Genesis Block

DEFINITION of 'Genesis Block'

The Genesis Block is the first-ever block of Bitcoin mined by creator Satoshi Nakamoto. The original block has 50 bitcoins in it and was mined over the course of six days in 2009. The 50 bitcoins within the block are unspendable, however, and it's a subject of much debate whether this was intentional or a fluke on Nakamoto's part. Also known as Block 0.

BREAKING DOWN 'Genesis Block'

When Satoshi Nakamoto began mining the Genesis Block on January 3rd, 2009, it's possible that he (or she or a group of people) had any clue about the chain of events it would set off. 

The Genesis Block, also known as Block 0, is the ancestor that every other block in the chain can trace its lineage back to. It was mined over the course of six days by Nakamoto, which is puzzling to Bitcoin fans, as the average timestamp gap between mining blocks is normally just ten minutes. So why did this first block take so long? The most logical explanation is that Nakamoto was testing his creation to make sure the original block was perfect. It had to be, since it would be hardwired into the system forever. 

The Genesis Block's Secret Message

Perhaps the most mystifying aspect of the Genesis Block is the secret message that Nakamoto imbued within the Block's raw data. 

"The Times 03/Jan/2009 Chancellor on brink of second bailout for banks"

While Nakamoto never commented on  the meaning of his message, it's not hard to infer that it serves as a mission statement for Bitcoin itself. The text comes from a headline in the January 3rd, 2009 edition of The Times, a London-based newspaper. The article reported on the British government's failing to stimulate the economy following the 2008 financial crisis. 

Nakamoto famously hated the idea of too-big-to-fail institutions and intended Bitcoin to be different. Bitcoin couldn't be bailed out because there was no corporation or middleman between the currency and the consumer. Looking at all of this, it seems pretty likely that Nakamoto's reference to the article was a hint as to why he chose that moment for Bitcoin to be born. 

Interestingly, the 50 bitcoin reward contained within the Genesis Block is unable to be spent due to a minor change in the code. It's unknown whether this was intentional or unintentional on Nakamoto's part. People have been donating small amounts of Bitcoin in tribute to Nakamoto by transferring funds to this original block. This is seen as a kind of sacrifice, since once a coin is moved into the Genesis Block, it cannot be moved, sort of like throwing a quarter into a fountain.

The Genesis Block is the backbone of the entire bitcoin system, and the origin of Bitcoin itself. If every transaction with Bitcoin were like a fork in the road, then all those roads would eventually lead back to the Genesis Block.