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Bitcoin and Cryptocurrency Technologies

Coursera · Princeton University · 39 HN points · 18 HN comments

HN Academy has aggregated all Hacker News stories and comments that mention Coursera's "Bitcoin and Cryptocurrency Technologies" from Princeton University.
Course Description

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.

HN Academy Rankings
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Provider Info
This course is offered by Princeton University on the Coursera platform.
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See also: all Reddit discussions that mention this course at

Hacker News Stories and Comments

All the comments and stories posted to Hacker News that reference this url.
The "Bitcoin and Cryptocurrency Technologies" on Coursera helped me gain an understanding cryptocurrencies. Until I took that course I knew very little about the subject.

It's possibly a little dated now, but it's a good primer.

I'd love to hear what other cryptocurrency courses others recommend.

As many others mentioned, Andrew Ng's course on Machine Learning on Coursera was also very good.

Not a cryptocurrency course per se, but Dan Boneh's course on Cryptography[1] is an excellent introduction to most of the building blocks of cryptosystems, including the technology underlying most cryptocurrencies.

In terms of level, it is more than a little technical (programming exercises in both cryptography and cryptanalysis await you!), while still remaining far from rigorous (compared to, say, a graduate-level cryptography text).


Second this. Doing the homework assignments (especially the first one) helped me understand how transactions work and are validated.
You might appreciate the Digital Currency MOOC from University of Nicosia, with Andreas Antonopoulos and Antonis Polemitis.

Latest live stream (with Andreas Antonopoulos) goes into Ethereum and alternative uses of the blockchain:

Edit - Actually, the latest live stream is this one:

Figured I'd leave both, since they cover similar topics

very interesting
while this is true, there are plenty of ways to de-anonymize transactions. you'd have to take extra measures to stay anonymous. meaning, can't rely purely on bitcoin protocol

This describes methods to de-anonymize transactions passed through fiat interfaces that comply with AML/KYC. Play stupid games, win stupid prizes.
I recommend the Princeton course on Bitcoin and Cryptocurrency Technologies, available free on Coursera:

I took this last year and found it very informative

The Princeton bitcoin textbook is also excellent (see - it is easy to find PDFs online)
I confirm, the course on Coursera is excellent!
coursera has a course, and edX has course on enterprise blockchains

Another one on Coursera, "IBM Blockchain Foundation for Developers".

The bigger it grows the harder it will fall. The design/implementation of bitcoin as a currency is severely flawed.

Projects like Ethereum, Hyperledger, and IOTA have a more long term focus. Full Disclosure: I have no positions in any crypto but have been reading a lot. Also, in the midst of two courses that go that cover crytpocurrencies and blockchain tech.

1. 2.

#1 gives a very good history of what a blockchain is, and how is implemented by bitcoin. This is enough to keep me away since I have learned about all the technical flaws:

#2 discusses blockchains, and consensus algorithms. This project shows lots of promise. They just added code that allows the consensus algorithm to actually be changed via a transaction, without a hard fork.

Bitcoin gets all the credit for introducing the world to the blockchain concept, but its far from a sound solution as a cryptocurrency.

You should take a look at IOTA's github repo.
I plan to. The blockchain is here to stay no doubt. and I skimmed over the IOTA whitepaper, definitely very interesting
I agree that Bitcoin is extremely risky, but I've looked at IOTA, and it's an utter nonsense project. It's centralized, because the tangle security model it purports to use doesn't work, and its developers have pulled antics like explaining away a flaw in the client code by claiming it was put there intentionally to thwart copycats, and claiming a "partnership" with a company after IOTA used that company's software.

Hyperledger meanwhile is not a distributed cryptocurrency project. It's software for building consortium blockchains, meaning blockchains run by trusted third parties.

I agree with you on Ethereum. It's now processing more transactions than all other decentralized blockchains combined, including Bitcoin.

What I am currently attending :
I quickly checked the syllabus, however didn't find smart contracts? Do they go into that in some of the videos? How much time do you think this course takes?
No smart contracts - it's a Bitcoin course. Some of the authors also released a tutorial on Solidity and smart contracts, which you can find on Andrew Miller's webpage.

