In less than a year, the first cryptocurrency will clock in at a decade. In that time, hardly a month has gone by without it experiencing a major event, reaching a new turning point, or achieving another milestone.
It can therefore be a difficult exercise to choose what to include in a short list of important dates in its history of ten years. By focusing mostly on major events that span the lifetime of the open-source project, and less on those of private entities around its ecosystem, we arrive at the following important dates.
1. Registration of the Bitcoin.org domain on 18 August 2008
Being an open-source and decentralized project, Bitcoin lacks what we can strictly describe as an official website. It doesn’t really need one. But it has something close with Bitcoin.org.
Core developers release most of the mainstream versions of the digital currency’s core software through this website. Indeed, Satoshi Nakamoto released the first version of the core software via Bitcoin.org. The website also offers a wide range of resources to users who are new to the cryptocurrency and want to learn how it works or get started using it. The website also hosts the original white paper.
The website’s domain was claimed on 18 August 2008 at the hosting website Anonymousspeech.com, a site that allows anonymous registration. It’s not clear who made the application— though the site lists Satoshi and Martti Malmi, the other core developer who first joined the project. The site creation marked an important step towards the launch of the cryptocurrency.
2. Publication of the white paper on 31 October 2008
Satoshi first explained cryptocurrency and how it worked through the white paper that he published to the world in October 2008. It described how the parts of the machine worked together to offer a payment service over a peer-to-peer network.
The document is written in technical language and, therefore, it seems Satoshi wanted to target a readership of developers and other technology experts who had an interest in electronic cash. The white paper was published on an electronic mailing list, an online forum popular with cryptographers and other information technology experts.
3. Mining of the genesis block on 3 January 2009
Bitcoin transactions are confirmed on the public ledger every ten minutes in batches known as blocks. The current block references the previous block, which references the one that came before it. From the chain formed by the blocks as they reference one another, the public ledger gets its name ‘blockchain.’
The genesis block was the first to be recorded and begin the chain that makes up the public ledger. It is a special block because it references no others, but its ID is technically part of every other block that has been mined following it. To arbitrarily change the details of the block being mined as you read this post, you would have to change similar details in all the blocks in the chain going back to the genesis block.
The genesis block is also referred to as block 0, and it was mined at 18:15:05 (GMT) on 3 January 2009.
4. The release of the first version of the core software on 9 January 2009
For computers to join the digital currency’s peer-to-peer network, they need to follow the rules or protocol that make communication and coordination with other computers possible. These rules are contained in the core software that network nodes must install and run.
Over the years, various developers have created different implementations of the protocol by coding alternate versions of the core software and by improving existing ones. The process of making improvements to the software is known as the Bitcoin Improvement Process (BIP).
The first version of the core software did not go through this collaborative process, at least none known or that can be proven. It was designed by Satoshi and he released it on 9 January 2009.
5. Completion of the first transaction on 12 January 2009
The genesis block and the 169 blocks that were mined after it were empty of transactions. They contained timestamps, mining rewards and other forms of raw data. Meanwhile, Satoshi reached out to people whom he thought might be interested in his electronic cash invention. Among the first to show interest was Hal Finney, a developer and information technology expert.
The first transaction occurred on 12 January 2009, three days after Satoshi released the core software, when Satoshi sent Finney 100 BTC.
6. The purchase of two pizzas for 10,000 BTC on 22 May 2010
In 2018, hundreds of thousands of online and offline stores allow you to spend cryptocurrencies to buy their products and services. Thousands of bitcoin transactions take place daily. But the first transaction where digital currency was used to buy a real-world product later turned out to be an expensive purchase.
On 22 May 2010, a Jacksonville, Florida-based programmer named Laszlo Hanyecz made an offer in an online forum that he would pay 10,000 BTC for pizza. Using the prevailing exchange rate on that date, the cost added up to a mere US$25. But using current exchange rates, the pizza cost him over US$100 million.
Recently, on 25 February 2018, Hanyecz performed another milestone transaction by paying for pizza using the Lightning Network, a technical solution designed to improve the capacity of the Bitcoin network.
7. The collapse of Mt. Gox on 28 February 2014
American programmer and entrepreneur Jed McCaleb launched Mt. Gox on 17 July 2010 as an exchange for Magic: The Gathering in-game digital cards. He later converted it into a Bitcoin marketplace to ease the process of buying and selling the cryptocurrency around the world. In early 2011, he sold the business to Mark Karpelès, a French national based in Japan.
The exchange grew to become the largest exchange at the time in terms of trade volume and customer base. In late 2013, the company started experiencing cash-flow problems. On 28 February 2014, Mt. Gox filed for bankruptcy and users were unable to access their funds.
It later emerged that the exchange had lost close to 800,000 bitcoins belonging to users. Karpelès blamed a system hack. Investigative reports have pointed a finger at Karpelès as the one who possibly stole the funds. He was later arrested and charged with fraud and embezzlement.
8. The Bitcoin Cash fork on 1 August 2017
Following a years-long, contentious discussion within the Bitcoin community on possible ways to scale the cryptocurrency—or whether it should be scaled at all—two opposing groups emerged. One major viewpoint supported increasing the block size from 1MB to 2, 4 or 8MB. Another preferred the deployment of Segregated Witness (SegWit), a technical solution that reduced the amount of transaction data that went into each block, thus creating room for more transactions.
Things came to a head on 1 August 2017. Through what was called a user-activated soft fork (UASF), users forced miners to support the SegWit solution. The opposing side, which preferred bigger blocks and didn’t want SegWit then forked to create Bitcoin Cash. The new cryptocurrency shared most of the technical features of the original, except for it lacked implementation of SegWit and offered bigger (8M) blocks.
Bitcoin Cash has grown to become one of the largest cryptocurrencies in terms of market capitalization. It is often listed in the top five among the more than 1000 crypto assets in existence.