As we learnt in our Bitcoin 101, Bitcoins are created through a process called mining. Each time that a Bitcoin transaction is verified, it is added to a block, integrated into the Bitcoin blockchain, and the miner is rewarded. In this article we’re going to look at who is doing the verifying, and what is a miner fee exactly.
The process of mining Bitcoin, and some other cryptocurrencies, is centred around the concept that blockchain is a decentralized entity and requires the work of the community to function. With no central authority in control, miners are responsible for verifying all transactions, storing the information in blocks, and then adding them to the blockchain. Verifying transactions involves the miner fighting to be the first one to solve a cryptographic puzzle. This takes both computational power and electricity, so the network rewards the miner for their work.
Every 210,000 blocks, roughly every 4 years, the rewards that miners accumulate per block are halved. This is inline with Satoshi Nakamoto’s deflationary concept for Bitcoin. The idea is that instead of the cryptocurrency losing value over time (as with fiat currencies) the value will in fact grow over time. The maximum limit of Bitcoin there will ever be in existence is 21 million. That means that once the last Bitcoin has been mined, there will be no more, creating an anti-inflation mechanism. It therefore makes sense that gradually over the years the miners will be rewarded less and less so as to ensure that the supply doesn’t diminish too quickly.
Where Do Miner Fees Come From?
Now that we understand the process of how miners accumulate their fees, let’s dive into where these fees come from. Each time that a user makes a Bitcoin transaction, a small fee is charged in order to complete the transaction. Bitcoin wallets typically integrate technology that looks at the network fee structure at that time and advises a fee based on the users' needs.
Fees are based on how busy the network is at that time - the busier the network, the higher the fee - and can be increased to fast track a transaction. In this case, the miner will be alerted to make this transaction a priority, and will be rewarded a higher fee for doing so. 100% of the fees paid are given to the miner, incentivizing miners to operate and maintain the network.
Understanding the Miner Fee
On every blockchain network, not just Bitcoin, there is a cost to make a transaction. This cost ensures that the network functions smoothly and that those putting in more effort to maintain the network are compensated for their time. It’s comforting to know that in a decentralized world like blockchain, you can know exactly what a miner fee is, where it is going and why. Better yet, you can even look up your Bitcoin transaction on the blockchain and see exactly where it fits in, what the fees were, and who it was verified by. Welcome to the exciting world of transparent cryptocurrency.