The Coinbase Maturity is a security feature that is applied to the coinbase transactions of a cryptocurrency. Your task is to prevent a miner from being able to use the coins newly generated by his mining until a certain amount of confirmations on that new balance are not fulfilled, and in this way, avoid some security risks and associated double expenses. 

Une of the characteristics of some cryptocurrencies, such as Bitcoin, is that the issuance of the coins occurs through a special transaction called CoinbaseHowever, many times this issuance of new coins is not immediately available to miners, but instead they must wait a certain period to make use of them, said period is known as coinbase maturity or coinbase maturity.

This feature was introduced in Bitcoin as part of its operating protocol. The idea is to create a maturity period of 100 blocks, in which the coins of a coinbase cannot be used until 100 confirmations are received from the network.

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Coinbase maturity utility

You will ask yourself at this point, what is the reason and usefulness of this feature? Well, there are actually several things for which the coinbase maturity is very useful, and among them we highlight:

Keep mining power concentrated and avoid manipulations in the power of the network

In the first place, the coinbase maturity serves to keep the power of the miner active within the network, long enough to avoid manipulation actions to the mining protocol.

Let us first of all remember that, the greater the mining power is within the network, the protocol of the same will try to adjust the level of mining difficulty. In Bitcoin, where the difficulty adjustment occurs every 2016 blocks (approximately 7 days), the coinbase maturity is beneficial, since it forces miners to keep their work for a prudent time to avoid that the difficulty is manipulated by "waves" (increases and decreases) in mining power, if the difficulty setting is maintained and manipulation of this important value within the network is avoided.

Protection against misuse of newly generated funds

Additionally, the coinbase maturity is a hedge against extensive forks and reorganizations that can lead to a coinbase being lost as a result of these events.

For example, suppose that the Bitcoin blockchain suffers a hard fork, because two blocks have been generated with the same number of transactions, but with different transactions. The Bitcoin protocol will wait for the next block to be mined, and in that case, the history to which that block is added will become the "longest chain" and therefore the chain of blocks that the rest of the nodes will take as valid, as it has more blocks and higher intrinsic mining power.

Thus, in the pair of blocks generated and that created the hard fork there are two coinbase, one of which (the one with the shortest chain) is simply invalidated. Without the coinbase maturity rule, this means that the miner could have used those coins from the first moment, but due to their existence, he will only be able to use them 100 confirmations later, avoiding this type of problem.

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Is there a risk of double spending if the coinbase maturity is not used in PoW cryptocurrencies?

TRUE!

The creation of coinbase maturity responds to a measure to prevent malicious miners or users from causing a problem of double spending in PoW networks with long production periods in their blocks. This because the generation of recent coins, can reach a point where the next block has a fork or reorganization of the chain that would lead to this type of double-spend attacks under those conditions.

Coinbase maturity in other cryptocurrencies

As we discussed at the beginning, the coinbase maturity is a property of Bitcoin and the cryptocurrencies derived from it. Thus, cryptocurrencies like Litecoin they also have this feature. However, they are not the only cryptocurrencies with this ability.

A good example of this is GrinWhere We can see that said cryptocurrency supports coinbase maturity. In fact, in Grin the coinbase maturity is 1000 blocks. This is explained by the short period of time between blocks, which is 1 minute between blocks, so the measure has the same level of security as that of Bitcoin.

And what about Ethereum? Does this figure exist within the second largest cryptocurrency? The answer is: No, it does not exist. Ethereum has instead created the "Uncle blocks", which are blocks that are valid within the consensus, but are not included in the blockchain. In this situation, Ethereum resolves that the invalid block be discarded (at the level of inclusion in the blockchain) but offers a reward for its generation within the network. This reward is less, and it is an incentive for the miners to continue with their work within the network.

The result is that reorganizations and hard forks within Ethereum they are kept to a minimum, the mining power remains stable, and it is unnecessary to use the coinbase maturity for their operation. The problem is that the issuance is much higher, but this is not a problem in Ethereum, where the total issuance of coins is infinite.

As we can see, each blockchain seeks to solve the problem of manipulations to the mining algorithm, hard forks and reorganizations from different approaches, the most secure of all of them being the coinbase maturity and hence it is widely accepted.

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