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What Is Proof of Work (PoW)?

What Is Proof of Work (PoW)?
Contents
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Introduction
Proof of Work (commonly abbreviated to PoW) is a mechanism for preventing double-spends. Most major cryptocurrencies use this as their consensus algorithm. That’s just what we call a method for securing the cryptocurrency’s ledger.
Proof of Work was the first consensus algorithm to surface, and, to date, remains the dominant one. It was introduced by Satoshi Nakamoto in the 2008 Bitcoin white paper, but the technology itself was conceived long before then.
Adam Back’s HashCash is an early example of a Proof of Work algorithm in the pre-cryptocurrency days. By requiring senders to perform a small amount of computing before sending an email, receivers could mitigate spam. This computation would cost virtually nothing to a legitimate sender, but quickly add up for someone sending emails en masse.

What is a double-spend?

A double-spend occurs when the same funds are spent more than once. The term is used almost exclusively in the context of digital money — after all, you’d have a hard time spending the same physical cash twice. When you pay for a coffee today, you hand cash over to a cashier who probably locks it in a register. You can’t go to the coffee shop across the road and pay for another coffee with the same bill.
In digital cash schemes, there’s the possibility that you could. You’ve surely duplicated a computer file before — you just copy and paste it. You can email the same file to ten, twenty, fifty people.
Since digital money is just data, you need to prevent people from copying and spending the same units in different places. Otherwise, your currency will collapse in no time.
For a more in-depth look at double-spending, check out Double Spending Explained.

Why is Proof of Work necessary?

If you’ve read our guide to blockchain technology, you’ll know that users broadcast transactions to the network. Those transactions aren’t immediately considered valid, though. That only happens when they get added to the blockchain.
The blockchain is a big database that every user can see, so they can check if funds have been spent before. Picture it like this: you and three friends have a notepad. Anytime one of you wants to make a transfer of whatever units you’re using, you write it down — Alice pays Bob five units, Bob pays Carol two units, etc.
There’s another intricacy here — each time you make a transaction, you refer to the transaction where the funds came from. So, if Bob was paying Carol with two units, the entry would actually look like the following: Bob pays Carol two units from this earlier transaction with Alice.
Now, we have a way to track the units. If Bob tries to make another transaction using the same units he just sent to Carol, everyone will know immediately. The group won’t allow the transaction to be added to the notepad.
Now, this might work well in a small group. Everyone knows each other, so they’ll probably agree on which of the friends should add transactions to the notepad. What if we want a group of 10,000 participants? The notepad idea doesn’t scale well, because nobody wants to trust a stranger to manage it.
This is where Proof of Work comes in. It ensures that users aren’t spending money that they don’t have the right to spend. By using a combination of game theory and cryptography, a PoW algorithm enables anyone to update the blockchain according to the rules of the system.

How does PoW work?

Our notepad above is the blockchain. But we don’t add transactions one by one — instead, we lump them into blocks. We announce the transactions to the network, then users creating a block will include them in a candidate block. The transactions will only be considered valid once their candidate block becomes a confirmed block, meaning that it has been added to the blockchain.
Appending a block isn’t cheap, however. Proof of Work requires that a miner (the user creating the block) uses up some of their own resources for the privilege. That resource is computing power, which is used to hash the block’s data until a solution to a puzzle is found.
Hashing the block’s data means that you pass it through a hashing function to generate a block hash. The block hash works like a “fingerprint” — it’s an identity for your input data and is unique to each block.
It’s virtually impossible to reverse a block hash to get the input data. Knowing an input, however, it’s trivial for you to confirm that the hash is correct. You just have to submit the input through the function and check if the output is the same.
In Proof of Work, you must provide data whose hash matches certain conditions. But you don’t know how to get there. Your only option is to pass your data through a hash function and to check if it matches the conditions. If it doesn’t, you’ll have to change your data slightly to get a different hash. Changing even one character in your data will result in a totally different result, so there’s no way of predicting what an output might be.
As a result, if you want to create a block, you’re playing a guessing game. You typically take information on all of the transactions that you want to add and some other important data, then hash it all together. But since your dataset won’t change, you need to add a piece of information that is variable. Otherwise, you would always get the same hash as output. This variable data is what we call a nonce. It’s a number that you’ll change with every attempt, so you’re getting a different hash every time. And this is what we call mining.
Summing up, mining is the process of gathering blockchain data and hashing it along with a nonce until you find a particular hash. If you find a hash that satisfies the conditions set out by the protocol, you get the right to broadcast the new block to the network. At this point, the other participants of the network update their blockchains to include the new block.
For major cryptocurrencies today, the conditions are incredibly challenging to satisfy. The higher the hash rate on the network, the more difficult it is to find a valid hash. This is done to ensure that blocks aren’t found too quickly.
As you can imagine, trying to guess massive amounts of hashes can be costly on your computer. You’re wasting computational cycles and electricity. But the protocol will reward you with cryptocurrency if you find a valid hash.
Let’s recap what we know so far:
  • It’s expensive for you to mine.
  • You’re rewarded if you produce a valid block.
  • Knowing an input, a user can easily check its hash — non-mining users can verify that a block is valid without expending much computational power.
So far, so good. But what if you try to cheat? What’s to stop you from putting a bunch of fraudulent transactions into the block and producing a valid hash?
That’s where public-key cryptography comes in. We won’t go into depth in this article, but check out What is Public-Key Cryptography? for a comprehensive look at it. In short, we use some neat cryptographic tricks that allow any user to verify whether someone has a right to move the funds they’re attempting to spend.
When you create a transaction, you sign it. Anyone on the network can compare your signature with your public key, and check whether they match. They’ll also check if you can actually spend your funds and that the sum of your inputs is higher than the sum of your outputs (i.e., that you’re not spending more than you have).
Any block that includes an invalid transaction will be automatically rejected by the network. It’s expensive for you to even attempt to cheat. You’ll waste your own resources without any reward.
Therein lies the beauty of Proof of Work: it makes it expensive to cheat, but profitable to act honestly. Any rational miner will be seeking ROI, so they can be expected to behave in a way that guarantees revenue.

