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Project history

The culmination of prior efforts and research dating back to 1982 by cryptographers, the National Security Agency, and renowned computer scientists, Bitcoin was the first decentralised cryptocurrency and blockchain.

The paper describing the technology and the real world problems it solves was published on 31 October 2008 and the genesis block was created on 3 January 2009. The ideological roots of such decentralised money are traced back to the Austrian school of economics.

After proof of concept use mostly by developers, black markets became major users until the Bitcoin Foundation was created in 2012 to promote mainstream use and further development.

Although a great number of blockchain protocols have been launched since, and many of these are technologically superior, Bitcoin has remained the preeminent cryptocurrency as the crypto market matures and is embraced by institutional investors and regulators.


The ledger is maintained, and the network is secured through a “proof of work” algorithm where the validators (“miners”) commit computational power to the network.

Various upgrades have been targeting Bitcoin’s scalability limitations, such as SegWit (2017), the Taproot upgrade (2021), or the Lightning Network (a second layer routing network in use since 2019) to reduce the burden on the protocol. Bitcoin’s scalability nevertheless remains an issue.

Another challenge is the energy inefficiency of the Bitcoin network, which has come into focus with the increased adoption of cryptocurrencies.

Key people

The identity of the person or team behind the original whitepaper has never been revealed. The pseudonym Satoshi Nakamoto (which means “central origin” or “central intelligence” in Japanese) was used. “Satoshi” disappeared in 2010, and handed the stewardship over the code to Gavin Andresen who delegated the role to Wladimir van der Laan in 2014. The latter stepped back in January, wishing to see the project’s development more decentralised.

A long running saga of Craig Wright’s claim of being Satoshi Nakamoto remains unresolved.

Some supporters of Bitcoin hold the view that Bitcoin is the only cryptocurrency that will survive in the long run. Jimmy Song and Stephan Livera are two notable “Bitcoin maximalists”.


In the wake of the 2008 financial crisis, Bitcoin was embraced by many as a fundamentally superior alternative to central banking and fiat currencies. Its store of value properties have been favourably compared to gold, and Bitcoin has been steadily gaining market share as a safe haven asset and as a medium of exchange used in transactions. Bitcoin has also been favoured as one of the main currencies to subscribe to ICOs/IEOs, and to lock in DeFi contracts.

Bitcoin has been the primary beneficiary of the increasing mainstream acceptance of cryptocurrencies. Corporate treasuries started embracing Bitcoin as a macro hedge and a superior store of value currency. Payment systems such as Visa, Mastercard, PayPal started offering payments in Bitcoin. Bitcoin was made legal tender in El Salvador, with indications that other countries might follow suit.

Although the 2021 upgrade improved the Bitcoin network’s ability to handle smart contracts, its offering remains far from the smart contract capabilities that many other protocols offer, and Bitcoin is used only in a very limited way as a foundational layer for applications.

Supply model/Tokenomics

The maximum supply is hardcoded into the code. At most, there will be 21 million Bitcoins in issue. This maximum supply is forecast to be reached around year 2040.

New supply of Bitcoin is released to the validators (miners) as an additional reward for their efforts on top of the transaction fees paid by users of the network. This reward is halved roughly every four years (every 210,000 blocks).

It is estimated that around 4 million Bitcoin are permanently lost as they appear to be stranded in disused digital wallets, including over a million Bitcoin originally mined by “Satoshi” that have not been moved since 2010.

Key value drivers

  • Currently Bitcoin’s value is primarily driven by the market share it takes from other safe haven assets such as gold and from fiat currencies.
  • The resolution of Bitcoin’s scalability issues is still a work in progress – and the fast growth in adoption makes it imperative that satisfactory solutions are found.
  • Bitcoin’s energy inefficiency is an important concern, especially as there is no indication of the Bitcoin network considering an upgrade that would address this issue.
  • It is possible that another cryptocurrency might ultimately be viewed as superior and take Bitcoin’s place as the preeminent crypto asset.

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