Home » The fate of Bitcoin once all 21 million have been mined?
Bitcoin’s limited supply is one of its primary characteristics. Fiat currencies, for example, can be printed at will by the Central Bank, which means that their supply is unlimited. However, the number of bitcoins circulating will never exceed 21 million, as Satoshi Nakamoto set the limit of bitcoins to 21 million.
Approximately one block of bitcoin is introduced to the supply every ten minutes on average. Additionally, every four years the amount of bitcoins released in each block is reduced by 50%. There are 18.7 million bitcoins available as of August 2021, with over 2.3 million yet to be mined. A limitation in supply will make it scarce and control whatever inflation that will arise from the unlimited supply.
Once Bitcoin has reached its limit, its economics will change. Different incentives will be offered to members of the ecosystem like the traders and miners. Mining operations may earn revenue and profits less from block rewards and more from transaction fees.
Furthermore, the network of the cryptocurrency will transform, and its users will differ from those in its ecosystem. As Bitcoin’s ecosystem remains relatively undeveloped, it may be difficult to predict with certainty what its impact will be if its supply is capped.
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Can Bitcoin meet its 21 million mark?
The question of whether Bitcoin will ever reach its 21 million limits might be interesting to consider before exploring the implications of its limit cap. Some Bitcoin observers believe that the cryptocurrency may fall short of the 21 million mark based on its mining process and current codebase.
As a recap, the process of mining Bitcoin is carried out by miners who solve cryptographic puzzles to validate and verify blocks of transactions happening on its system. To reward miners for successfully confirming a transaction, block rewards made up of several bitcoins is shared among the miners. These rewards halve every 4yrs.
The reward for confirming transactions in the cryptocurrency was 50 bitcoins when it first launched. The price dropped from 25 bitcoins in 2012 and to 12.5 bitcoins in 2016. For every new block mined in May 2020, miners could earn 6.25 bitcoins.
Until the final bitcoin is mined, block rewards will be shared every four years. According to current estimates, the final bitcoin will be mined around February 2140. A bitcoin cap of 21 million is regarded as an asymptotic cap by Andreas M. Antonopoulos.
In other words, the cryptocurrency will not reach the figure even if it gets very close. As Bitcoin blocks and supply are never explicitly stated, the cryptocurrency will never reach this limit. The Bitcoin algorithm uses bit-shift operators, which are arithmetic operators that round decimal points to the nearest little integer in programming terms.
Therefore, we will round down the overall supply of 6.2589 BTC to the nearest whole number, which is 6. While this practice simplifies calculations, it results in losses of satoshis, the units that constitute Bitcoin, during each confirmation. The price of one BTC is 100,000,000 satoshis.
The final bitcoin block, as per some sources, will be like 6,929,999, and the overall supply will be 20,999,999.9769 satoshis. Using its bit-shift operator system, bitcoin’s algorithm will round the figure to 20,999,999, leaving the cryptocurrency short of its 21 million targets.
The Bitcoin network may remain operational after 2140 if the cryptocurrency doesn’t reach the target cap. There will be no issuance of bitcoin, but blocks of transactions can be confirmed while there will now be fees for the transaction. At the end of the day, Bitcoins will operate as a closed economy, where transaction fees are assessed similarly to taxes.