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== Mining and Consensus
((("mining and consensus", "purpose of")))The word "mining" is somewhat misleading. By evoking the extraction of precious metals, it focuses our attention on the reward for mining, the new bitcoin created in each block. Although mining is incentivized by this reward, the primary purpose of mining is not the reward or the generation of new coins. If you view mining only as the process by which coins are created, you are mistaking the means (incentives) as the goal of the process. Mining is the mechanism that underpins the decentralized clearinghouse, by which transactions are validated and cleared. Mining is the invention that makes bitcoin special, a decentralized security mechanism that is the basis for P2P digital cash.
((("mining and consensus", "decentralized consensus")))((("central trusted authority")))Mining _secures the bitcoin system_ and enables the emergence of network-wide _consensus without a central authority_. ((("fees", "transaction fees")))The reward of newly minted coins and transaction fees is an incentive scheme that aligns the actions of miners with the security of the network, while simultaneously implementing the monetary supply.
((("decentralized systems", "bitcoin mining and")))The purpose of mining is not the creation of new bitcoin. That's the incentive system. Mining is the mechanism by which bitcoin's _security_ is _decentralized_.
Miners validate new transactions and record them on the global ledger. A new block, containing transactions that occurred since the last block, is "mined" every 10 minutes on average, thereby adding those transactions to the blockchain. Transactions that become part of a block and added to the blockchain are considered "confirmed," which allows the new owners of bitcoin to spend the bitcoin they received in those transactions.
((("fees", "mining rewards")))((("mining and consensus", "mining rewards and fees")))((("Proof-of-Work algorithm")))((("mining and consensus", "Proof-of-Work algorithm")))Miners receive two types of rewards in return for the security provided by mining: new coins created with each new block, and transaction fees from all the transactions included in the block. To earn this reward, miners compete to solve a difficult mathematical problem based on a cryptographic hash algorithm. The solution to the problem, called the Proof-of-Work, is included in the new block and acts as proof that the miner expended significant computing effort. The competition to solve the Proof-of-Work algorithm to earn the reward and the right to record transactions on the blockchain is the basis for bitcoin's security model.
The process is called mining because the reward (new coin generation) is designed to simulate diminishing returns, just like mining for precious metals. Bitcoin's money supply is created through mining, similar to how a central bank issues new money by printing bank notes. The maximum amount of newly created bitcoin a miner can add to a block decreases approximately every four years (or precisely every 210,000 blocks). It started at 50 bitcoin per block in January of 2009 and halved to 25 bitcoin per block in November of 2012. It halved again to 12.5 bitcoin in July 2016. Based on this formula, bitcoin mining rewards decrease exponentially until approximately the year 2140, when all bitcoin (20.99999998 million) will have been issued. After 2140, no new bitcoin will be issued.