author: Wietze Beukema
title: How does the bitcoin protocol work?
keywords: bitcoin, formalisation
topics: Case studies and Applications
committee: Jaco van de Pol
end: June 2014


Bitcoins are a very popular topic in the media. Maybe you have bought some as well, in order to spread the risk of the financial crisis, or because you think it is a good idea to avoid government monopoly on currency.

Bitcoins are studied from an economic point of view (what is their value, what is the right exchange rate), from a political point of view (who influences the bitcoin market) or from a mathematical point of view (for instance encryption and game theory analysis).

However, there is also the Computer Science view: how do the Bitcoin protocols acutally work? Despite the fact that the software is open source, a good description of the working of the communication protocols around bitcoin is still missing.



- describe the parties involved in bitcoin communication

- describe the messages that are exchanged

- describe the communication protocols that are followed

- formalize and analyse the protocols for anomalies


Note: for this assignment it is probably not needed to spell out the exact encodings and bitcoin mining algorithms.



  1. Informal description of the Bitcoin protocols (Digital version available here)

Additional Resources

  1. The paper