What Is Block Time?

Block time, in the context of cryptocurrency, is a measure of the time it takes to produce a new block, or data file, in a blockchain network. It is the length of time it takes to validate the existence of a new batch of bitcoins.

Theoretically, each network has its own defined block time. For instance, the Bitcoin network’s block time is around 10 minutes while the Ethereum network’s block time is about 20 seconds. The reality is not that precise.

Understanding Block Time

Block time is the time required to create the next block in a chain. It is essentially the amount of time it takes for a blockchain miner to find a solution to the hash, the random series of characters that is associated with the block.

Key Takeaways

  • Block time is the length of time it takes to create a new block or file in a cryptocurrency chain.
  • A block is verified by bitcoin miners, who compete against each other to solve a mathematical problem that is attached to the block.
  • The successful bitcoin miner is rewarded in cryptocurrency.

However, the precise time to mine the next block is unknowable. The actual amount of time it takes for block generation varies depending on the difficulty of the hash.

Here are a few brief definitions for those 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 a mathematical puzzle embedded in the file. The winner is paid in cryptocurrency.
  • The solution to the puzzle triggers the currency's acceptance as a new block on the blockchain. The block has been validated. (The miner is rewarded with cryptocurrency.)

Thus, block time is the average time it takes for a miner to solve the mathematical puzzle and trigger the creation of a block on the blockchain.

Bitcoin mining is no longer a self-employment opportunity for mathematically talented computer hobbyists. Cryptocurrency mining is now dominated by mining "farms" with high-powered computer systems. About 50% of the world's bitcoin computing power is located in the Sichuan province of China, according to a report by the research firm Coinshare.

The block time for any type of cryptocurrency such as Bitcoin or Ethereum is an estimate of the time it takes to create a new block in the chain.

Other Definitions of Block Time

Block time has meanings that are entirely unrelated to cryptocurrency. For example:

  • Airlines refer to the estimated number of minutes that a flight will take from leaving the departure gate to stopping at the arrival gate as the flight's block time.
  • Block time is a theory that time is an unchanging four-dimensional block rather than a three-dimensional world of past, present, and future as we perceive it.