What is the bitcoin blockchain?
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.
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. This ensures a transaction cannot be modified without modifying the block that records it and all following blocks.
Transactions are also chained together. Bitcoin wallet software gives the impression that satoshis are sent from and to wallets , but bitcoins really move from transaction to transaction. Each transaction spends the satoshis previously received in one or more earlier transactions, so the input of one transaction is the output of a previous transaction. A single transaction can create multiple outputs , as would be the case when sending to multiple addresses , but each output of a particular transaction can only be used as an input once in the block chain.
Any subsequent reference is a forbidden double spend —an attempt to spend the same satoshis twice. Outputs are tied to transaction identifiers TXIDs , which are the hashes of signed transactions. Because each output of a particular transaction can only be spent once, the outputs of all transactions included in the block chain can be categorized as either Unspent Transaction Outputs UTXOs or spent transaction outputs.
For a payment to be valid, it must only use UTXOs as inputs. For example, in the illustration above, each transaction spends 10, satoshis fewer than it receives from its combined inputs , effectively paying a 10, satoshi transaction fee.
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 subsequent 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. The proof of work used in Bitcoin takes advantage of the apparently random nature of cryptographic hashes.
A good cryptographic hash algorithm converts arbitrary data into a seemingly random number. If the data is modified in any way and the hash re-run, a new seemingly random number is produced, so there is no way to modify the data to make the hash number predictable.
To prove you did some extra work to create a block , you must create a hash of the block header which does not exceed a certain value. In the example given above, you will produce a successful hash on average every other try.
You can even estimate the probability that a given hash attempt will generate a number below the target threshold. Bitcoin assumes a linear probability that the lower it makes the target threshold , the more hash attempts on average will need to be tried. New blocks will only be added to the block chain if their hash is at least as challenging as a difficulty value expected by the consensus protocol. Every 2, blocks , the network uses timestamps stored in each block header to calculate the number of seconds elapsed between generation of the first and last of those last 2, blocks.
The ideal value is 1,, seconds two weeks. Note: an off-by-one error in the Bitcoin Core implementation causes the difficulty to be updated every 2,01 6 blocks using timestamps from only 2,01 5 blocks , creating a slight skew. Because each block header must hash to a value below the target threshold , and because each block is linked to the block that preceded it, it requires on average as much hashing power to propagate a modified block as the entire Bitcoin network expended between the time the original block was created and the present time.
Any Bitcoin miner who successfully hashes a block header to a value below the target threshold can add the entire block to the block chain assuming the block is otherwise valid. These blocks are commonly addressed by their block height —the number of blocks between them and the first Bitcoin block block 0 , most commonly known as the genesis block. For example, block is where difficulty could have first been adjusted.
Multiple blocks can all have the same block height , as is common when two or more miners each produce a block at roughly the same time. This creates an apparent fork in the block chain , as shown in the illustration above. When miners produce simultaneous blocks at the end of the block chain , each node individually chooses which block to accept.
In the absence of other considerations, discussed below, nodes usually use the first block they see. Eventually a miner produces another block which attaches to only one of the competing simultaneously-mined blocks. This makes that side of the fork stronger than the other side. Assuming a fork only contains valid blocks , normal peers always follow the most difficult chain to recreate and throw away stale blocks belonging to shorter forks. Stale blocks are also sometimes called orphans or orphan blocks, but those terms are also used for true orphan blocks without a known parent block.
Long-term forks are possible if different miners work at cross-purposes, such as some miners diligently working to extend the block chain at the same time other miners are attempting a 51 percent attack to revise transaction history. Since multiple blocks can have the same height during a block chain fork , block height should not be used as a globally unique identifier.
Instead, blocks are usually referenced by the hash of their header often with the byte order reversed, and in hexadecimal. Every block must include one or more transactions. The first one of these transactions must be a coinbase transaction , also called a generation transaction , which should collect and spend the block reward comprised of a block subsidy and any transaction fees paid by transactions included in this block.
The UTXO of a coinbase transaction has the special condition that it cannot be spent used as an input for at least blocks. This temporarily prevents a miner from spending the transaction fees and block reward from a block that may later be determined to be stale and therefore the coinbase transaction destroyed after a block chain fork.
Blocks are not required to include any non- coinbase transactions , but miners almost always do include additional transactions in order to collect their transaction fees. All transactions, including the coinbase transaction , are encoded into blocks in binary raw transaction format. The raw transaction format is hashed to create the transaction identifier txid. From these txids , the merkle tree is constructed by pairing each txid with one other txid and then hashing them together.
If there are an odd number of txids , the txid without a partner is hashed with a copy of itself. The resulting hashes themselves are each paired with one other hash and hashed together. Any hash without a partner is hashed with itself. The process repeats until only one hash remains, the merkle root. For example, if transactions were merely joined not hashed , a five-transaction merkle tree would look like the following text diagram:.
