Bitcoin is a digital asset and a payment system invented by Satoshi Nakamoto, who published the invention in 2008 and released it as open-source software in 2009. The system is peer-to-peer; users can transact directly without an intermediary.4 Transactions are verified by network nodes and recorded in a public distributed ledger called the block chain. The ledger uses bitcoin as its unit of account. The system works without a central repository or single administrator, which has led the U.S. Treasury to categorize bitcoin as a decentralized virtual currency. Bitcoin is often called the first cryptocurrency, although prior systems existed.Bitcoin is more correctly described as the first decentralized digital currency.It is the largest of its kind in terms of total market value.
Bitcoins are created as a reward for payment processing work in which users offer their computing power to verify and record payments into a public ledger. This activity is called mining and miners are rewarded with transaction fees and newly created bitcoins.Besides being obtained by mining, bitcoins can be exchanged for other currencies, products, and services. Users can send and receive bitcoins for an optional transaction fee.
Bitcoin as a form of payment for products and services has grown,and merchants have an incentive to accept it because fees are lower than the 2–3% typically imposed by credit card processors. Unlike credit cards, any fees are paid by the purchaser, not the vendor. The European Banking Authority and other sources:11 have warned that bitcoin users are not protected by refund rights or chargebacks. Despite a large increase in the number of merchants accepting bitcoin, the cryptocurrency does not have much momentum in retail transactions
A transaction must have one or more inputs. For the transaction to be valid, every input must be an unspent output of a previous transaction. Every input must be digitally signed. The use of multiple inputs corresponds to the use of multiple coins in a cash transaction. A transaction can also have multiple outputs, allowing one to make multiple payments in one go. A transaction output can be specified as an arbitrary multiple of satoshi.
As in a cash transaction, the sum of inputs (coins used to pay) can exceed the intended sum of payments. In such case, an additional output is used, returning the change back to the payer. Any input satoshis not accounted for in the transaction outputs become the transaction fee.
To send money to a bitcoin address, users can click links on webpages; this is accomplished with a provisional bitcoin URI scheme using a template registered with IANA. Bitcoin clients like Electrum and Armory support bitcoin URIs. Mobile clients recognize bitcoin URIs in QR codes, so that the user does not have to type the bitcoin address and amount in manually. The QR code is generated from the user input based on the payment amount. The QR code is displayed on the mobile device screen and can be scanned by a second mobile device.
Relative mining difficulty,the scale is logarithmic.
A mining farm in Iceland
Mining is a record-keeping service. Miners keep the block chain consistent, complete, and unalterable by repeatedly verifying and collecting newly broadcast transactions into a new group of transactions called a block. Each block contains a cryptographic hash of the previous block, using the SHA-256 hashing algorithm, which "chains" it to the previous block thus giving the block chain its name.
In order to be accepted by the rest of the network, a new block must contain a so-called proof-of-work. The proof-of-work requires miners to find a number called a nonce, such that when the block content is hashed along with the nonce, the result is numerically smaller than the network's difficulty target.:ch. 8 This proof is easy for any node in the network to verify, but extremely time-consuming to generate, as for a secure cryptographic hash, miners must try many different nonce values (usually the sequence of tested values is 0, 1, 2, 3, … before meeting the difficulty target.
Every 2016 blocks (approximately 14 days), the difficulty target is adjusted based on the network's recent performance, with the aim of keeping the average time between new blocks at ten minutes. In this way the system automatically adapts to the total amount of mining power on the network.For example, between 1 March 2014 and 1 March 2015, the average number of nonces miners had to try before creating a new block increased from 16.4 quintillion to 200.5 quintillion.
The proof-of-work system, alongside the chaining of blocks, makes modifications of the block chain extremely hard, as an attacker must modify all subsequent blocks in order for the modifications of one block to be accepted. As new blocks are mined all the time, the difficulty of modifying a block increases as time passes and the number of subsequent blocks (also called confirmations of the given block)
The block chain is a public ledger that records bitcoin transactions. A novel solution accomplishes this without any trusted central authority: maintenance of the block chain is performed by a network of communicating nodes running bitcoin software.
Transactions of the form payer X sends Y bitcoins to payee Z are broadcast to this network using readily available software applications. Network nodes can validate transactions, add them to their copy of the ledger, and then broadcast these ledger additions to other nodes.The block chain is a distributed database; to achieve independent verification of the chain of ownership of any and every bitcoin (amount), each network node stores its own copy of the block chain. Approximately six times per hour, a new group of accepted transactions, a block, is created, added to the block chain, and quickly published to all nodes.
This allows bitcoin software to determine when a particular bitcoin amount has been spent, which is necessary in order to prevent double-spending in an environment without central oversight. Whereas a conventional ledger records the transfers of actual bills or promissory notes that exist apart from it, the block chain is the only place that bitcoins can be said to exist in the form of unspent outputs of transactions.
Electrum bitcoin wallet
A wallet stores the information necessary to transact bitcoins. While wallets are often described as a place to hold or store bitcoins,due to the nature of the system, bitcoins are inseparable from the block chain transaction ledger. A better way to describe a wallet is something that "stores the digital credentials for your bitcoin holdings" and allows you to access (and spend) them. Bitcoin uses public-key cryptography, in which two cryptographic keys, one public and one private, are generated. At its most basic, a wallet is a collection of these keys.
There are several types of wallets. Software wallets connect to the network and allow spending bitcoins in addition to holding the credentials that prove ownership. Software wallets can be split further in two categories: full clients and lightweight clients.
Full clients verify transactions directly on a local copy of the block chain (over 65 GB as of April 2016). Because of its size / complexity, the entire block chain is not suitable for all computing devices.
Lightweight clients on the other hand consult a full client to send and receive transactions without requiring a local copy of the entire block chain (see simplified payment verification - SPV). This makes lightweight clients much faster to setup and allows them to be used on low-power, low-bandwidth devices such as smartphones. When using a lightweight wallet however, the user must trust the server to a certain degree.
When using a lightweight client, the server can not steal bitcoins, but it can report faulty values back to the user. With both types of software wallets, the users are responsible for keeping their private keys in a secure place.
Besides software wallets, Internet services called online wallets offer similar functionality but may be easier to use. In this case, credentials to access funds are stored with the online wallet provider rather than on the user's hardware. As a result, the user must have complete trust in the wallet provider. A malicious provider or a breach in server security may cause entrusted bitcoins to be stolen. An example of such security breach occurred with Mt Gox in 2011.
Physical wallets also exist and are more secure, as they store the credentials necessary to spend bitcoins offline.Examples combine a novelty coin with these credentials printed on metal,wood, or plastic. Others are simply paper printouts. Another type of wallet called a hardware wallet keeps credentials offline while facilitating transactions.
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