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How To Read Various Types Of Bitcoin Data

Published March 20, 2024 1:45 PM
Andrew Kamsky
Published March 20, 2024 1:45 PM

Key Takeaways

  • Bitcoin employs unique alphanumeric data types for secure, efficient operation within its ecosystem.
  • Addresses, crucial for transactions, have different formats for different transaction types.
  • Public keys and blocks underpin Bitcoin’s structural and security framework.
  • Transactions and signatures are essential for maintaining the network’s security and integrity.

Bitcoin, the pioneering cryptocurrency, operates on a digital framework that uses various alphanumeric data types. Bitcoin data boasts distinct markers for easy identification, enabling users to navigate the crypto ecosystem efficiently.

Data Type 1: Public Keys

While addresses are important for transactions, public keys and blocks underpin Bitcoin’s structural integrity: Predominantly replaced by addresses for transactional purposes, public keys still find use in multi-signature setups or signature verification. Standard public keys are denoted by “02” or “03”, encoded in SEC format. Extended keys (xpub, ypub, zpub) which play an important role in hierarchical deterministic wallets, allowing for an array of public keys generated from a single source.

This means that hierarchical deterministic wallets generate a family of cryptographic keys from a single master key, allowing for an organized structure of multiple Bitcoin addresses and accounts from one seed.

Role Of Public Keys In Bitcoin Security

In the Bitcoin network, public keys play an important role in ensuring the security and integrity of transactions. Derived from private keys through cryptographic algorithms, public keys are part of a public-private key pair that underpins Bitcoin’s security model. 

From a security perspective, public keys allow anyone to verify the authenticity of a message or transaction signed with the corresponding private key, without revealing the private key itself. This mechanism ensures that Bitcoin transactions are secure, tamper-proof, and non-repudiable, as only the owner of the private key can authorize transactions for their Bitcoin address.

Data Type 2: Blocks

As the backbone of Bitcoin’s blockchain, blocks are seldom seen in raw form by users but are identifiable via height or hash. Block height refers to the number of blocks in the blockchain preceding a particular block. It serves as a way to measure the progress of the blockchain and identify the order of transactions. Each new block added to the blockchain increases the block height by one.

The block hash, a SHA-256 cryptographic hash, SHA-256 transforms any input into a fixed-size, 256-bit output, ensuring data integrity and security in digital transactions and systems like Bitcoin. SHA 256 signifies the block’s unique fingerprint, often leading with a series of zeros indicating mining difficulty.

The block hash plays an important role in the Proof of Work (PoW) process, serving as a target for miners to meet or exceed with the miners own hash calculations, thereby validating their effort and securing the network. This process of finding a hash that matches the difficulty level, represented by the leading zeros, is what ensures the decentralized consensus and integrity of the Bitcoin blockchain.

Data Type 3: Bitcoin Addresses

Central to user interaction, Bitcoin addresses facilitate the reception of funds, on the blockchain. For enhanced security and privacy, it’s advisable to generate a fresh address for each incoming transaction. Bitcoin addresses manifest in different formats, each earmarked by a specific leading character:

P2PKH Addresses

Initiated with “1”, these legacy addresses are prevalent for their role in Pay-to-Public-Key-Hash (P2PKH) transactions, embodying a public key’s hash tagged with a “1” for recognition. They are encoded in Base58, sensitive to case variations. 

P2PKH transactions, which utilize Base58 encoded legacy addresses, represent an older Bitcoin address format that directs payments to a hash of the recipient’s public key.

P2SH Addresses

Starting with “3”, these addresses cater to Pay-to-Script-Hash transactions and can encapsulate SegWit or multisig wallets, potentially lowering transaction fees. Like P2PKH, P2SH utilizes Base58 encoding. 

P2SH transactions allow the sender to lock funds to a script hash, simplifying the transaction process by shifting the burden of providing the conditions to spend the funds from the sender to the recipient.

Native SegWit Addresses

Starting with “bc1”, these represent the evolution in addressing, designed for SegWit transactions to further economize on fees and extend transaction lengths through Bech32 encoding, which strictly employs lowercase.