The Coursera class took around 20 hours end to end.

Would also like to recommend this course. The lectures are good, the tasks are ok. It assumes familiarity with cryptographic hash functions and signatures, allowing to keep the focus on bitcoin. In some places it delves into some interesting variations of implementations, like Zcash.
If you are interested in building one in Golang, here is a good article I read recently - Building Blockchain in Go [0]

Bonus: There is a pretty good Coursera course on the same - Bitcoin and Cryptocurrency Technologies [1] and it also has a really good companion book - Bitcoin and Cryptocurrency Technologies: A Comprehensive Introduction [2]

[0] -

[1] -

[2] -

Sep 23, 2017 · 2 points, 0 comments · submitted by verta
I was looking for a good primer and I found the original Bitcoin paper itself to be a pretty good starting point:

Furthermore, I suggest the Princeton cryptocurrency intro course on coursera [1]. If you have CS background, you can skip the explanations of hashing etc and concentrate on the mechanics and incentives in cryptocurrencies, which are illustrated quite nicely.


I'll second the Princeton course
This may be a more comprehensive resource in you're looking for but Princeton is offering a course on bitcoin via Coursera:

Mar 12, 2017 · 3 points, 0 comments · submitted by linearithmic
Don't forget the Princeton / Coursera course:

Bitcoin and Cryptocurrency Technologies Online Course

Almost did. And the Princeton book as well. Thanks
Glad to hear these are standing the test of time :) (at least 2 years is a long time by cryptocurrency standards)
So I've been feverishly researching both topics, and how to learn them. I've decided to take these 2 courses from Coursera (starting soon, in Oct 2016). Both are free, and for the ML course, one can pay after completing it and get a certificate (there's no certificate for the Bitcoin course).

Hope you too will join these, and post updates on this thread right here.

Mar 07, 2016 · kyrre on Satoshi Roundtable Thoughts
This course is pretty good:

One of the author of this book already had a MOOC about Bitcoin on Coursera.

Link :

There is a Coursera course from Princeton on the subject

Coursera cryptocurrency tech course,
If papers would be text formatted or if GitHub could render latex on the fly then this would exist already. It doesn't b/c PDF is how papers are dissemeniated - so it's great somebody took care of that gap!

Maybe a another good occasion to mention that coursera currently offers a Bitcoin MOOC run by some guys from Princeton - it's quite awesome.

Sep 04, 2015 · 31 points, 1 comments · submitted by jyunderwood
I've signed up. Craving a more formal intro to crypto-currencies. Consists mostly of video lectures and supplemental multiple choice style quizzes. Original course included five programming assignments asking students to build simplified versions of a Bitcoin like system, but its not clear there is any programming involved in the Coursera version.

A draft version of the Bitcoin textbook the instructors are currently working on is available:

I'm the instructor of an upcoming Coursera course [1]. A couple of observations from my point of view:

* I wish there were a way to fund online education through philanthropy/donations. Coursera being for-profit leaves a bit of a bad taste in the mouth. At a practical level, it complicates what images I can use in my lectures and qualify as fair use.

* After several years the site is far from being at a point where an instructor can log on and upload content. The interface is constantly changing, confusing, and buggy. My university has a dedicated team who help out instructors with putting their material online and even they are often confused about how to edit this or upload that.

Overall I'm glad that Coursera exists and is finding a revenue stream; my own undergraduate education would have been vastly different if I'd had access to the material that's available today.

[1] Bitcoin and Cryptocurrency technologies

Interesting observations and notes. Glad to see a little bit of background / context regarding the mechanics. Regarding my perspectives, I have a background teaching and an advanced degree in education course design.

Regarding point 1, my understanding of Fair Use within an Education environment is that an instructor using protected material in the context of a lecture or assignment is, by default, an instance of Fair Use. A lot of the pivot relates to the scope of the use - as in, photocopying an entire chapter or short-story is okay, but photocopying the entire book is not. With images, I think you're well in the clear. I can understand where you're coming from with your concern, I just don't believe it to be material.

My university has a dedicated team who help out instructors with putting their material online and even they are often confused about how to edit this or upload that.

