Humans schedule their lives around days, weeks, months, and years. Bitcoin on the other hand, relies on its distribution schedule, which is adjusted every four human years. These cycles are called epochs and many Bitcoiners will schedule their own timeframes or goals around these four year cycles. Depending on the person, some may have a very high time preference outlook while others will have a very low time preference with plans to set aside portions of Bitcoin for their future heirs. The more seasoned Bitcoiners will never try to time their purchases and may set aside a small percentage of their holdings to improve their quality of life. Most have aspirations to be wealthy enough to afford land, pay for their children’s college tuition, pay off debts, have consistent vacations, enjoy shows, or purchase products that save time and money. None of this is guaranteed but because of Bitcoin’s track record and increasing demand, the chances of success are much higher than any other publicly known opportunity.
As large percentages of Bitcoin are stored away by companies that arrive to the same conclusions as Microstrategy, the less Bitcoin there will be on the open market for trading. If demand remains constant, then the price has nowhere to go but up. We do not know exactly when Bitcoin’s price will go up but there are a lot of indicators available for public viewing that help project an increase in future prices. A very important feature that contributes to the increasing price of Bitcoin is its fixed supply. One of the best ways for newcomers to understand Bitcoin’s scarcity is from a Bitcoin halving clock.
What is a bitcoin halving? Does that mean the number of Bitcoin doubles or gets cut in half?
Many will confuse the bitcoin halving to mean that Bitcoin is “splitting” which is a finance term for stocks when they split their shares in half or more. Comparing the Bitcoin halving to stock splits are an apples to oranges comparison. The two are not similar because they both have distinct functions and provide different outcomes.
To be clear, a stock split does not increase or decrease the value of a company. It simply means that the number of shares is increasing while the market capitalization of the company stays the same. The reason why companies do this is to provide liquidity for their shares. If the share price is too high, then less of the public are able to purchase those shares. It is mainly used as a marketing ploy. Splits give people the illusion that they are getting richer by having the ability to buy more shares with the same amount of money.
The halving refers to the decrease in Bitcoin being awarded to miners. Bitcoin is distributed once a miner’s hardware (GPU, CPU, FPGA, and ASIC) is able to solve a series of complex math problems. Once solved, that miner is then awarded with a set amount of Bitcoin determined by the Bitcoin Core code.
Below is the source code for Bitcoin that demonstrates when a halving will occur. The code states that every halving (decrease in miner reward) occurs every 210,000 blocks.
Each block that is mined takes roughly 10 minutes. This gives us about 144 blocks per day, 1008 per week, 4,032 per month, 48,384 per year, and finally 193,536 for four years with that math. Keep in mind that each halving is not exactly 4 years and every block is not mined at exactly 10 minutes. Some blocks may take longer or faster due to the increase and decrease in mining difficulty. On May 11, 2020, Bitcoin experienced its third halving where the mining reward decreased from 12.5 to 6.25 BTC per block. It is estimated that on the 33rd epoch in 2140, Bitcoin’s entire fixed supply of 21 million will be mined. After that, no new Bitcoin will be distributed to the market from miners.
Below is the full Bitcoin halving schedule:
Is the Bitcoin halving important?
Bitcoin halvings and stock splits are only similar in the way that nothing fundamentally changes the value of either asset when executed. Many in the finance space would categorize splits and halvings to be “non-events”. However, Bitcoin halvings guarantee the distribution rate for miners and the schedule is publicly known in advance. Halvings are a core feature while splits do not affect the fundamentals of a company. The exact date of a split is also unknown until a few months prior to the decided date. A company can be publicly traded without ever having a stock split but Bitcoin cannot operate without executing halvings.
How does the Bitcoin halving impact price?
For the 2020 halving, many anticipated similar price movements to occur as they did in 2016. However, this did not play out the way everyone expected which is classic behavior from Bitcoin. The price will always go much lower and much higher than what people predict. Technical analysis may help in the medium to long term for some people but it is ineffective for short term movements. If you are interested in a thorough breakdown of Bitcoin’s price action during past halvings, @ChartsBTC has a lot to share.
With each halving, the new supply entering exchanges becomes scarcer than it was four years prior. Around 1,800 Bitcoin were mined per day from July 9th, 2016 to May 11th, 2020. After the most recent halving, there are now only around 900 Bitcoin mined per day. As long as investors continue to purchase more Bitcoin while the halving cuts the miner reward every four years, the price will continue to rise. This also does not factor in all of the new buyers entering the space.
Another important metric to keep in mind is Bitcoin’s stock-to-flow ratio. Stock refers to the currently available supply of Bitcoin while flow refers to the amount of new Bitcoin being distributed. According to Saifedean Ammous, Bitcoin’s stock-to-flow will be higher than Gold’s by the year 2022 and will double by 2025.
Source: Page 198 of The Bitcoin Standard
You may also refer to PlanB’s article for a more in depth look at stock-to-flow and how it affects the price. Bitcoin makes history everyday by being the scarcest asset ever created by man. It is uncertain whether projected prices will occur as Bitcoin’s stock-to-flow increases, but we are still very privileged to witness it unfold.
Which Bitcoin halving clock should I use for my halving party?
There are many to choose from and it’s hard to find one that will put a damper on your party. Some Bitcoiners even have a dedicated screen or raspberry pi for displaying the current block number and estimated time until the next halving. Luckily, you don’t have to build one because there are a good amount of clocks available for free.
Here is a list of some of our favorite ones:
Bitcoin Block Half is the first halving clock most people come across when they are introduced to the Bitcoin halving. Along with an animated countdown for the next halving, there is also a thorough explanation of the what, why, and how a Bitcoin halving works. This clock would most likely be used for a formal networking setting with plenty of new Bitcoiners who are still learning about the space.
If you prefer something flashier, Bitcoinsensus may bring a bit more excitement for your next halving party. With a neon vaporwave aesthetic and features like tracking the countdown by the millisecond, Bitcoinsensus will surely upgrade your small get together to “rave” status. Make sure to drink plenty of fluids and remember to not bring a hardware wallet with you. It may be tempting but not worth losing your Bitcoin to impress a few people.
Let’s say you’re more interested in the metrics behind everything Bitcoin and have all of your favorite websites set to “dark mode”, the Clark Moody Bitcoin dashboard is the way to go. It provides everything you didn’t know you wanted to know within one page. The wall of metrics will surely impress any newcomers you invite. The perfect venue to pull up the Clark Moody dashboard would probably be at an arcade bar or a medium-sized get together at home.
CoinGecko’s halving clock is the most straightforward on the list and does not provide anything extra. It gives you exactly what you want in a halving clock, which is the exact number of blocks mined with a countdown to the next halving. No fancy graphics or over stimulating metrics that will scare off newbies. Just a clock with a very brief description of halvings. This clock would be used for a more casual gathering with wine and cheese. There may also be board games in the vicinity. Be sure to pull this clock up for an audience who are more interested in learning about their fellow Bitcoiner guests.
Can you imagine using the Bitcoin block reward as your unit of time?
This is completely impractical to implement on a day-by-day basis but Olympic athletes and politicians already plan a good portion of their lives around four year cycles. Bitcoin halving celebrations are becoming larger after every epoch. It’s possible that more and more people will be comfortable with the idea of planning their lives in this manner as well. The benefit of this is that anyone can be a Bitcoiner and plan for the long term. Party on and keep stacking.
*Please be aware that all code repositories are updated constantly and the source code being referenced above might change or be moved to another file. Visit https://github.com/bitcoin/bitcoin for the latest version of Bitcoin Core.