The Baylor Bitcoin Study
Very interesting new study from Baylor and Rice University on the first two years of Bitcoin will be coming out this week
Even Giants Started Out Small: Cooperation and the Early Days of Bitcoin
“A new research paper to be released this week sheds some interesting light on Bitcoin’s first two years of existence, finding that the small group of early miners often played by the rules even when they had an opportunity to cheat.
The paper, “Cooperation among an anonymous group protected Bitcoin during failures of decentralization,” is interesting and valuable work, including the team’s rigorous work tracking early Bitcoin activity through a mining data stream dubbed the ‘extranonce.’ But it is also highly technical and nuanced, and the topics it touches on, including Bitcoin security, privacy, and distribution, are highly contentious. This makes it quite vulnerable to misinterpretation (or misrepresentation) by nonspecialists.
The paper finds that for long stretches between January 2009 and February 2011, one miner on the nascent Bitcoin network had the opportunity to conduct a ‘51% attack.’ By virtue of controlling a majority of the network’s mining power (or hashrate), that miner would have been able to double-spend coins or even take bitcoin from other users. But despite these lengthy windows of opportunity, no early bitcoin miners attacked the chain. ‘Strikingly, we find that potential attackers always chose to cooperate instead,’ the researchers write.”