Bitcoin Whitepaper in 10 Questions
1) When and how was it published?
The Bitcoin whitepaper was published on October 31, 2008, and first shared on the ‘Cryptography Mailing List,’ a spin-off of the famous ‘Cypherpunk Mailing List’ popular in the ‘90s.
2) Who published it?
The whitepaper was written by an individual that went by the pseudonym, Satoshi Nakamoto. To this day, it remains a mystery who Satoshi is, which — given the decentralized nature of Bitcoin — is entirely appropriate. Bitcoin is open-source, doesn’t have a CEO, and no one person or small group can decide its fate.
3) What is the title of it?
The whitepaper is titled ‘Bitcoin: A Peer-to-Peer Electronic Cash System.’ Interesting tidbit — besides the title, the word “Bitcoin” does not appear anywhere else in the whitepaper.
4) What is it about?
The whitepaper is a 3,319-word technical document explaining the foundations of the protocol and the technology behind Bitcoin. In just 9 pages, it very simply and succinctly described the future of money.
5) Where to find it?
You can still find the original on the mailing list archive online. You can also download the PDF on various sites, such as bitcoin.org or btcturk.com — for those of you who speak Turkish.
6) What is its purpose?
With Bitcoin, Satoshi figured out a way to create a true peer-to-peer payment system that solved the double-spending problem without sacrificing decentralization — something all other electronic cash systems before it failed at doing. The whitepaper release also came weeks after officials proposed a 2 trillion-dollar bank bailout package in the wake of the 2008 Financial Crisis, so it couldn’t have come at a better time for those seeking an alternative to the centralized banking system.
7) What is the blockchain described in it?
Blockchain refers to Bitcoin’s chain of timestamped events, where transaction data is secured and stored in chronological blocks viewable as a public ledger. Interestingly, Satoshi himself never used the word ‘blockchain’ in the whitepaper or in his posts on the Bitcointalk forum but preferred to use ‘timechain.’
8) What is proof-of-work described in it?
Bitcoin’s proof-of-work mechanism, which is based on Dr. Adam Back’s Hashcash, is the process by which Bitcoin miners have to guess the target hash assigned to a block; you can think of it like solving a puzzle. This process is essential because it facilitates consensus, secures the network, processes transactions, and mints new bitcoin. Proof-of-work is unforgeable because it requires energy.
9) How are anonymity and privacy described in it?
All Bitcoin transactions are permanently viewable on the public ledger, which means anyone can see the balance and transactions of any address. However, the user’s identity is unknown. In the whitepaper, for added privacy protection, Satoshi recommends creating a new public key and Bitcoin address for each transaction to keep your transaction history from being linked to you.
10) What has been its impact?
For many people, reading the whitepaper is their first step toward a more holistic understanding of Bitcoin and its innovative technology. It has been fundamental to Bitcoin’s success, helping transform how we bank and interact with money forever and creating billions in new wealth in the process. Unfortunately, it has also inspired a whole industry of copycats and cheap knockoffs. So, resources like the original whitepaper are more important than ever for explaining why Bitcoin is unique and why there can never be another one like it.
On the 13th anniversary of the Bitcoin whitepaper release, I recommend not only taking the time to read the original whitepaper, which is now available in almost 40 languages but learning about layer-2 Bitcoin solutions, such as the Lightning and Liquid networks, which are helping to scale Bitcoin so it can become the world reserve currency it was destined to be.