Bitcoin is a decentralized cryptocurrency originally described in a 2008 whitepaper by a person, or group of people, using the alias Satoshi Nakamoto. It was launched soon after, in January 2009.
Bitcoin is a peer-to-peer online currency, meaning that all transactions happen directly between equal, independent network participants, without the need for any intermediary to permit or facilitate them. Bitcoin was created, according to Nakamoto’s own words, to allow “online payments to be sent directly from one party to another without going through a financial institution.”
Some concepts for a similar type of a decentralized electronic currency precede BTC, but Bitcoin holds the distinction of being the first-ever cryptocurrency to come into actual use.
Coin network hashrate(H/s):
|Max Supply||Network H/s||Algorithm||BlockNo.||Proof Type||Start Date|
|21 million bitcoin||PoW||January 3, 2009|
|Website||DifficultyAdj.||Mkt. Cap. Penalty||Current Supply||Block Reward|
|@Bitcoin||https://bitcoin.org/||US$352 billion (2022-06-18, highly volatile)|
Bitcoin’s original inventor is known under a pseudonym, Satoshi Nakamoto. As of 2021, the true identity of the person — or organization — that is behind the alias remains unknown.
On October 31, 2008, Nakamoto published Bitcoin’s whitepaper, which described in detail how a peer-to-peer, online currency could be implemented. They proposed to use a decentralized ledger of transactions packaged in batches (called “blocks”) and secured by cryptographic algorithms — the whole system would later be dubbed “blockchain.”
Just two months later, on January 3, 2009, Nakamoto mined the first block on the Bitcoin network, known as the genesis block, thus launching the world’s first cryptocurrency. Bitcoin price was $0 when first introduced, and most Bitcoins were obtained via mining, which only required moderately powerful devices (e.g. PCs) and mining software. The first known Bitcoin commercial transaction occurred on May 22, 2010, when programmer Laszlo Hanyecz traded 10,000 Bitcoins for two pizzas. At Bitcoin price today in mid-September 2021, those pizzas would be worth an astonishing $478 million. This event is now known as “Bitcoin Pizza Day.” In July 2010, Bitcoin first started trading, with the Bitcoin price ranging from $0.0008 to $0.08 at that time.
However, while Nakamoto was the original inventor of Bitcoin, as well as the author of its very first implementation, he handed the network alert key and control of the code repository to Gavin Andresen, who later became lead developer at the Bitcoin Foundation. Over the years a large number of people have contributed to improving the cryptocurrency’s software by patching vulnerabilities and adding new features.
Bitcoin’s source code repository on GitHub lists more than 750 contributors, with some of the key ones being Wladimir J. van der Laan, Marco Falke, Pieter Wuille, Gavin Andresen, Jonas Schnelli and others.
Launch & Initial Token Distribution
Satoshi Nakamoto created the first bitcoins on January 3, 2009, by mining the genesis block. The genesis block mining reward (50 BTC) is unspendable due to the original client's block database and transaction database configuration. The coinbase of the first block included the following text:
"The Times 03/Jan/2009 Chancellor on brink of second bailout for banks"
This text has been interpreted both as a proof that the block was created on January 3, 2009, as well as a comment on fractional-reserve banking. Hal Finney received the first bitcoin transaction on January 12, 2009. Finney had downloaded the bitcoin software when it was first released and was known the be the creator of RPoW, the first reusable proof-of-work system, in 2004.
FAQ and Forum
- What Makes Bitcoin Unique?
Bitcoin’s most unique advantage comes from the fact that it was the very first cryptocurrency to appear on the market.
It has managed to create a global community and give birth to an entirely new industry of millions of enthusiasts who create, invest in, trade and use Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies in their everyday lives. The emergence of the first cryptocurrency has created a conceptual and technological basis that subsequently inspired the development of thousands of competing projects.
The entire cryptocurrency market — now worth more than $2 trillion — is based on the idea realized by Bitcoin: money that can be sent and received by anyone, anywhere in the world without reliance on trusted intermediaries, such as banks and financial services companies.
Thanks to its pioneering nature, BTC remains at the top of this energetic market after over a decade of existence. Even after Bitcoin has lost its undisputed dominance, it remains the largest cryptocurrency, with a market capitalization that surpassed the $1 trillion mark in 2021, after Bitcoin price hit an all-time high of $64,863.10 on April 14, 2021. This is owing in large part to growing institutional interest in Bitcoin, and the ubiquitousness of platforms that provide use-cases for BTC: wallets, exchanges, payment services, online games and more.
- How Is Bitcoin’s Technology Upgraded?
A hard fork is a radical change to the protocol that makes previously invalid blocks/transactions valid, and therefore requires all users to upgrade. For example, if users A and B are disagreeing on whether an incoming transaction is valid, a hard fork could make the transaction valid to users A and B, but not to user C.
A hard fork is a protocol upgrade that is not backward compatible. This means every node (computer connected to the Bitcoin network using a client that performs the task of validating and relaying transactions) needs to upgrade before the new blockchain with the hard fork activates and rejects any blocks or transactions from the old blockchain. The old blockchain will continue to exist and will continue to accept transactions, although it may be incompatible with other newer Bitcoin clients.
A soft fork is a change to the Bitcoin protocol wherein only previously valid blocks/transactions are made invalid. Since old nodes will recognise the new blocks as valid, a soft fork is backward-compatible. This kind of fork requires only a majority of the miners upgrading to enforce the new rules.
Some examples of prominent cryptocurrencies that have undergone hard forks are the following: Bitcoin’s hard fork that resulted in Bitcoin Cash, Ethereum’s hard fork that resulted in Ethereum Classic.
Bitcoin Cash has been hard forked since its original forking, with the creation of Bitcoin SV. Read more about the difference between Bitcoin, Bitcoin Cash and Bitcoin SV here.
- What Is Taproot?
Taproot is a soft fork that bundles together BIP 340, 341 and 342 and aims to improve the scalability, efficiency, and privacy of the blockchain by introducing several new features.
The two major changes are the introduction of the Merkelized Abstract Syntax Tree (MAST) and Schnorr Signature. MAST introduces a condition allowing the sender and recipient of a transaction to sign off on its settlement together. Schnorr Signature allows users to aggregate several signatures into one for a single transaction. This results in multi-signature transactions looking the same as regular transactions or more complex ones. By introducing this new address type, users can also save on transaction fees, as even complex transactions look like simple, single-signature ones.
Although HODLers will probably not notice a big impact, Taproot could become a key milestone to equipping the network with smart contract functionality. In particular, Schnorr Signatures would lay the foundation for more complex applications to be built on top of the existing blockchain, as users start switching to Taproot addresses primarily. If adopted by users, Taproot could, in the long run, result in the network developing its own DeFi ecosystem that rivals those on alternative blockchains like Ethereum.
- What Is the Lightning Network?
The Lightning Network is an off-chain, layered payment protocol that operates bidirectional payment channels which allows instantaneous transfer with instant reconciliation. It enables private, high volume and trustless transactions between any two parties. The Lightning Network scales transaction capacity without incurring the costs associated with transactions and interventions on the underlying blockchain.
- How Much Is Bitcoin?
The current valuation of Bitcoin is constantly moving, all day every day. It is a truly global asset. From a start of under one cent per coin, BTC has risen in price by thousands of percent to the numbers you see above. The prices of all cryptocurrencies are quite volatile, meaning that anyone’s understanding of how much Bitcoin is will change by the minute. However, there are times when different countries and exchanges show different prices and understanding how much Bitcoin is will be a function of a person’s location.