What Is Block Time?
Block time is the measure of the time it takes the miners or validators within a network to verify transactions within one block and produce a new block in that blockchain.
Blockchains were first popularized by Bitcoin when it was introduced in 2009. The technology has grown as more cryptocurrencies are created, each of which can use different or the same blockchain, validation methods, and techniques for creating new blocks.
- Block time is the length of time it takes to create a new block in a cryptocurrency blockchain.
- A block is verified by miners, who compete against each other to verify the transactions and solve the hash, which creates another block.
- Under the proof-of-work consensus mechanism, cryptocurrency is rewarded for solving a block's hash and creating a new block.
Understanding Block Time
A blockchain is a distributed database that records all transactions within a cryptocurrency network. You can think of a block within the database as a cell in a spreadsheet where transaction information is stored. Miners verify the transactions, which takes time because finding the solution to the block requires the computers to make a vast amount of trial and error calculations.
This is called hashing—using an algorithm to verify all the transactions within a block, which validates the authenticity of the transactions and stored information. When the block solution is found, a new block is created. The amount of time to find the solution and create a new block is the block time.
Here are a few key points to remember if you're trying to understand block time:
- A block is a file that records a number of the most recent cryptocurrency transactions.
- Each block contains a reference to the block that preceded it (that's why it is theoretically impossible to alter cryptocurrency).
- Cryptocurrency "miners" race against each other to solve the hash, which is the hexadecimal number generated that verifies the transactions. The winner receives a crypto coin.
How Is Bitcoin’s Block Time Different Than Ethereum's?
Each cryptocurrency has a different block time—Bitcoin takes around 10 minutes, while Ethereum only takes around 14 seconds. The exact amount of time it takes for block generation varies and depends on the difficulty of the hash (the hexadecimal number generated by the hashing algorithm). In other words, block times will not always be the same.
Consensus mechanisms exist to allow a network to agree that a transaction is valid. Cryptocurrencies can use different consensus mechanisms, which, among other factors, affect the time it takes to verify transactions and create new blocks. Proof-of-work and proof-of-stake are two types of consensus mechanisms that use different methods for verifying a transaction. Ethereum is transitioning to a proof-of-stake consensus mechanism throughout 2022, while Bitcoin remains on the more popular and energy-intensive proof-of-work mechanism.
How Many Bitcoins Will Ever Be Created?
Bitcoin has a limit of 21 million. There are nearly 19 million Bitcoins in circulation, and the number of Bitcoins created per year halves every four years. This slows down Bitcoin creation.
How Many Ethereum Will Ever Be Created?
Ethereum, unlike Bitcoin, doesn't have an upper limit on the number of coins that will be created.
How Do I Get a Bitcoin Block?
You never actually receive a Bitcoin block since it is part of Bitcoin's framework. Instead, you receive a Bitcoin when your miner solves the hash and creates another block.
Investing in cryptocurrencies and other Initial Coin Offerings (“ICOs”) is highly risky and speculative, and this article is not a recommendation by Investopedia or the writer to invest in cryptocurrencies or other ICOs. Since each individual's situation is unique, a qualified professional should always be consulted before making any financial decisions. Investopedia makes no representations or warranties as to the accuracy or timeliness of the information contained herein.