Cryptology ePrint Archive: Report 2015/261

Research Perspectives and Challenges for Bitcoin and Cryptocurrencies

Joseph Bonneau, Andrew Miler, Jeremy Clark, Arvind Narayanan, Joshua A. Kroll, Edward W. Felten

Abstract: Bitcoin has emerged as the most successful cryptographic currency in history. Within two years of its quiet launch in 2009, Bitcoin grew to comprise billions of dollars of economic value, even while the body of published research and security analysis justifying the system's design was negligible. In the ensuing years, a growing literature has identified hidden-but-important properties of the system, discovered attacks, proposed promising alternatives, and singled out difficult future challenges. This interest has been complemented by a large and vibrant community of open-source developers who steward the system, while proposing and deploying numerous modifications and extensions.

We provide the first systematic exposition of the second generation of cryptocurrencies, including Bitcoin and the many alternatives that have been implemented as alternate protocols or ``altcoins.'' Drawing from a scattered body of knowledge, we put forward three key components of Bitcoin's design that can be decoupled, enabling a more insightful analysis of Bitcoin's properties and its proposed modifications and extensions. We contextualize the literature into five central properties capturing blockchain stability. We map the design space for numerous proposed modification, providing comparative analyses for alternative consensus mechanisms, currency allocation mechanisms, computational puzzles, and key management tools. We focus on anonymity issues in Bitcoin and provide an evaluation framework for analyzing a variety of proposals for enhancing unlinkability. Finally we provide new insights on a what we term disintermediation protocols, which absolve the need for trusted intermediaries in an interesting set of applications. We identify three general disintermediation strategies and provide a detailed comparative cost analysis.

Category / Keywords: applications / survey

Original Publication (with minor differences): IEEE Security and Privacy

Date: received 19 Mar 2015, last revised 23 Mar 2015

Contact author: jbonneau at cs stanford edu

Available format(s): PDF | BibTeX Citation

Note: eprint report number updated

Version: 20150323:173252 (All versions of this report)

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