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What to expect from the fourth Bitcoin halving?

By Romeo F.
7 Aug 2023
14 min read

The fourth Bitcoin halving is set to take place in April 2024. Before we celebrate this unique milestone, let’s learn about the significance of the Bitcoin halving and how the Bitcoin blockchain works.

As we all know Bitcoin is a revolutionary digital asset set to change the financial landscape of the world. Since its inception in 2009, Bitcoin has rapidly risen to become a prominent player in the global economy.

Its decentralized and borderless nature has attracted a vast community of users who see it as an alternative to traditional financial systems. The growing popularity of Bitcoin has sparked debates, discussions, and even skepticism about its potential to reshape the way we perceive and interact with money.

One of the most critical and intriguing aspects of Bitcoin is its monetary policy, which is fundamentally different from traditional fiat currencies controlled by central banks. At the heart of this unique policy lies the Bitcoin halving event.

Every four years, this event takes place, cutting the rate at which new Bitcoins are issued in half. This mechanism is programmed into the Bitcoin protocol and is designed to control the currency's supply, creating scarcity over time.

The Bitcoin halving event plays a pivotal role in shaping the coin's long-term value and its behavior in the market. It introduces a predictable and diminishing inflation rate, making it distinct from traditional currencies that can be subject to manipulation by central authorities.

As a result, Bitcoin's scarcity and deflationary nature have led some to perceive it as a store of value akin to digital gold.

Understanding Bitcoin and the Blockchain Technology

At the heart of the digital revolution in finance stands Bitcoin, the first-ever decentralized cryptocurrency. Created by an anonymous individual or group using the pseudonym Satoshi Nakamoto in 2008, Bitcoin was introduced to the world in January 2009 with the release of its whitepaper titled "Bitcoin: A Peer-to-Peer Electronic Cash System."

Bitcoin's groundbreaking concept lies in its decentralized nature, which means it operates without a central authority, such as a government or a financial institution. Instead, it relies on a peer-to-peer network of computers to process and verify transactions, eliminating the need for intermediaries like banks.

This decentralization aims to empower individuals with direct control over their money, promoting financial inclusivity and reducing dependency on traditional financial systems.

Since its inception, Bitcoin has experienced both remarkable growth and extreme volatility. It has weathered various challenges and skeptics while simultaneously garnering a massive and passionate community of users who believe in its potential to reshape the global financial landscape.

Introduction to Blockchain Technology

At the core of Bitcoin's revolutionary architecture lies blockchain technology. A blockchain is a distributed and immutable ledger that records all transactions ever made in a particular network.

In the context of Bitcoin, the blockchain serves as a public record of all Bitcoin transactions since its creation.

The blockchain operates on the principles of decentralization and consensus. Transactions are grouped into blocks, which are then added to the chain in chronological order. Each block contains a unique cryptographic hash, linking it to the previous block, forming a chain of blocks.

A diagram of a blockchain transaction
Credit: Investopedia

The consensus mechanism used in Bitcoin is called Proof-of-Work (PoW). To add a new block to the blockchain, miners compete to solve complex cryptographic puzzles. The first miner to solve the puzzle gets to add the next block and is rewarded with newly minted Bitcoins and transaction fees.

The decentralized and distributed nature of the blockchain ensures that no single entity can control or manipulate the data. Once a block is added to the chain, it becomes extremely difficult, if not impossible, to alter the information recorded in it, ensuring the transparency and security of the system.

How the Bitcoin Blockchain Differs from Traditional Financial Systems

The Bitcoin blockchain's fundamental differences from traditional financial systems are what set it apart as a disruptive force in the world of finance. Unlike conventional banking systems that rely on a centralized authority to control and manage transactions, Bitcoin operates on a decentralized network. This removes the need for intermediaries, allowing for peer-to-peer transactions without restrictions of the traditional financial infrastructure.

Additionally, the traditional banking system often involves lengthy settlement times for cross-border transactions, while Bitcoin enables fast and low-cost international transfers. This characteristic has attracted attention from individuals and businesses seeking a more efficient way to send and receive money globally.

Moreover, Bitcoin's limited supply, with a total cap of 21 million coins, contrasts with fiat currencies subject to inflationary pressures from central banks. This scarcity has led to debates about its potential as a store of value and a hedge against traditional market fluctuations.

The Mechanism of Bitcoin Transactions

Bitcoin transactions form the backbone of its decentralized peer-to-peer electronic cash system. When someone wants to send or receive Bitcoin, they initiate a transaction that gets broadcasted to the entire Bitcoin network. These transactions are collected and organized into a pool called the "mempool," waiting to be included in a new block.

Network nodes, also known as miners or validators, play a crucial role in the transaction process. Each node maintains a copy of the entire blockchain and constantly communicates with other nodes to stay updated on the latest transactions. When a node receives a new transaction, it verifies its validity by checking various parameters, such as whether the sender has sufficient funds and whether the transaction adheres to the protocol's rules.