This scenario strikes me as counter-intuitive from a savings perspective, because now there's two layers involved: Instructors and IT Support. Actually, it sounds like a terrible waste of overhead and expense the University is laying out. Will Coursera reimburse your institution for the burden, or is it so small compared to the revenue brought in through Coursera that the expense is immaterial?

I get a macabre laugh out of learning Coursera actually kind of sucks at its main value proposition of being a technology platform for education, in that it's not user friendly for actual educators. Yeah it's a 'disruption' platform, sure. Just seems to me like throwing a Basball into an Olympic Swimming Pool.

> This scenario strikes me as counter-intuitive from a savings perspective, because now there's two layers involved: Instructors and IT Support. Actually, it sounds like a terrible waste of overhead and expense the University is laying out. Will Coursera reimburse your institution for the burden, or is it so small compared to the revenue brought in through Coursera that the expense is immaterial?

If it's anything like my university was, the team he's referring to didn't exclusively support Coursera; their purpose is to provide faculty assistance with managing online content in general. Whether it's the university's internal Blackboard site or Coursera, they support whatever platforms the professors are using (assuming it's a university approved platform).

So the marginal expense of supporting Coursera is likely negligible, unless they've somehow managed to make a worse interface than Blackboard and it's particularly resource intensive to support.

It hasn't launched yet but you may be interested in checking out snowdrift:

I brought this thread up in #snowdrift on freenode and there was some interesting discussion around coursera's model and this critical talk by Eden Moglen: There's a full transcript here: I've mostly viewed coursera as a good thing even if it's a for-profit company, but I'm not as confident any more.

Have you looked at From their site: makes it easy to help classrooms in need. Public school teachers post classroom project requests which range from pencils for poetry to microscopes for mitochondria.

I bet there's a way you could sneak in support for your Coursera teaching.

As for uploading content, that seems like a really tough and time consuming problem. Are you allowed to put together a wiki or webpage? I was doing some prep for an Operating Systems course and read this excellent blog post about why textbooks should be free [1]. In the post, the writer mentions that "perfect is the ultimate enemy of good", so he decided to write the initial draft of a textbook purely in plain text rather than properly format it with something like LaTeX. Getting the necessary content out there seems like a good first step for you and your team.


> * I wish there were a way to fund online education through philanthropy/donations. Coursera being for-profit leaves a bit of a bad taste in the mouth. At a practical level, it complicates what images I can use in my lectures and qualify as fair use.

There are ways to do this. The problem is that they don't readily scale. Self-funding systems scale much better than systems that require ever-increasing amounts of external funding.

That's a bit hand-wavy. Can you elaborate why you claim this?
It's a matter of requirements for external resources. If a system needs constant infusions of external money, its ability to grow will be determined by its ability to bring in such external money. This is how non-profits tend to work and why they dedicate such attention to fundraising.

Systems that generate what they need to grow don't have the same constraints. If money is what your business needs to grow and it generates a significant yearly profit, then your business can meet its own needs to enable growth.

Is that clearer? Some sorts of systems, when functioning correctly, will tend to be self-perpetuating. Others will, as an artifact of structure, require endless external resourcing.

Yes, that clarifies your point a lot. Thank you.
OK. Find me an example of a system that doesn't require external resources :)
It's not about that. It's about not needing continual fresh infusions. This is why GE, which doesn't need to raise money every six months, is more likely to be around in ten years than any given startup trying to raise a B round.
There are ways for the developers to earn the donations asked. Edx is an example of the other one. I live off of mooc courses I learn everything from there, and that's coming from a current college student.
hi @randomwalker, I enrolled to that course a few hours ago! I hope that the course is not too bad because of the limitations you mentioned above.
To address your first point, is very similar to Coursera, but is a non-profit organization that releases all it's software as open source ( For your second point, EdX Studio ( is focused on being accessible and easy to use for instructors - we hear good things from course staff about usability compared to Coursera.

(I work for as a developer)

Out of curiosity: Any news on the hosted version of edX ( went up quite a while ago, but I haven't heard any developments since.
Aug 24, 2015 · 1 points, 0 comments · submitted by ccarpenterg
Aug 14, 2015 · 2 points, 0 comments · submitted by lobo_tuerto
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