A Bitcoin address is a public identifier for a Bitcoin wallet, essential for directing transactions on the blockchain. It’s generated when you create a Bitcoin wallet and comes with a public and private key, with the former being a hashed version of the latter for security purposes.
Bitcoin addresses are alphanumeric, ranging from 26 to 35 characters and may start with 1, 3, or bc1. There are three main Bitcoin address formats: P2PKH (legacy, starts with 1), P2SH (used for SegWit, starts with 3), and Bech32 (starts with bc1, supports SegWit, but not widely accepted).
You can obtain a Bitcoin address by creating a software wallet through a crypto exchange or a hardware wallet, which offers better security by operating offline. If you accidentally send cryptocurrency to an incorrect address, recovering funds can be difficult due to the decentralized nature of blockchain.
The private key associated with a Bitcoin address is crucial for authorizing transactions and ensuring the security of your wallet. Remember, your Bitcoin address can be shared, but your private key should always be kept secret.
A Bitcoin address is a cornerstone that facilitates the exchange of cryptocurrencies between two users because it controls the destination and the source for the specific amount of Bitcoin being exchanged.
Therefore, Bitcoin addresses are used to identify the owner and receiver of the bitcoins in question. They’re generated randomly once you create your Bitcoin wallet, i.e. a wallet where you store your cryptocurrencies (in this case Bitcoin).
How long is Bitcoin address? To get it out of the way, there are three different formats of crypto addresses. However, a typical BTC address length would look like this: 3J98t1WpEZ73CNmQviecrnyiWrnqRhWNLy. A Bitcoin address length will have 26-35 alphanumeric characters.
Keep reading because we’ll explain to you what a Bitcoin address is. Next, we’ll acquaint you with the three Bitcoin address formats and give you information on where you can get your Bitcoin addresses from.
Let’s get started!
What Is a Bitcoin Address?
Simply put, a Bitcoin address is a public identifier for the Bitcoin wallet, playing the role of a virtual location where the cryptocurrencies can be sent. For every Bitcoin blockchain transaction, the recipient creates a new address that has to be given to the sender in order to receive the money. However, in order to get a Bitcoin address, you have to create a Bitcoin wallet and get both a public and a private key.
A public key validates the ownership of the Bitcoin wallet, while a private key helps you receive Bitcoins/cryptocurrencies.
These two keys are connected using asymmetric encryption, which means that using the private key you can obtain the public key, but the public key cannot extrapolate the private key. This is the reason why you have to keep your private key only to yourself and never share it with anyone.
The Bitcoin address is similar to the public key, but it’s not identical. Instead, a Bitcoin address is a hashed version of the public key (a public key hash).
It’s anywhere between 26-35 alphanumeric characters (numbers and letters) long. It starts with 1, 3, or bc1, which represents the destinations for Bitcoin payments. Due to the fact that Bitcoin addresses are too long and complicated to memorize, they can be converted into a QR code format for ease of use.
Bitcoin Address Formats
There are three kinds of Bitcoin Core addresses: Pay-to-Pubkey-Hash, Pay to script hash, and Bech32. It’s important to mention that these kinds of addresses are not supported by all wallets.
P2PKH Address Format
Pay-to-Pubkey-Hash, or P2PKH for short, means paying to the public key hash of the recipient. This address format is also known as legacy address format because it was the original Bitcoin address format.
A P2PKH address format starts with 1, for example: 1BvBMSEYstWetqTFn5Au4m4GFg7xJaNVN2
P2PKH addresses aren’t compatible with P2SH; however, you’re allowed to send BTC from a legacy address to a SegWit address (more on this type of address below).
There is a slight disadvantage with P2PKH addresses regarding transaction fees, because the length of the address makes the Bitcoin transaction larger, resulting in higher fees.
P2SH Address Format
P2PH, an abbreviation for Pay-to-script-hash, is the second address format that has the same structure as P2PKH addresses.
The only difference is the starting character, which in this format is 3 instead of 1, as in: 3J98t1WpEZ73CNmQviecrnyiWrnqRhWNLy
This address format is primarily developed to support the SegWit upgrade to the Bitcoin protocol and reduce the Bitcoin transactions’ data size that enters the blocks on the Bitcoin network. This, in turn, leads to lower fees for the transactions for P2SH addresses.
P2SH supports P2PKH as well as BEch32 addresses. They also support multi-sig addresses – the addresses that ask for multiple digital signatures in order to verify a transaction.
BEch32 Address Format
Finally, BEch32 addresses start with bc1.
Here’s an example: Bc1qar0srrr7xfkvy5l643lydnw9re59gtzzwf5mdq
As you can see, they’re longer than P2PKH and P2PSH addresses as a result of the longer prefix.
They support SegWit transactions, meaning the fees are also low, but come with a disadvantage of their own: only a select number of cryptocurrency exchanges and wallet providers support BEch32 addresses.
Where Can You Get a Bitcoin Address?
When you create a Bitcoin wallet, you also generate a Bitcoin address that goes with it. There are two types of crypto wallets that you can use: software (hot storage) wallets and hardware (cold storage) wallets.
The most popular software wallets that you can use are offered by cryptocurrency exchanges, and they come together with Bitcoin addresses, as well.
Fortunately for you, there are numerous different exchanges on the cryptocurrency market that you can choose from, such as Coinbase, Kraken, Gemini, and Binance. They also offer mobile wallets that are available for both Android and iOS devices.
You can also use a hardware wallet, whose main advantage is that it offers higher security because it operates offline. They store your public and private keys on a device that looks like a USB drive and is not connected to the internet.
Frequently Asked Questions
What happens if you send crypto to the wrong address?
If you sent cryptocurrency to the wrong address, then you may lose all the money. This is because cryptocurrencies are decentralized, meaning they do not rely on any central authority for security. Nevertheless, there are some ways you can try to recover your funds. You can read how to do it here on How To Recover Crypto Sent To Wrong Address.
What is a Bitcoin private key?
A bitcoin private key is a string of characters used for signing transactions on the blockchain network. Private keys are generated when users create wallets, which store digital currency. The private key allows users to spend bitcoins from their wallet, and also sign messages using the public key.
A Few Words Before You Go…
Hopefully, you now know a little bit more about Bitcoin addresses, their length, and the three different types that you can choose from.
You can get a software wallet through cryptocurrency exchanges or hardware wallets independently of the platforms you use and transfer crypto coins in and out of them.