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Chances are you hear the term bitcoin mining and your mind begins to wander to the Western fantasy of pickaxes, dirt, and striking it rich. As it turns out, that analogy isnt too far off.
Far less glamorous but equally uncertain, bitcoin mining is performed by high-powered computers which solve complex computational math problems (read: so complicated that they cannot be solved by hand). The fortune and work required by a computer to solve one of these problems is the equivalent of a miner striking gold in the ground while digging in a sandbox.
The result of bitcoin mining is twofold. To begin with, when computers resolve these complex mathematics problems on the bitcoin networkthey create new bitcoin, not unlike when a mining operation extracts gold from the ground. And second, by solving computational mathematics issues, bitcoin miners make the bitcoin payment network trustworthy and secure, by verifying its transaction information. .
Theres a fantastic chance all that only made so much sense. In order to explain how bitcoin mining functions in greater detail, lets begin with a procedure thats a little bit closer to home: the regulation of printed currency.
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Consumers tend to trust printed currencies, at least in the United States. Feeling because the U.S. dollar is backed by a central bank called the Federal Reserve. In addition to a host of other responsibilities, the Federal Reserve modulates the production of new money and prosecutes the use of counterfeit currency. .
Even digital payments using the U.S. dollar are backed by a central authority. When you make an online order using your debit card or charge card, for example, that transaction is processed by a payment processing company such as Mastercard or Visa. In addition to recording your transaction history, those companies verify that transactions are not fraudulent, and that's one reason your credit or debit card could be suspended while traveling. .
Bitcoin, on the other hand, is not regulated by a central authority. Instead, bitcoin is endorsed by millions of computers throughout the world known as miners. This network of computers plays the identical function as the Federal Reserve, Visa, and Mastercard, but using a couple of key differences. Like the Federal Reserve, Visa, and Mastercard, bitcoin miners record transactions and check their accuracy.
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When someone makes a purchase or sale using bitcoin, we call that a transaction. Transactions made in-store and online are documented by banks, point-of-sale systems, and physical receipts. Bitcoin miners achieve the same effect without these institutions by clumping transactions together in blocks and adding them to a public document called the blockchain. .
When bitcoin miners put in a new block of transactions to the blockchain, a part of the job is to ensure that those transactions are accurate. (More on the wonder of the way this happens in a second) In specific, bitcoin miners be sure that bitcoin are not being duplicated, a unique quirk of electronic currencies known as double-spending.
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Once you spend $20 at the store, that invoice is in the clerks hands. With digital currency, however, it's a different story. .
Digital information can be replicated relatively easily, so with bitcoin and other digital currencies, there's a risk that a spender can create copy of the bitcoin and send it to another party while holding onto the original. Let's return to printed currency for a moment and say someone attempted to duplicate their 20 bill in order to spend both the original and the counterfeit at a grocery shop.
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When the numbers were identical, the clerk could know the money had been duplicated. This analogy is very similar to what a bitcoin miner does when they confirm new transactions. .
With as many as 600,000 purchases and sales occurring in a single day, nevertheless, verifying each of these transactions can be a lot of work for miners, which gets at one other crucial difference between bitcoin miners and the Federal Reserve, Mastercard, or Visa. As compensation for their efforts, miners are awarded bitcoin whenever they add a new block of transactions to the blockchain.
In 2009, it was 50. In 2013, it had visit homepage been 25, in the time of writing it is 12.5, and sometime in the center of 2020 it will halve to 6.25. .
At this rate of halving, the entire number of bitcoin in circulation will approach a limit of 21 million, making the currency more scarce and precious over time but also more costly for miners to produce.
Here is the catch. In order for bitcoin miners to actually earn bitcoin from verifying transactions, two things have to happen. To begin with, they need to confirm 1 megabyte (MB) browse around this site worth of transactions, which can theoretically be as little as 1 transaction but are more often several thousand, depending on how much information each transaction shops.