Proof of Work vs. Proof of Stake

There are many consensus algorithms, but one of the most highly-anticipated ones is Proof of Stake (PoS). The concept dates back to 2011, and has been implemented in some smaller protocols. But it has yet to see adoption in any of the big blockchains.
In Proof of Stake systems, miners are replaced with validators. There’s no mining involved and no race to guess hashes. Instead, users are randomly selected — if they’re picked, they must propose (or “forge”) a block. If the block is valid, they’ll receive a reward made up of the fees from the block’s transactions.
Not just any user can be selected, though — the protocol chooses them based on a number of factors. To be eligible, participants must lock up a stake, which is a predetermined amount of the blockchain’s native currency. The stake works like bail: just as defendants put up a large sum of money to disincentivize them from skipping trial, validators lock up a stake to disincentivize cheating. If they act dishonestly, their stake (or a portion of it) will be taken.
Proof of Stake does have some benefits over Proof of Work. The most notable one is the smaller carbon footprint — since there’s no need for high-powered mining farms in PoS, the electricity consumed is only a fraction of that consumed in PoW.
That said, it has nowhere near the track record of PoW. Although it could be perceived as wasteful, mining is the only consensus algorithm that’s proven itself at scale. In just over a decade, it has secured trillions of dollars worth of transactions. To say with certainty whether PoS can rival its security, staking needs to be properly tested in the wild.

Closing thoughts

Proof of Work was the original solution to the double-spend problem and has proven to be reliable and secure. Bitcoin proved that we don’t need centralized entities to prevent the same funds from being spent twice. With clever use of cryptography, hash functions, and game theory, participants in a decentralized environment can agree on the state of a financial database.
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BTG is in top 10 in CoinMarket Cap! Here is why it should be in the top 5.

How I see the top 10 currencies on CoinMarketCap.com

1 Bitcoin is the number one cryptocurrency, with all the hype and all the press. I do not see any coin overtaking it in the near future. Probably never.

A) Bitcoin Gold allows for GPU mining on people’s home computers and it is ASIC resistant, which makes for a more decentralized coin. (One of the founding principles of bitcoin, which has fallen by the wayside with Chinese asic (such as BITMAIN) controlling most of the mining market and allowing it to pull all sorts of shenanigans. B) Bitcoin transactions have become slooooooooow! (Bitcoin GOLD is much faster) C) Bitcoin transactions are PRICEY! You can't even send someone $10 worth of bitcoin because the fees would eat the entire transaction. This is why STEAM dropped bitcoin. The fees have become ridiculously high (see miners controlling the market above as to reasons for this) Bitcoin Gold has lower fees. D) The network for bitcoin can be VERY unstable. Whenever Bitmain wants to move the miners over to it's own fraud coin, bitcoin cash, they slow the market and delay transactions. This should be seen for what it is: an ATTACK on bitcoin. With all that said, bitcoin still carries on and the price continues to climb! It remains #1 in marketcap.

2 in marketcap is Etherium. People love to remind you that Microsoft is backing Etherium. Yeah, but guess what. Etherium's network is an absolute mess!!

Hundreds of millions of coins have been lost because of a "bug". WOW. The 44billion dollar Ether network was brought to its knees by Crypto Kittie, a digital cat child’s app that uses Etherium contracts to trade digital pussies. Etherium shouldn't be number 2. Not until they can create a stable network. Who knows what will bring it down next? Digital dogs?

