Bitcoin

Index

Key Terms

Contracts

Contracts are transactions which use the decentralized Bitcoin system to enforce financial agreements. Bitcoin contracts can often be crafted to minimize dependency on outside agents, such as the court system, which significantly decreases the risk of dealing with unknown entities in financial transactions.

Balances - block chain

The block chain is a shared public ledger on which the entire Bitcoin network relies. All confirmed transactions are included in the block chain. This way, Bitcoin wallets can calculate their spendable balance and new transactions can be verified to be spending bitcoins that are actually owned by the spender. The integrity and the chronological order of the block chain are enforced with cryptography.

Transactions - private keys

A transaction is a transfer of value between Bitcoin wallets that gets included in the block chain. Bitcoin wallets keep a secret piece of data called a private key or seed, which is used to sign transactions, providing a mathematical proof that they have come from the owner of the wallet. The signature also prevents the transaction from being altered by anybody once it has been issued. All transactions are broadcast between users and usually begin to be confirmed by the network in the following 10 minutes, through a process called mining.

Processing - mining

Mining is a distributed consensus system that is used to confirm waiting transactions by including them in the block chain. It enforces a chronological order in the block chain, protects the neutrality of the network, and allows different computers to agree on the state of the system. To be confirmed, transactions must be packed in a block that fits very strict cryptographic rules that will be verified by the network. These rules prevent previous blocks from being modified because doing so would invalidate all following blocks. Mining also creates the equivalent of a competitive lottery that prevents any individual from easily adding new blocks consecutively in the block chain. This way, no individuals can control what is included in the block chain or replace parts of the block chain to roll back their own spends.

Wallets

A Bitcoin wallet can refer to either a wallet program or a wallet file. Wallet programs create public keys to receive satoshis and use the corresponding private keys to spend those satoshis. Wallet files store private keys and (optionally) other information related to transactions for the wallet program.

Block Chain

The block chain provides Bitcoin’s public ledger, an ordered and timestamped record of transactions. This system is used to protect against double spending and modification of previous transaction records.

Each full node in the Bitcoin network independently stores a block chain containing only blocks validated by that node. When several nodes all have the same blocks in their block chain, they are considered to be in consensus. The validation rules these nodes follow to maintain consensus are called consensus rules. This section describes many of the consensus rules used by Bitcoin Core.

Block Chain

The illustration above shows a simplified version of a block chain. A block of one or more new transactions is collected into the transaction data part of a block. Copies of each transaction are hashed, and the hashes are then paired, hashed, paired again, and hashed again until a single hash remains, the merkle root of a merkle tree.

The merkle root is stored in the block header. Each block also stores the hash of the previous block’s header, chaining the blocks together. This ensures a transaction cannot be modified without modifying the block that records it and all following blocks.

Proof Of Work

The block chain is collaboratively maintained by anonymous peers on the network, so Bitcoin requires that each block prove a significant amount of work was invested in its creation to ensure that untrustworthy peers who want to modify past blocks have to work harder than honest peers who only want to add new blocks to the block chain.

Chaining blocks together makes it impossible to modify transactions included in any block without modifying all following blocks. As a result, the cost to modify a particular block increases with every new block added to the block chain, magnifying the effect of the proof of work.

Payment Processing

Payment processing encompasses the steps spenders and receivers perform to make and accept payments in exchange for products or services. The basic steps have not changed since the dawn of commerce, but the technology has. This section will explain how receivers and spenders can, respectively, request and make payments using Bitcoin—and how they can deal with complications such as refunds and recurrent rebilling.

Payment Processing

Transactions

Transaction

Transactions

References