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The bitcoin network is a peer-to-peer payment network that operates on a cryptographic protocol. Users send bitcoins, the units of currency, by broadcasting digitally signed messages to the network using bitcoin wallet software. Transactions are recorded into a distributed, replicated public database known as the blockchain, with consensus achieved by a proof-of-work system called "mining". The protocol was designed in 2008 and released in 2009 as open source software by "Satoshi Nakamoto", the name or pseudonym of the original developer/developer group.
The network requires minimal structure to share transactions. Messages are broadcast on a best effort basis, and nodes can leave and rejoin the network at will. Upon reconnection, a node downloads and verifies new blocks from other nodes to complete its local copy of the blockchain.