Proof of work (POW) is an algorithm that allows you to prove to others that you have put a certain amount of computational work into generating a result.
I’ll make a simplifying example: Say, we lived in a world where each multiplication with a number would take you one second worth of computing power. If I gave you the problem: “Compute the result of 210″ and you gave me the result by multiplying 2*2*2… 10 times, I would be sure that you have put 10 seconds of work into solving the problem.
In Bitcoin, POW, serves the purpose of enabling miners to prove that they have spent a certain amount of energy into generating a valid hash of the new block.
Why is this important? Because of the work that has to be put into generating a valid hash, the blockchain cannot be “spammed” (for free) by anyone with arbitrary new blocks. This ensures that the blockchain only grows if you’re willing to invest energy into it. As a reward, a miner gets the block reward and as a side effect, this makes sure that nobody can “outrun” the network on the long run, if they have less than 50% of the hash power.
POW is a insane technological innovation and one of the core features of Bitcoin, so I think it’s worth trying to understand it. I’m sure there are better explanations out there but I hope I could help you a bit to understand this amazing technology a bit better.
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