3 Bitcoin Cash. This currency is a fraud. It merely exists to allow Bitmain to use asic boost, to give it an advantage mining coins. Once Segwit went into place on bitcoin they could no longer use asic boost and lost their advantage so they forked bitcoin for greed. They tried to take a bunch of miners with them and force everyone who wants to buy an antminer to pay for them in Bitcoin Cash, driving up BCC and trying to take down BTC. This is a fraud currency and everyone should ignore it, and let it die on the side of the road like the diseased rodent it is.

4 Litecoin This is a great coin. It is more stable than every coin above it. The network is reliable and the transactions are fast. As if that were not enough, the fees are ridiculously low. So low that they have attracted STEAM, who just dropped bitcoin, to allow people to purchase on their store with Litecoin.

This should be the number 2 coin, in my opinion. (only because nothing is going to dethrone Bitcoin.)

5 Ripple If you have ever invested in ripple, and thought the price was going to go up and was surprised how it suddenly came crashing down, well you are not imagining things and you are not alone. The price on this coin is manipulated.

Don’t be me wrong, Ripple is a useful coin with good tech behind it. Fast transactions, good scalability and low fees, but this coin is used by banks to transfer fund between them. They do not want to the value to go up because that would make the fees larger. This “global “token is mainly traded on Korean exchanges. This coin was not designed to be a holder of value, so if you are looking to invest, I would stay away from Ripple. Anything over 25 cents is risking a sudden plunge. I’m amazed to see it at 36 cents.

6 IOTA - I love IOTA. What a great coin with a great team behind it. The network (Tangle) is very advanced and they love to brag about how they are an improvement over bitcoin. The people involved in IOTA tend to be very passionate and haters of blockchain.

The problem? Well, their wallets don’t even work! You can buy it on Binance, but you can’t even withdraw it because they have so many problems trying to get a wallet to be stable. For a coin that suddenly shot up to $5 (I rode a lot of that up and jumped out) on the news that they were working with Samsung, Microsoft and others on an information sharing network, I would think they could get their transaction network up and running so people can keep coins reliably in their wallets and get them off exchanges.

7 DASH One of a kind. The network funds itself. Unheard of. It’d decentralized with Masternodes that vote on how to spend the budget. (masternodes controlling the future don’t sound decentralized to me, but I digress) They claim instant transactions and privatesend (wasn’t this darksend?) This used to be XCoin in Jan 2014. 10 days later the core dev team changed the name to Darkcoin. Later they changed the name to DASH (not to be confused with Dashcoin, which is exactly what many people do… get confused.)

Some people would say there is a dark side to Dash coin, but to each their own.

8 NEM My first question is if the currency is called NEM, why is the symbol XEM??? NEM codes its own blockchain making it efficient and stable. If you hold 10,000 XEM, you can harvest(?) which incentivizes people to hold, which will inflate the price. (HODLING is the main reason bitcoin goes up in price. If everyone were day trading it can you imagine the volatility? When you limit the supply and there is still a high demand the price must go up. Simple as that.) NEM (or XEM) is not discussed very much and is not widely known. This is odd considering its high market cap (top 10 baby) and its solid tech. NEM (like bitcoin gold) needs some good marketing.

#9 Monero This is a PRIVATE COIN, untraceable currency. This coin has a purpose, and that purpose is protecting the privacy of the users of it. You can send and receive Monero without knowing who you sent or received coin from. This coin will increase in value as demand for privacy will only continue to increase and this is the world’s number one privacy coin (sorry dash). Some people may have ethical reasons to not want to invest in a coin that may be used for all manner of shady dealings online. That’s up to you to decide. Are you against fiat cash? For the most part cash is untraceable too, and people use it for all sorts of shady things, but people also use it for plenty of good things.

10 Bitcoin Gold Finally a version of bitcoin I can mine on my computer at home! YEAH!!! Bitcoin is SUPPOSED to be decentralized, and this is the ONLY flavor of bitcoin that lives up to that. It’s the same block interval and block size as bitcoin, but it updates difficulty on every block and prevents ASIC’s by using POW Equihash so people can mine on GPU’s at home.

As I mentioned above, Bitcoin Gold has faster transfers with lower fees and the network is not able to be manipulated by companies such as Bitmain, because large ASIC farms have no control over this network. Some mysterious forces (I wonder who?) attacked Bitcoin Gold when it first launched, with DDOS attacks and faking wallets. Despite the rough start, bitcoin gold has been widely accepted at 25 exchanges including Bittrex, HitBTC, Bitfinex, Binance and Yobit! It has even found a home in hardware wallets like Trezor and Ledger. You can use Coinomi on your phone too. http://amzn.to/2AeoyMI <----- Check Out Trezor Hardware Wallet!
THE TOP 5 COINS FOR ME: 1) Bitcoin (obviously) 2) Litecoin 3) Etherium (Because of the hype) 4) Monero 5) Bitcoin Gold Honorable mentions: IOTA and NEM
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