What is a whitepaper?

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The word whitepaper is a term of great importance and are words you will hear a lot if you have even tried to scratch the surface of bitcoin. It’s a term not exclusive to bitcoin, but is conned by other cryptocurrencies as well as other authority figures and businesses around the world!

The history of a whitepaper

The term whitepaper was originated within the British government, first thought to be used by Winston Churchill. It was simply a document printed on whitepaper and is a tool demonstrated for the bettering of a participatory democracy. The purpose of white papers were to present firm government policies, whilst inviting opinions upon them. By the 90’s, the term white paper had been conned by businesses as a form of marketing to build a case in their carefully constructed business plan or argument.

The bitcoin whitepaper

To view the original whitepaper click here.

As described above, whitepapers have different purposes and different target audiences. The bitcoin whitepaper is a problem/solution type white paper that suggests a solution to a nagging problem in the monetary world. It states how a trustless system can be created and explains how a problematic computer science issue can be tackled.

The whitepaper for bitcoin titled “Bitcoin: A Peer-to-Peer Electronic Cash System” was written under the pseudonym “Satoshi Nakamoto”. Since being written it has been heavily scrutinised and gathered a lot of interest among innovators. The process from whitepaper to computer code ended up being a fast one. It didn’t take long for that computer code to begin the first steps of the Bitcoin network. Concurrently the first block of the Bitcoin blockchain (also known as the genesis block) was created. Since then, bitcoin and its network has grown exponentially.

The bitcoin whitepaper has 12 sections in total. It begins with the introduction outlining the purpose of bitcoin. Each section dives further into the mechanics of the network and what makes it so special.

Scrutiny of the bitcoin whitepaper

Satoshi Nakamoto most certainly put his heart and soul into making the bitcoin whitepaper. Having such a boisterous idea is bound to attract scrutiny and any leaks were certainly going to be identified. Although the idea of a digital currency wasn’t a foreign idea, the idea of a trustless monetary system definitely was. This was at least the claim of Satoshi anyhow. Communities have been divided when straying from the whitepaper. Some look towards Satoshi’s whitepaper as the holy grail and should therefore be followed religiously. Others believe that the technology is emerging and should be susceptible to change. Either way, a whitepaper is supposed to be open to scrutiny, inviting opinions upon it.

Do other cryptocurrencies have whitepapers?

If you have been involved with bitcoin or other cryptocurrencies for any amount of time, chances are you have heard the term whitepaper before. During the 2017 ico rush we were quite literally slapped to death with the term “whitepaper”. It goes without saying, almost every cryptocurrency has a corresponding whitepaper.

What do whitepapers for cryptocurrencies typically include?

Since bitcoin is the world’s first cryptocurrency it outlines what makes it so secure and how transactions work on a technical level. It includes information about but not limited to: proof of work, hashing, coding, privacy and calculations.

The target audience for whitepapers has mostly changed, as well as the approach to them. For bitcoin the technology was completely unknown and this was what was important to the public and Satoshi Nakamoto. However, other cryptocurrencies tend to keep things a little more straightforward. The technical jargon that makes cryptocurrencies unique and valuable are often left out. Whitepapers for many other cryptocurrencies typically lean towards information regarding: Token metrics, roadmaps, team members and competitors.

Summary

A whitepaper is a document written for multiple purposes. For bitcoin it was a problem/solution type document describing exactly how a new technology could be used whilst still being open to scrutiny. Some other cryptocurrencies, particularly the newer ones, are considered to be more backgrounder whitepapers. These are more focussed on the marketing perspective, to supplement a product launch.

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