To ensure consensus and prevent double-spending, nodes follow the longest chain rule, selecting the longest valid chain as the correct version of the blockchain. Once a transaction is verified, it is added to a candidate block, and the race to validate the block begins.

Private and Public Keys

The security and authenticity of Bitcoin transactions are ensured through the use of cryptographic keys. Each user in the Bitcoin network possesses a pair of unique keys: a private key and a public key. These keys are mathematically linked but cannot be derived from each other.

The private key acts as the secret key that only the owner knows and controls. It is essential for signing transactions, proving ownership of the associated Bitcoins, and allowing the spending of funds. It must be kept secure and never shared with others, as anyone with access to the private key gains control over the associated Bitcoins.

On the other hand, the public key is derived from the private key but can be shared openly with anyone. It serves as the public address to which others can send Bitcoin. To receive funds, a user provides their public key (or its hashed version known as the Bitcoin address) to the sender. The public key is also used to verify the digital signature created by the private key during transaction validation.

When a user initiates a transaction, they sign it with their private key, creating a digital signature unique to that specific transaction. Miners then use the public key to verify the signature's authenticity, ensuring that the transaction was indeed authorized by the rightful owner of the funds.

What is Bitcoin Mining?

Mining is a fundamental process in the Bitcoin network, ensuring the security and integrity of the blockchain. Miners compete to validate and add new blocks to the blockchain, and they are rewarded for their efforts with newly minted Bitcoins and transaction fees.

To add a block, miners must solve a computationally challenging cryptographic puzzle, known as the Proof-of-Work (PoW). This process involves repeatedly hashing the block's contents with a random number (nonce) until a hash is generated that meets specific criteria, called the target difficulty. The first miner to find the correct nonce and solve the puzzle broadcasts the new block to the network.

Mining serves two critical purposes. First, it secures the network by making it computationally expensive to alter past transactions. The nature of PoW ensures that altering a transaction would require redoing the proof of work for all subsequent blocks, making it infeasible and highly improbable.

Second, mining serves as a decentralized consensus mechanism. By competing to solve the PoW puzzle, miners agree on the next valid block to add to the blockchain. The longest chain rule then dictates which version of the blockchain is considered the valid one, as it represents the majority's consensus.

Bitcoin Mining and Consensus Mechanism

Bitcoin's consensus mechanism, known as Proof-of-Work (PoW), lies at the core of its decentralized nature and security. PoW is a method by which nodes (miners) in the network compete to solve complex cryptographic puzzles to validate transactions and add new blocks to the blockchain.

The main idea behind PoW is to make the process of adding a new block computationally expensive and time-consuming, thus requiring significant computational power. This computational effort is known as "work." By investing energy and resources into solving the cryptographic puzzle, miners demonstrate their commitment to maintaining the integrity of the network.

The first miner to find a valid nonce and produce a hash below the target difficulty broadcasts the newly created block to the rest of the network for verification. This miner is rewarded with newly minted Bitcoins and transaction fees associated with the transactions in the block.

There are other types of consensus protocols such as Proof-of-Stake. We have a detailed article on it here.

How Miners Compete to Solve Cryptographic Puzzles to Validate Transactions

The process of Bitcoin mining involves continuous competition among miners to be the first to solve the PoW puzzle and add a new block to the blockchain. When a miner receives a batch of unconfirmed transactions, known as a block candidate, they start searching for a valid nonce.

Miners utilize powerful specialized hardware, known as Application-Specific Integrated Circuits (ASICs), or Graphics Processing Units (GPUs), to perform numerous calculations rapidly. They repeatedly hash the block candidate with different nonce values until they find a hash that meets the target difficulty criteria.

How bitcoin transactions work
Credit: Geekforgeeks

Since the process is probabilistic, finding the correct nonce involves trial and error. Miners race against each other, and the one who successfully finds the valid nonce first wins the right to add the new block to the blockchain.

Mining Difficulty and How It Adjusts Over Time

The mining difficulty is a crucial parameter in the PoW consensus mechanism. It represents the target difficulty that the hash of a new block must meet for it to be considered valid. The network adjusts the difficulty approximately every two weeks to maintain a consistent block generation time of around 10 minutes, regardless of changes in the total computational power (hash rate) of the network.

If the total hash rate increases (either due to more miners joining the network or the deployment of more powerful hardware) blocks would be mined too quickly. In this case, to maintain the desired 10-minute block interval, the network increases the difficulty, making it harder to find a valid hash.

Conversely, if the total hash rate decreases, blocks would be mined too slowly. In this case, the network decreases the difficulty, making it easier for miners to find valid hashes and speeding up block production.

The dynamic adjustment of mining difficulty ensures that the Bitcoin network remains robust and resilient to fluctuations in the number of miners or changes in the technology used for mining. It maintains a stable block production rate, ensuring a steady and predictable issuance of new Bitcoins and a consistent transaction confirmation time.

