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In 2009, it had been 50. In 2013, it was 25, in the time of writing it's 12.5, and sometime in the middle of 2020 it will halve to 6.25. .
At this rate of halving, the total number of bitcoin in circulation will approach a limit of 21 million, making the currency more scarce and valuable over time but also more costly for miners to make.
Here is the catch. In order to get bitcoin miners to actually earn bitcoin from verifying transactions, two things have to happen. To begin with, they need to verify 1 megabyte (MB) worth of transactions, which can technically be as little as 1 transaction but are far more often several thousand, depending on how much data each transaction shops.
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Second, in order to add a block of transactions to the blockchain, miners must fix a complex computational science difficulty, also called a"proof of work." What they're doing is trying to come up with a 64-digit hexadecimal number, called a"hash," that is less than or equal to the target hash.
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In other words, it's a gamble. .
The difficulty level of the most recent block at the time of writing is all about 7,184,404,942,701. That is, the chance of a computer producing a hash beneath the goal is 1 in 7,184,404,942,701 less than 1 in seven trillion. That level is corrected every 2016 cubes, or roughly every two weeks, with the goal of keeping rates of mining constant.
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The opposite is also true. If computational power is taken off of this network, the difficulty adjusts downward to make mining easier. .
"Let's say I am thinking of the number 19. If Friend A guesses 21, they shed because 21>19. If browse around this site Friend B supposes 16 and Friend C supposes 12, then they have both technically came at viable answers, since 16<19 and 12<19. There's no'extra credit' sites for Friend B, even though B's answer was closer to the target answer of 19. .
"Now imagine I pose the'guess what number I'm thinking of' question, but I'm not asking just three friends, and I'm not thinking of a number between 1 and 100. Instead, I'm asking millions of prospective miners and I'm thinking of a 64-digit hexadecimal number. Now you see that it's going to be quite difficult to guess the ideal answer." .
If 1 in 7 trillion doesn't sound difficult enough as is, here's the catch to the catch. Not only do bitcoin miners have to think of the ideal hash, they also must be the very first to do it.
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These can run from $500 into the tens of thousands. .
Today, bitcoin mining is so competitive that it can only be done profitably with the latest up-to-date ASICs. When using desktop computers, GPUs, or elderly versions of ASICs, the cost of energy consumption actually exceeds the revenue generated. Even with the newest unit available, one computer is rarely enough to compete with exactly what miners call"mining pools." .
A mining pool is a group of miners that combine their computing power and split the mined bitcoin between participants. A disproportionately large number of blocks are mined by pools rather than by individual miners. In July 2017, mining pools and companies represented approximately 80% to 90% of bitcoin computing power. .
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Between 1 in 7 trillion odds, scaling difficulty levels, and the huge network of users verifying transactions, one block of transactions is verified roughly every 10 minutes. But its important to keep in mind that 10 minutes is a target, not a rule.
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The bitcoin network can process about seven transactions per second, with transactions being logged in the blockchain every 10 minutes. Since the network of bitcoin users continues to grow, however, the number of transactions made in 10 minutes will eventually exceed the number of transactions that can be processed in 10 minutes.