Bitcoin Block Time refers to the time taken to mine a single block of Bitcoin. The average time taken to mine a single block of Bitcoin is 10 minutes. The main reason for setting a fixed time on a block is to avoid manipulation of Hash Power and avoid any security lapses by individual miners putting in extra computational power.
Bitcoin uses Proof of Work protocol to execute the mining process, and an increase or decrease in the mining difficulty makes the block time constant.
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The Core Principle Of Determining Bitcoin Block Time
The average block time of the network is evaluated after n number of blocks, and if it is greater than the expected block time, then the difficulty level of the proof of work algorithm will be reduced, and if it is less than the expected block time then the difficulty level will be increased.
What is the Difficulty Level?
Level of difficulty in mining is a dynamic factor which varies with time to maintain the constant time of mining the block. The average time for mining a Bitcoin Block is 10 minutes, let us assume that the last 2016 blocks on the bitcoin network only requires 8 minutes, now the difficulty factor would increase more than one to increase the time and make it 10.
If the average time is more than 10 minutes, the difficulty factor would go below one, to balance the average time and make it constant 10 minutes.
The difficulty level is evaluated after every 2016 blocks, which comes to around 2 weeks. So the difficulty factor changes every 2 weeks or 2016 blocks to maintain the Block time at a constant 10 minutes. The formula to determine new difficulty level is
new_difficulty = old_difficulty X (2016 blocks X 10 minutes) / (the time took in minutes to mine the last 2016 blocks)
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A Brief History of Increasing Difficulty in Bitcoin Block
Since Difficulty factor is a dynamic variable, so that the average time for mining the Genesis Block and any other block after that, the difficulty levels have increased many folds.
If we consider the difficulty level of the first block as 1 the current difficulty level has reached 678,760,110,083. So if we put in same Hash power as it was required for mining the first block, it would take 678 Billion times to mine the current Bitcoin block.
Since the computational power and number of people have increased significantly, developers are able to maintain the constant time of 10 minutes. In the first 5 years itself, the mining difficulty increased from 1 to 50 Billion.
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In order to maintain the scalability factor and keeping the security in mind, the block time of Bitcoin and other altcoins are maintained at a constant. The constant factors are taken care through a dynamic variable called Difficulty level. In an ideal scenario, the difficulty level remains at 1, but as the number of blocks increases the difficulty factor is adjusted to maintain the constant time frame.
The difficulty level would only increase as the technological advancements would make future rigs to generate a high amount of Hash rate. In order to maintain the equilibrium, the difficulty levels would be increased.
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