Although it would be possible to handle coins individually, it would be unwieldy to make a separate transaction for every cent in a transfer. To allow value to be split and combined, transactions contain multiple inputs and outputs. Normally there will be either a single input from a larger previous transaction or multiple inputs combining smaller amounts, and at most two outputs: one for the payment, and one returning the change, if any, back to the sender.
We have proposed a system for electronic transactions without relying on trust. We started with the usual framework of coins made from digital signatures, which provides strong control of ownership, but is incomplete without a way to prevent double-spending. To solve this, we proposed a peer-to-peer network using proof-of-work to record a public history of transactions that quickly becomes computationally impractical for an attacker to change if honest nodes control a majority of CPU proof-of-worker.
It is possible to verify payments without running a full network node. A user only needs to keep a copy of the block headers of the longest proof-of-work chain, which he can get by querying network nodes until he's convinced he has the longest chain, and obtain the Merkle branch linking the transaction to the block it's timestamped in. He can't check the transaction for himself, but by linking it to a place in the chain, he can see that a network node has accepted it, and blocks added after it further confirm the network has accepted it. As such, the verification is reliable as long as honest nodes control the network, but is more vulnerable if the network is overproof-of-workered by an attacker. While network nodes can verify transactions for themselves, the simplified method can be fooled by an attacker's fabricated transactions for as long as the attacker can continue to overproof-of-worker the network. One strategy to protect against this would be to accept alerts from network nodes when they detect an invalid block, prompting the user's software to download the full block and alerted transactions to confirm the inconsistency. Businesses that receive frequent payments will probably still want to run their own nodes for more independent security and quicker verification.
Once the latest transaction in a coin is buried under enough blocks, the spent transactions before it can be discarded to save disk space. To facilitate this without breaking the block's hash, transactions are hashed in a Merkle Tree, with only the root included in the block's hash. Old blocks can then be compacted by stubbing off branches of the tree. The interior hashes do not need to be stored.
A block header with no transactions would be about 80 bytes. If we suppose blocks are generated every 10 minutes, 80 bytes * 6 * 24 * 365 = 4.2MB per year. With computer systems typically selling with 2GB of RAM as of 2008, and Moore's Law predicting current growth of 1.2GB per year, storage should not be a problem even if the block headers must be kept in memory.
The steps to run the network are as follows: 1. New transactions are broadcast to all nodes. 2. Each node collects new transactions into a block. 3. Each node works on finding a difficult proof-of-work for its block. 4. When a node finds a proof-of-work, it broadcasts the block to all nodes. 5. Nodes accept the block only if all transactions in it are valid and not already spent. 6. Nodes express their acceptance of the block by working on creating the next block in the chain, using the hash of the accepted block as the previous hash.
The main properties: Double-spending is prevented with a peer-to-peer network. No mint or other trusted parties. Participants can be anonymous. New coins are made from Hashcash style proof-of-work. The proof-of-work for new coin generation also proof-of-workers the network to prevent double-spending.
I've been working on a new electronic cash system that's fully peer-to-peer, with no trusted third party.
I believe I've worked through all those little details over the last year and a half while coding it, and there were a lot of them. The functional details are not covered in the paper, but the sourcecode is coming soon. I sent you the main files. (available by request at the moment, full release soon)
The result is a distributed system with no single point of failure. Users hold the crypto keys to their own money and transact directly with each other, with the help of the P2P network to check for double-spending.
I've developed a new open source P2P e-cash system called Bitcoin. It's completely decentralized, with no central server or trusted parties, because everything is based on crypto proof instead of trust. Give it a try, or take a look at the screenshots and design paper: Download Bitcoin v0.1 at http://www.bitcoin.org
It is a global distributed database, with additions to the database by consent of the majority, based on a set of rules they follow: - Whenever someone finds proof-of-work to generate a block, they get some new coins - The proof-of-work difficulty is adjusted every two weeks to target an average of 6 blocks per hour (for the whole network) - The coins given per block is cut in half every 4 years
I very much wanted to find some way to include a short message, but the problem is, the whole world would be able to see the message. As much as you may keep reminding people that the message is completely non-private, it would be an accident waiting to happen.