The Bitcoin Halving Event

The Bitcoin halving, also known as "halvening," is a significant and predetermined event that occurs approximately every four years. It is a built-in feature of the Bitcoin protocol, designed to control the issuance rate of new Bitcoins and create a predictable and diminishing supply over time.

During a halving event, the block reward that miners receive for successfully adding a new block to the blockchain is reduced by half. When Bitcoin was first introduced in 2009, the initial block reward was 50 Bitcoins.

The first halving occurred in November 2012, reducing the block reward to 25 Bitcoins. The second halving took place in July 2016, further reducing the block reward to 12.5 Bitcoins.

The most recent halving occurred in May 2020, bringing the block reward down to 6.25 Bitcoins.

Purpose of Halving and Its Impact on the Bitcoin Supply

The primary purpose of the halving event is to introduce a controlled and predictable inflation rate for Bitcoin. Unlike traditional fiat currencies, which are subject to inflation caused by central banks printing more money, Bitcoin's supply is strictly limited to 21 million coins.

The halving mechanism ensures that the issuance of new Bitcoins gradually decreases over time. This controlled supply model is similar to precious metals like gold, where the rate of new supply diminishes as mining becomes more challenging and costly.

By gradually reducing the block reward through halving events, the rate at which new Bitcoins enter circulation decreases, creating scarcity and reducing the impact of inflation over time. This scarcity is a fundamental aspect that proponents of Bitcoin often highlight as a key characteristic, leading to debates on its potential as a store of value.

Economic Implications of Halving on Bitcoin's Value and Scarcity

The Bitcoin halving has profound economic implications that can significantly impact its value and perceived scarcity in the market. As the block reward decreases, the rate at which new Bitcoins are minted also decreases. This reduction in the new supply of Bitcoin can lead to a supply shock in the market, creating upward pressure on its price.

Historically, each halving event has been associated with a bull market, with Bitcoin's price experiencing substantial increases in the months and years following the event. The reduction in the rate of new supply combined with growing demand can result in a supply-demand imbalance, driving prices higher.

Moreover, the halving event can influence miner behavior. With the block reward cut in half, miners' revenues decrease unless there is a corresponding increase in Bitcoin's price or transaction fees. Miners who operate on thin profit margins may have to adjust their operations or even shut down, leading to fluctuations in the network's hash rate.

The halving event also impacts the mining ecosystem's dynamics, potentially leading to a shift in the distribution of hash rates among mining pools. Some pools may become more dominant, while others may lose their competitive edge.

As Bitcoin's scarcity becomes more apparent due to the halving events, it can further enhance its appeal as a store of value and a potential hedge against inflationary pressures in traditional financial systems.

Analysis of Previous Halving Events

To understand the impact of Bitcoin halving events, let's review the three previous occurrences:

The First Bitcoin Halving (November 2012):

Bitcoin's halving effect on price
Credit: Geekforgeeks

Block Reward: Reduced from 50 Bitcoins to 25 Bitcoins.

Historical Context: The first halving took place when Bitcoin was relatively new, and the cryptocurrency market was still in its infancy.

Price History: Pre-halving $BTC was at ~$11, post-halving in the next 12 months $BTC crossed the $1000 mark.

The Second Bitcoin Halving (July 2016):

Block Reward: Reduced from 25 Bitcoins to 12.5 Bitcoins.

Historical Context: By the second halving, Bitcoin had gained more attention, and its market capitalization had grown substantially since the first halving.

Price History: Pre-halving $BTC was at ~$650, post halving it closed the year at ~$970.

The Third Bitcoin Halving (May 2020):

Block Reward: Reduced from 12.5 Bitcoins to 6.75 Bitcoins.

Historical Context: The third Bitcoin halving started the biggest Bitcoin bull market in the history of Bitcoin firmly establishing its financial viability as an asset and currency.

Price History: Pre-halving $BTC was at around $9K, post halving it closed the year at ~$30K.

The Fourth Bitcoin Halving (April 2024): What to Expect?

Block Reward: Reduced from 6.75 Bitcoins to 3.125 Bitcoin.

Historical Context: The fourth Bitcoin halving will establish Bitcoin as a primary asset class with traditional institutions driving adoptions through Bitcoin ETFs and other financial instruments.

Price Prediction: It’s technically impossible to predict the price movements of any assets. However, we have seen TradFi institutions like Standard Chartered predicting that Bitcoin will touch $120K by 2024.

Closing Thoughts

The fourth Bitcoin halving represents an exciting and pivotal moment in the cryptocurrency's journey toward becoming a mainstream financial asset. As we approach this significant event in 2024, there is a prevailing sense of optimism and anticipation among the Bitcoin community and investors worldwide.

Past halving events have demonstrated a historical pattern of price appreciation and increased market interest, and the fourth halving is expected to be no different. With each halving, Bitcoin's supply becomes scarcer, aligning with the narrative of digital gold and a hedge against inflationary pressures in traditional financial systems.

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