As discussed in the Simplified Payment Verification SPV subsection, the merkle tree allows clients to verify for themselves that a transaction was included in a block by obtaining the merkle root from a block header and a list of the intermediate hashes from a full peer. The full peer does not need to be trusted: it is expensive to fake block headers and the intermediate hashes cannot be faked or the verification will fail.
If the five transactions in this block were all at the maximum size, downloading the entire block would require over , bytes—but downloading three hashes plus the block header requires only bytes. Note: If identical txids are found within the same block , there is a possibility that the merkle tree may collide with a block with some or all duplicates removed due to how unbalanced merkle trees are implemented duplicating the lone hash.
Since it is impractical to have separate transactions with identical txids , this does not impose a burden on honest software, but must be checked if the invalid status of a block is to be cached; otherwise, a valid block with the duplicates eliminated could have the same merkle root and block hash, but be rejected by the cached invalid outcome, resulting in security bugs such as CVE To maintain consensus , all full nodes validate blocks using the same consensus rules.
However, sometimes the consensus rules are changed to introduce new features or prevent network abuse. When the new rules are implemented, there will likely be a period of time when non-upgraded nodes follow the old rules and upgraded nodes follow the new rules, creating two possible ways consensus can break:. A block following the new consensus rules is accepted by upgraded nodes but rejected by non-upgraded nodes.
For example, a new transaction feature is used within a block : upgraded nodes understand the feature and accept it, but non-upgraded nodes reject it because it violates the old rules. A block violating the new consensus rules is rejected by upgraded nodes but accepted by non-upgraded nodes. For example, an abusive transaction feature is used within a block : upgraded nodes reject it because it violates the new rules, but non-upgraded nodes accept it because it follows the old rules.
In the first case, rejection by non-upgraded nodes , mining software which gets block chain data from those non-upgraded nodes refuses to build on the same chain as mining software getting data from upgraded nodes.
This creates permanently divergent chains—one for non-upgraded nodes and one for upgraded nodes —called a hard fork. This is called a soft fork. Although a fork is an actual divergence in block chains , changes to the consensus rules are often described by their potential to create either a hard or soft fork. Consensus rule changes may be activated in various ways. Multiple soft forks such as BIP30 have been activated via a flag day where the new rule began to be enforced at a preset time or block height.
Such forks activated via a flag day are known as User Activated Soft Forks UASF as they are dependent on having sufficient users nodes to enforce the new rules after the flag day. Once the signalling threshold has been passed, all nodes will begin enforcing the new rules. BIP50 describes both an accidental hard fork , resolved by temporary downgrading the capabilities of upgraded nodes , and an intentional hard fork when the temporary downgrade was removed.
A document from Gavin Andresen outlines how future rule changes may be implemented. Non-upgraded nodes may use and distribute incorrect information during both types of forks , creating several situations which could lead to financial loss. In particular, non-upgraded nodes may relay and accept transactions that are considered invalid by upgraded nodes and so will never become part of the universally-recognized best block chain.
Non-upgraded nodes may also refuse to relay blocks or transactions which have already been added to the best block chain , or soon will be, and so provide incomplete information.
Bitcoin Core includes code that detects a hard fork by looking at block chain proof of work. If a non-upgraded node receives block chain headers demonstrating at least six blocks more proof of work than the best chain it considers valid, the node reports a warning in the getnetworkinfo RPC results and runs the -alertnotify command if set. Full nodes can also check block and transaction version numbers. Bitcoin Core reports this situation through the getnetworkinfo RPC and -alertnotify command if set.
SPV clients should also monitor for block and transaction version number increases to ensure they process received transactions and create new transactions using the current consensus rules. Blockchain The block chain provides Bitcoin's public ledger, an ordered and timestamped record of transactions. BETA : This documentation has not been extensively reviewed by Bitcoin experts and so likely contains numerous errors. Please use the Issue and Edit links on the bottom left menu to help us improve.
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Blockchain 101 in five minutes
Specifically, they have three parts:. While the block in the example above is being used to store a single purchase from Amazon, the reality is a little different. A single block on the blockchain can actually store up to 1 MB of data. Depending on the size of the transactions, that means a single block can house a few thousand transactions under one roof. When a block stores new data it is added to the blockchain. Blockchain, as its name suggests, consists of multiple blocks strung .
How does blockchain work?
Well, this fact is as debatable as the chicken vs egg. It is so because the blockchain technology can be leveraged to solve many fundamental problems that our world faces in many areas. Since its invention, the blockchain that Bitcoin introduced to us has mutated into several other types of the blockchain. I have discussed some of the types of blockchain here on CoinSutra. But out of these aforementioned mentioned types of the blockchain, I am interested in two types i. Public Blockchain and Private Blockchain, because I feel they have a lot of potential.
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Going down the rabbit hole
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What Is A Public Blockchain?
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