Native SegWit addresses, known as Bech32 and recognizable by their “bc1” prefix, mark an advancement in Bitcoin’s addressing system, tailored for Segregated Witness (SegWit) transactions. Segwit aims to reduce transaction fees but also to accommodate longer transactions in a more efficient manner. 

The use of Bech32 encoding, which exclusively incorporates lowercase letters, enhances readability and minimizes the risk of errors, making these addresses more human-understandable and user-friendly.

Testnet addresses

Users of Bitcoin should aim to steer clear of addresses beginning with “2”, as they belong to the testnet, exclusively for trial purposes and not for actual Bitcoin transactions.

Data Type 4: Transactions 

Transactions, the essence of Bitcoin’s functionality, along with signatures, ensure security and authenticity within the network. These digital agreements, typically ranging between 250-400 bytes, are identified by a unique transaction ID (txid), a 64-character alphanumeric string generated by hashing the transaction details.

Data Type 5: Signatures

Utilizing the ECDSA (Elliptic Curve Digital Signature Algorithm)signature scheme, which is a cryptographic technique used in Bitcoin to ensure the integrity of transactions by providing a secure and verifiable method of signing digital data, leveraging the mathematics of elliptic curves for enhanced security.They span 71-73 bytes in DER (Distinguished Encoding Rules) format, starting with ‘30’ and include two ‘02’ prefixes ahead of the R and S values, forming the cryptographic signature. 

DERformat is a binary encoding format for data structures described by ASN.1 (Abstract Syntax Notation One). It’s used to ensure that data structures, such as cryptographic signatures in Bitcoin, are encoded and transmitted in a universally recognizable manner, allowing for consistent and secure data exchange across different systems.

For those keen on exploring or verifying Bitcoin data firsthand, block explorers like Blockstream provide a user-friendly interface for delving into addresses, transactions, and block details, making the vast Bitcoin ecosystem more accessible and understandable.

By maintaining the same context but altering the presentation and structure, this version aims to offer a refreshed perspective on familiar Bitcoin data types and their roles within the cryptocurrency’s infrastructure.

How To Check A Bitcoin Transaction On A Block Explorer?

To check a Bitcoin transaction on a Block Explorer, an individual may start by accessing a reputable Block Explorer website, such as Blockchain.com or BlockCypher. Enter the transaction ID (TXID) or the recipient’s Bitcoin address in the search bar and press enter. 

The Block Explorer will display detailed information about the transaction, including the amount of Bitcoin transferred, the sending and receiving addresses, the transaction fee, and the number of confirmations it has received. 

Confirmations indicate the transaction’s depth in the blockchain and its acceptance by the network. This process allows users to verify transactions independently, ensuring transparency and security in the Bitcoin network.


Understanding the diverse data types within Bitcoin’s ecosystem, from addresses and transactions to public keys and blocks, is important for anyone looking to understand cryptocurrency effectively. This guide identifies markers and structures that define Bitcoin’s digital framework, providing insights into how to engage securely and efficiently with the network. 

Whether it’s generating new addresses for enhanced privacy, deciphering the purpose of different address formats, or exploring the underlying mechanisms of transactions and signatures, each element plays a vital role in the seamless operation of Bitcoin.


What are Bitcoin addresses and why are they important?

Bitcoin addresses are alphanumeric strings used to receive funds. They’re crucial for transaction security and privacy, with different formats indicating specific transaction types.

How do public keys work in Bitcoin?

Public keys, part of Bitcoin’s security framework, are used in creating addresses and verifying transactions. Extended public keys from hierarchical deterministic wallets allow for organized key and address generation.

What is the significance of blocks in the Bitcoin blockchain?

Blocks are the backbone of the Bitcoin blockchain, containing transaction data secured by cryptographic hashes. Their sequential numbering and unique hashes ensure the network’s integrity.

How do Bitcoin transactions and signatures ensure network security?

Transactions are uniquely identified by a txid, and signatures verify the authenticity of these transactions. This two-pronged approach safeguards against fraud and unauthorized access.

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