The block height is nothing but the serial number of the block in a sequentially numbered blockchain network
What is the meaning of Block Height?
A blockchain is an encrypted database comprising a series of data in the form of blocks that are sequentially interconnected using cryptographic methods called hash functions. In the bitcoin blockchain network, the data blocks consist of cryptocurrency (bitcoin) transactions that are similar to financial ledger entries. The blockchain records bitcoin addresses with inputs (debit) and outputs (credit).
In this context, the block height is nothing but the serial number of the block in a sequentially numbered blockchain network.
Using an interesting analogy, the blocks in a blockchain are similar to a series of Lego bricks. Imagine a sequence of interconnected lego bricks stacked one on top of another and are serially numbered.
The first block of the blockchain database is known as the genesis block – classified as block zero. The blockchain network then assigns serial numbering of subsequent blocks from number one onwards. Blocks of transaction data are validated and verified by cryptocurrency miners before adding the block to the blockchain. This new block is serially-numbered for reference purposes.
In this context, the block height has gained substantial importance.
Significance of block height
key benefits and use-cases There are several benefits of tracking the block height of a blockchain network, encapsulated as follows:
Rating the blockchain network:
Different blockchain networks may have different block heights. Greater is the number of blocks added to the blockchain; the higher is blockchain’s acceptance among its user community. The block height is a function of its credibility, accuracy, and user acceptance.
Tracking the validated blockchain:
Cryptocurrency miners or nodes use block height to determine the latest validated and genuine blockchain based on the consensus mechanism. The block height and the block’s header determine the validity of the newest block.
Block heights are required to track the halving event of the blockchain network – this is when the mining rewards are decreased by fifty per cent or halved. According to the bitcoin protocol, halving occurs every 210,000 blocks mined and added to the bitcoin blockchain.
For example, the bitcoin blockchain last halved on the 11th of May 2020 when the block height reached 630,000 – this was when the bitcoin mining reward decreased from 12.5 bitcoins to 6.25 bitcoins. The next halving event is expected to be on 2nd of March 2024 when the block height reaches 840,000 – i.e. 630,000 + 210,000 = 840,000.
Tracking the mining difficulty:
The hash rate is a function of the mining difficulty of the blockchain network. Any change in the hash rate indicates the miners’ difficulty level in solving the cryptographic puzzle.
The hash rate also shows the extent of CPU processing power used by miners for solving the cryptographic puzzle as part of the proof of work consensus mechanism. The higher the hash rate, the greater the number of miners and the higher the blockchain’s security.
Most of the blockchain networks track the hash rate periodically after the blockchain adds a specific number of blocks.
Decoding Blockchain: Unveiling the Significance of Block Height Explained
In the bitcoin blockchain network, this number stands at 2016 blocks, ie. every 2,016 blocks, the bitcoin blockchain determines the mining difficulty based on the standard assumption of ten minutes for confirming one bitcoin block of transactions on average.
The formula for calculating the mining difficulty is as follows:Thus, the actual time consumed for validating 2,016 bitcoin blocks and the estimated standard time – I.e. 10 minutes per validated block, totalling 20,160 minutes – are compared. This measure determines the multiplication factor for adjusting the mining difficulty level.Logical conditions for triggering events:
It is possible to trigger events using conditional statements based on the achievement of targeted levels of the block height.For example, a time-lock function in the bitcoin blockchain locks the use of bitcoins for a specific duration or a targeted block height.Unspent Transaction Output (UTXO): If a user’s balance is determined, then the net balance of a bitcoin address is calculated based on the credit and debit entries, I.e. the UTXO. So to calculate the balances, the bitcoin blockchain needs to rescan from an earlier date.
So the block number is used to determine the balances for the address.Non-unique nature of block height:Unlike a block’s header comprising metadata, the block height number is not necessarily a unique identifier.
This non-uniqueness of the block height is because there could be two or more competing blocks with different miners for the same block height.Ultimately the winning block that prevails after a few blocks are validated and added on top of the former block would be associated with the specific block height.
To sum up, block height is an exciting and valuable parameter to track the complexity and sophistication of the blockchain as it evolves. It assists users in querying the blockchain explorer for information based on references to specific blockchain addresses or transactions.
Satoshi Nakamoto made the block height a vital parameter to track and operate on the Bitcoin blockchain.
For more such knowledge bytes please explore the various courses offered by 3.0 University.