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What is the Bitcoin Blockchain? A Guide to the Technology Behind BTC

The Bitcoin blockchain is an amalgamation of Bitcoin (BTC) and blockchain. A person or a group of people known as Satoshi Nakamoto created the Bitcoin protocol in 2008 to decentralize control of money when centralized entities had failed the world. A publication called the Bitcoin white paper outlined a set of computational rules that determined a new type of distributed database: the blockchain. The network was launched in January 2009.

The most well-known cryptocurrency, Bitcoin, is the one for which blockchain technology was created. Like the United States dollar, a cryptocurrency is a digital means of exchange that uses encryption techniques to oversee the establishment of monetary units and verify financial transfers.

The Bitcoin blockchain refers to the data stored in “blocks” of information that are then linked together in a permanent “chain.” A block is a collection of Bitcoin transactions from a specific period. Stacks of blocks are stockpiled on top of each other, with each new block relying on the previous ones. As a result, a chain of blocks is formed, giving rise to the word “blockchain.”

Every time a new block is added, it makes the previous blocks unmodifiable. This ensures that each block is more secure over time, and it is an example of how Bitcoin technology is changing how banking and financial transactions are being made. 

Bitcoin blockchain, however, is much more than cryptocurrency: It is the technology that most cryptocurrencies are built on, including Bitcoin. The Bitcoin blockchain is unique because it ensures that all transactions are accurate. Every action in the blockchain is recorded and there is nothing that is left out of the network. Once an action is recorded and stored in one of the information blocks, it is time-stamped and secured, and the entire record is available to anyone in the system.

The Bitcoin blockchain is also decentralized, meaning it is not stored in one master computer or controlled by one company. It is distributed on many computers that are in the network.

In the Bitcoin blockchain, there are codes called a hash. A hash is unique to each block in the blockchain. Hashing allows every network user to identify each block and directs them to move in the chain since every block has its own hash and a previous block's hash.

With the latter in mind, the critical parts of the blockchain include records, block, hash and chain. Block records and transactional records are the two types of records in the blockchain. A block contains the most recent Bitcoin transactions that have not yet been recorded in any previous block. Transaction records include the asset, price and ownership data that are recorded, approved and settled across all nodes in seconds.

In essence, a hash is a fixed-length string generated after transforming any length of input data in the blockchain network, a block is similar to a page in a ledger or record book and a chain refers to blocks linked together in a network.

Short Story of Bitcoin Blockchain

The idea of blockchain technology was introduced in 1991 by Stuart Haber and W. Scott Stornetta in their paper “How to Time-Stamp a Digital Document.” In this paper, they explained the use of a continuous chain of timestamps to record information securely.

Bitcoin was created largely to facilitate the exchange of Bitcoin cryptocurrency. However, early adopters and inventors rapidly discovered that it had far greater potential. With this in mind, they designed Bitcoin's blockchain to store more than just data on the token's movement.

Bitcoin technology uses peer-to-peer (P2P) transactions, making it possible to function without any bank or third party to manage each financial movement. It allows online payments to be sent directly from one party to another without going through any financial institution.

The term peer-to-peer means that the computers that are part of the network are equal to each other, that there are no “special” nodes and that all nodes share the burden of providing network services. It is made up of thousands of Bitcoin nodes that run the protocol. The protocol is responsible for establishing and safeguarding the blockchain.

The formation of a peer-to-peer network is possible because users' data is related to the person or entity they are interacting with, and they are in charge of keeping the distributed network up and running. The information regarding the individual or entity is then passed from their Bitcoin wallet to their location and IP address, which represents peer-to-peer Bitcoin interaction.

What is Needed to Make the Bitcoin Blockchain Work?

Bitcoin represents a digital, trustless form of money, alongside a movement to decentralize financial services. Before Bitcoin, there was a need for a trusted third party to keep a ledger — the record-keeping system of a company's or person's financial data — to record who owned how much. Everyone has a copy of this ledger with the Bitcoin network, so there is no need for third parties.

Every Bitcoin transaction happens in the Bitcoin blockchain network, which is the digital space where Bitcoin mining and hash power generation occur. Hashing power is the processing power used by your computer or hardware to perform and solve various hashing algorithms. These algorithms are used to create new cryptocurrencies and allow them to trade with one another. This process is called mining.

Usually, Bitcoin owners purchase their cryptocurrency supply through a cryptocurrency exchange, a platform that facilitates transactions of Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies. The decentralized ledger is what makes the blockchain network. The latter shows that Bitcoin is a piece of software, a set of processes in which participants perform different tasks.

A blockchain is a digital ledger of duplicated transactions distributed across the blockchain's network of computer systems. Each block on the chain contains several transactions, and whenever a new transaction occurs on the blockchain, a record of that transaction is added to the ledger of each participant.

This distributed database is managed by multiple participants using a technology called distributed ledger technology (DLT). Blockchain is a type of DLT in which transactions are recorded using an immutable cryptographic signature known as a hash. The transactions are then organized into blocks. Each new block includes a hash of the preceding one, effectively chaining them together, which is why distributed ledgers are commonly referred to as blockchains.

The blockchain works as a ledger, tracking every Bitcoin transaction, and is self-verifying, meaning that the entire network of nodes — different computers participating in the network — will constantly check and secure every movement. Here is where the “miners” come into the game: Their computers do the heavy lifting of maintaining the chain and thus, receive Bitcoin as a reward. These rules, collectively, are the Bitcoin protocol.

Bitcoin miners refer to the high-powered computers solving complex math problems to mint a coin. Miners are network-dedicated machines that verify all transactions and block any malicious actors. Bitcoin miners compile as many transactions as possible into a block, then verify the block and add it to the chain of previous blocks using a mathematical method. For providing their computing power to the network, miners are paid in newly minted Bitcoin.

How Does The Bitcoin Blockchain Work?

A blockchain is a type of database which is a collection of information stored on a computer system electronically. What is kept in databases, information or data is usually structured in a table format that makes it easier to search and filter information. Databases are designed to store large amounts of information that can be accessed, filtered and edited easily and quickly by many users at any time. 

To do this, extensive databases house data on servers that are made of potent computers. Those servers can be built using hundreds and hundreds of computers. Why? To have the computational storage and power needed for many users to access the database simultaneously. This is the difference from a database too, let's say, a storage cloud-like drive. 

Here’s how a blockchain differs from a database. The first difference is how data is structured. A database structures data into tables, while a blockchain collects information into groups, known as blocks, that hold data sets. Each block has a specific storage capacity that is chained onto the previous filled block when it gets filled, forming a chain of data. That's why it's called the blockchain: Millions of blocks filled with data are chained together.

This system means that every blockchain is a database that is more complex since it creates an irreversible chainline of data when implemented in a decentralized system. When one block is filled, it is unchangeable and becomes part of a timeline, and so, each block on the chain has an exact timestamp when added to the chain.

Thus, the goal of the blockchain is to allow digital information to be recorded and distributed, but not edited. That's why it is not a database per se; no one can change it once it is filled and chained. With the appearance of Bitcoin technology, blockchain had its first actual application.