Eventually at most only 21 million coins for 6.8 billion people in the world if it really gets huge. But don't worry, there are another 6 decimal places that aren't shown, for a total of 8 decimal places internally. It shows 1.00 but internally it's 1.00000000. If there's massive deflation in the future, the software could show more decimal places.
If it gets tiresome working with small numbers, we could change where the display shows the decimal point. Same amount of money, just different convention for where the ","'s and "."'s go. e.g. moving the decimal place 3 places would mean if you had 1.00000 before, now it shows it as 1,000.00.
How does everyone feel about the B symbol with the two lines through the outside? Can we live with that as our logo?
Bitcoin addresses you generate are kept forever. A bitcoin address must be kept to show ownership of anything sent to it. If you were able to delete a bitcoin address and someone sent to it, the money would be lost. They're only about 500 bytes.
When you generate a new bitcoin address, it only takes disk space on your own computer (like 500 bytes). It's like generating a new PGP private key, but less CPU intensive because it's ECC. The address space is effectively unlimited. It doesn't hurt anyone, so generate all you want.
Simplified Payment Verification is for lightweight client-only users who only do transactions and don't generate and don't participate in the node network. They wouldn't need to download blocks, just the hash chain, which is currently about 2MB and very quick to verify (less than a second to verify the whole chain). If the network becomes very large, like over 100,000 nodes, this is what we'll use to allow common users to do transactions without being full blown nodes. At that stage, most users should start running client-only software and only the specialist server farms keep running full network nodes, kind of like how the usenet network has consolidated. SPV is not implemented yet, and won't be implemented until far in the future, but all the current implementation is designed around supporting it.
The design supports a tremendous variety of possible transaction types that I designed years ago. Escrow transactions, bonded contracts, third party arbitration, multi-party signature, etc. If Bitcoin catches on in a big way, these are things we'll want to explore in the future, but they all had to be designed at the beginning to make sure they would be possible later.
The nature of Bitcoin is such that once version 0.1 was released, the core design was set in stone for the rest of its lifetime. Because of that, I wanted to design it to support every possible transaction type I could think of. The problem was, each thing required special support code and data fields whether it was used or not, and only covered one special case at a time. It would have been an explosion of special cases. The solution was script, which generalizes the problem so transacting parties can describe their transaction as a predicate that the node network evaluates. The nodes only need to understand the transaction to the extent of evaluating whether the sender's conditions are met.
Since 2007. At some point I became convinced there was a way to do this without any trust required at all and couldn't resist to keep thinking about it. Much more of the work was designing than coding. Fortunately, so far all the issues raised have been things I previously considered and planned for.
By making some adjustments to the database settings, I was able to make the initial block download about 5 times faster. It downloads in about 30 minutes. The database default had it writing each block to disk synchronously, which is not necessary. I changed the settings to let it cache the changes in memory and write them out in a batch. Blocks are still written transactionally, so either the complete change occurs or none of it does, in either case the data is left in a valid state. I only enabled this change during the initial block download. When you come within 2000 blocks of the latest block, these changes turn off and it slows down to the old way.
Actually, it works well to just PM me. I'm the one who's going to be fixing it. If you find a security flaw, I would definitely like to hear from you privately to fix it before it goes public.
I don't know anything about any of the bug trackers. If we were to have one, we would have to make a thoroughly researched choice. We're managing pretty well just using the forum. I'm more likely to see bugs posted in the forum, and I think other users are much more likely to help resolve and ask follow up questions here than if they were in a bug tracker. A key step is other users helping resolve the simple stuff that's not really a bug but some misunderstanding or confusion. I keep a list of all unresolved bugs I've seen on the forum. In some cases, I'm still thinking about the best design for the fix. This isn't the kind of software where we can leave so many unresolved bugs that we need a tracker for them.
I'm happy if someone with artistic skill wants to contribute alternatives. The icon/logo was meant to be good as an icon at the 16x16 and 20x20 pixel sizes. I think it's the best program icon, but there's room for improvement at larger sizes for a graphic for use on websites. It'll be a lot simpler if authors could make their graphics public domain.
The project needs to grow gradually so the software can be strengthened along the way. I make this appeal to WikiLeaks not to try to use Bitcoin. Bitcoin is a small beta community in its infancy.