Bitcoin was invented by someone using the name Satoshi Nakamoto. A Bitcoin address, or simply address, is an identifier of letters and numbers, beginning with the number 1 or 3, that represents a possible destination for a bitcoin payment. Addresses can be generated at no cost by any user of Bitcoin.
For example, using Bitcoin Core, one can click "New Address" and be assigned an address. It is also possible to get a Bitcoin address using an account at an exchange or online wallet service. One of the differences between using bitcoin and using regular money online is that bitcoin can be used without having an internet connection to link any sort of real-world identity to it. Unless someone chooses to link their name to a bitcoin address, it is hard to tell who owns the address.
Bitcoin does not keep track of users; it keeps track of addresses where the money is. Each address has two important pieces of cryptographic information, or keys: a public one and a private one. The public key, which is what the "bitcoin address" is created from, is similar to an email address; anyone can look it up and send bitcoins to it. The private address, or private key, is similar to an email password; only with it can the owner send bitcoins from it. Because of this, it is very important that this private key is kept secret.
To send bitcoins from an address, you prove to the network that you own the private key that belongs to the address, without revealing the private key. This is done with a branch of mathematics known as public-key cryptography. A public key is what determines the ownership of bitcoins, and is very similar to an ID number. If someone wanted to send you bitcoins, all you would need to do is supply them your bitcoin address, which is a version of your public key that is easier to read and type.
Anyone using the system can see how much money "ABC" has and how much money "DEF" has, but they cannot tell anything about who owns the address. But Bob and Alice each have a second key which only they individually know. This is the private key, and it is the "other half" of a Bitcoin address.
The private key is never shared, and allows the owner of the bitcoins to control them. However, if the private key is not kept secret, then anyone who sees it can also control and take the bitcoins there. The person who took it, told others about it later, saying "I'll send it back once Matt gives me a new address, since someone else can sweep [empty] out the old one.
Sites or users using the Bitcoin system are required to use a global database called blockchain. Blockchain is a record of all transactions that have taken place in the Bitcoin network. It also keeps track of new bitcoins as they are generated. With these two facts, the blockchain can keep track of who has how much money at all times.
To generate a bitcoin, a miner must solve a math problem. However, the difficulty of the math problem depends on how many people are mining for bitcoin at the moment. Because of how complicated the math problems usually are, they must be calculated with very powerful processors. The process of generating the bitcoins is called mining. Miners either compete with one another or work together in groups to solve a mathematical puzzle.
The first miner or group of miners to solve the particular puzzle are rewarded with new bitcoins. The puzzle is determined by the transactions being sent at the time and the previous puzzle solution. This means the solution to one puzzle is always different from the puzzles before.
Attempting to change an earlier transaction, maybe to fake bitcoins being sent or change the number of someone's bitcoins, requires solving that puzzle again, which takes a lot of work, and also requires solving each of the following puzzles, which takes even more work. This means a bitcoin cheater needs to outpace all the other bitcoin miners to change the bitcoin history.
This makes the bitcoin blockchain very safe to use. A popular image associated with Bitcoin is a QR code. This is a little bit like the numbers that show your bank balance until you spend the money. So, we know the peer-to-peer part, and we know the digital currency part. Next up in Bitcoin for dummies — distributed ledgers. A distributed ledger is a log of transactions stored on multiple computers.
In Bitcoin, these computers are called nodes. The nodes all work together to update and store the ledger with all the transactions that take place. Otherwise, you end up with many copies all with different changes. The role of this person is comparable to the role a bank plays in intermediating money transfers. With a Google doc, many people can work on the same document.
With a distributed ledger, what happens behind the scenes is more complex than just saving a document into the cloud. In Bitcoin, transactions are grouped in blocks. And, each Bitcoin miner is competing with all the others in a race to mine the next block. To successfully win the race, they have to expend a vast amount of computing power to solve a cryptographic puzzle.
This is a miner — they work really hard. This expenditure of power plays on the principles of game theory. The power expenditure means the miners have some skin in the game. In return, they receive some newly minted bitcoins when they successfully mine the next block.
While the process of mining a block is complex, the process of verifying it is relatively easy. Each block has its own cryptographic hash, which is like a kind of unique description of a fixed length. Each new block contains a reference to the unique hash of its immediate predecessor. This creates a chain, which is where the word blockchain comes from. One further point to note is about the way a hash function works.
When you create a hash, you always need to provide exactly the same inputs to get the same hash output. A tiny change in the input will result in a different hash output. This makes tampering with a blockchain computationally unfeasible unless you control a majority of the computing power of the whole network. Due to their unalterable nature, we call Bitcoin transactions immutable.
Thus, mining not only creates new bitcoins, but it also serves as the way that the entire network achieves consensus on the overall state of the ledger. Each player has an incentive to act for the good of the network. They ensure the integrity of transactions, for which they earn bitcoins.
That is one of the biggest mysteries in the world of cryptocurrencies. Nobody knows who came up with Bitcoin. We know that it was someone, or multiple people, operating under the pseudonym Satoshi Nakamoto. However, the elusive Satoshi has declined to ever reveal his identity. Bitcoin is undoubtedly the work of a genius, creating a financial revolution all by itself.
However, the real genius is in the invention of the blockchain. The technology underpinning Bitcoin is proving its value in areas including supply chain , finance and even helping fight climate change.
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