity. Bitcoin has a fixed supply of 21 million coins, with a certain number being released each year.
Initially, the mining reward for mining a block on the Bitcoin blockchain was 50 BTC, but after every 210,000 blocks (roughly 4 years) the reward halves. In May 2020, the third halving took place, driving the block rewards down to 6.25 BTC per block. This equates to roughly $230,000 at the time of writing.
So where do new Bitcoins come from? Each time a miner verifies a bundle of transactions, the miner will receive each transaction’s network fee and once they have mined enough transactions to complete a 1MB block and add it to the blockchain, they will receive the mining reward too.
Once the 21 millionth coin has been mined no new coins will ever enter circulation.
Ready to enter the wonderful world of Bitcoin?
Now that you understand more about the original cryptocurrency and how Bitcoin works, are you ready to enter the market? For easy onboarding, Tap provides a secure platform from where anyone can buy and sell Bitcoin and a number of other cryptocurrencies. Secure, easy to use, and conveniently accessible through a mobile app, Tap is both beginner friendly and perfect for seasoned traders.
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