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Princeton University

Bitcoin and Cryptocurrency Technologies

Princeton University via Coursera


To really understand what is special about Bitcoin, we need to understand how it works at a technical level. We’ll address the important questions about Bitcoin, such as:

How does Bitcoin work? What makes Bitcoin different? How secure are your Bitcoins? How anonymous are Bitcoin users? What determines the price of Bitcoins? Can cryptocurrencies be regulated? What might the future hold?

After this course, you’ll know everything you need to be able to separate fact from fiction when reading claims about Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies. You’ll have the conceptual foundations you need to engineer secure software that interacts with the Bitcoin network. And you’ll be able to integrate ideas from Bitcoin in your own projects.

Course Lecturers:
Arvind Narayanan, Princeton University

All the features of this course are available for free. It does not offer a certificate upon completion.


  • Introduction to Crypto and Cryptocurrencies
    • Learn about cryptographic building blocks ("primitives") and reason about their security. Work through how these primitives can be used to construct simple cryptocurrencies.
  • How Bitcoin Achieves Decentralization
    • Learn Bitcoin's consensus mechanism and reason about its security. Appreciate how security comes from a combination of technical methods and clever incentive engineering.
  • Mechanics of Bitcoin
    • Learn how the individual components of the Bitcoin protocol make the whole system tick: transactions, script, blocks, and the peer-to-peer network.
  • How to Store and Use Bitcoins
    • This week we'll explore how using Bitcoins works in practice: different ways of storing Bitcoin keys, security measures, and various types of services that allow you to trade and transact with bitcoins.

  • Bitcoin Mining
    • We already know that Bitcoin relies crucially on mining. But who are the miners? How did they get into this? How do they operate? What's the business model like for miners? What impact do they have on the environment?
  • Bitcoin and Anonymity
    • Is Bitcoin anonymous? What does that statement even mean—can we define it rigorously? We'll learn about the various ways to improve Bitcoin's anonymity and privacy and learn about Bitcoin's role in Silk Road and other hidden marketplaces.
  • Community, Politics, and Regulation
    • We'll look at all the ways that the world of Bitcoin and cryptocurrency technology touches the world of people. We'll discuss the community, politics within Bitcoin and the way that Bitcoin interacts with politics, and law enforcement and regulation issues.
  • Alternative Mining Puzzles
    • Not everyone is happy about how Bitcoin mining works: its energy consumption and the fact that it requires specialized hardware are major sticking points. This week we'll look at how mining can be re-designed in alternative cryptocurrencies.
  • Bitcoin as a Platform
    • One of the most exciting things about Bitcoin technology is its potential to support applications other than currency. We'll study several of these and study the properties of Bitcoin that makes this possible.
  • Altcoins and the Cryptocurrency Ecosystem
    • Hundreds of altcoins, or alternative cryptocurrencies, have been started, either to fix Bitcoin's perceived flaws or to pursue different goals and properties. We'll look at everything that goes into an altcoin and how they interact with Bitcoin.
  • The Future of Bitcoin?
    • The use of Bitcoin technology for decentralizing property, markets, and so on has been hailed as a recipe for economic and political disruption. We'll look at the technological underpinnings of these proposals and the potential impact on society.

Taught by

Arvind Narayanan

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4.4 rating, based on 27 reviews

Start your review of Bitcoin and Cryptocurrency Technologies

  • Profile image for Joseph Van Name
    Joseph Van Name

    Joseph Van Name completed this course.

    This course contains scientific errors, and the cryptocurrency sector is suffering very much from such sloppy research and a poor understanding of certain aspects of computation which will become increasingly relevant in the future. In the section, "Energy...
  • Profile image for Yudhanjaya Wijeratne
    Yudhanjaya Wijeratne

    Yudhanjaya Wijeratne completed this course, spending 4 hours a week on it and found the course difficulty to be medium.

    Thorough in content and very well structured, this course takes you from the basics of cryptography to a sweeping overview of how Bitcoin and cyptocurrencies work, their ecosystems, impact, political effects, ramifications, potential and more. I personally...
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  • Anonymous

    Anonymous completed this course.

    Excellent course.
    Cleanly separates the different pieces that go into making bitcoin, and explains each of them simply and clearly. Covers not only bitcoin and cryptocurrencies, but also the wider implications and applications of the blockchain to non-currency applications.

    Highly recommended for anyone interested in bitcoin or the blockchain.
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  • Aliaksandr Bely completed this course, spending 2 hours a week on it and found the course difficulty to be medium.

    Very interesting course explaining cryptocurrencies in different aspects. Highly recommended to anyone interested in bitcoins, cryptocurrencies or just normal currencies as well.
    As mentioned in other comments, please, note you will not have any types of homework and will not get any statement of accomplishment.
  • Sillu Rathore

    Sillu Rathore is taking this course right now, spending 10 hours a week on it and found the course difficulty to be hard.

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  • Anonymous

    Anonymous is taking this course right now.

    great course I have learn some basics about bitcoin, cryptocurrency
    it' an interesting course to be taking by student who are not necesserly Data scientist or computer science. I recommend for everybody to get out of. his/her comfort zone to learn something new.
  • Omer Mohamed

    Omer Mohamed completed this course, spending 2 hours a week on it and found the course difficulty to be medium.

    This was a very informative course , Will diffidently help as a first solid step into Cryptocurrency world.
    However, they should state that this course required a programming background for submitting the assignments .

  • Profile image for Martin Jošt
    Martin Jošt

    Martin Jošt is taking this course right now.

    I love the topics and the depth of the knowledge, but for this much time invested it would really be great to get some kind of a certificate. It carries quite some weight these days.
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