On October 31, 2008, several hundred enthusiasts and cryptographic specialists included in the closed list of The Cryptography Mailing list on the website metzdowd.com received emails signed by someone going by the name Satoshi Nakamoto. In it, he said that he was working on the creation of a new electronic cash system in which operations are carried out directly between the participants without involving a third trusted party.
The letter contained a link to a short 9-page text of a report titled Bitcoin: A Peer-to-Peer Electronic Cash System, in which, in a strict academic style, briefly but clearly, Satoshi described the technology of the new monetary system. The identity of this person, or a group of people, remains unknown, and for understandable reasons. In one of the posts on the cryptology forum, Satoshi Nakamoto said that he began working on the concept of Bitcoin back in 2007.
It’s no secret that since the launch of the Bitcoin blockchain in 2009, the system imposed a limit on the total number of possible coins to be issued. Satoshi Nakamoto limited the issue to 21 million units. This way, he planned to protect the cryptocurrency from imminent inflation, if the market got too overloaded with them.
In addition to this limit, there is a relationship between how many bitcoins are available at the moment and the complexity with which new ones are being mined. With an increase in the number of coins already mined, the complexity of calculations for mining increases as well, and the amount of remuneration for the blocks decreases. After almost 10 years of Bitcoin’s existence, the reward for mined blocks has decreased from 50 coins to 12.5, and the complexity increased from 1 hash per second in 2009 to more than 2,600 billion hashes per second in 2018.
As of April 2019, 17,623,104 bitcoins are already in circulation, which is more than 80% of the total. Every day this number grows. The reward for mining is 12.5 BTC, is generated approximately every 10 minutes and 15 seconds. About 75 bitcoins are added per hour, and around 1800 daily. The previous decline in the reward for mining blocks occurred in June 2016. The next decline, down to 6.25 coins per block, is expected in the summer of 2020.
The cost of the coin itself does not depend that much on how much Bitcoins are released or how many are left. Recent exchange rate fluctuations are mostly influenced by the growing popularity in society and the interest shown by some of the world’s largest financial organizations. Additionally, big changes in value are due to the news flowing around and created by the crypto community.
It is impossible to know exactly how many bitcoins are left forgotten in users’ wallets or lost altogether. Different information can be found on the topic, but the general consensus is that up to 30% of all coins will likely be lost. This is explained by the fact that after the launch of the world’s first cryptocurrency, coins were mined very easily, and the process did not require any special powerful equipment. Users could mine on ordinary home computers. The cost of a bitcoin unit was incredibly low compared to today, and goods were not sold for BTC, so the mined coins were abandoned by the owners. After the incredible surges in price, not everyone was able to regain access to their storage wallets.
Having information on how many bitcoins can be mined, it is possible to calculate the year in which the last BTC will be produced. The maximum possible amount is 21 million. The algorithm in the system contains a cyclic reward that decreases by 2 times, which occurs every 4 years:
In total, remuneration for miners will occur 33 times, for which it will take 132 years. Therefore, the last 0.00 000 001 BTC will be produced by the year 2140.
Despite the fact that it will take many decades to reach its final development level, it is already becoming clear today that the total number of BTCs in circulation will be significantly less than that declared by the developers. This is mainly due to the loss of access to the wallets where the funds are kept, and with the closure of trading exchanges that have not paid compensation. It is difficult to say for sure whether the restriction on the maximum possible number of bitcoins will substantially affect the price and to what extent. One thing is clear, that over time, not only will the number of BTC coins increase, but their turnover and value will follow.