What is Ethereum’s Genesis Address
On a blockchain explorer, such as Etherscan for Ethereum, you have the ability to see every single block mined since its inception. There, you can see who mined blocks and every single transactions filling them. From curiosity arise this question : Who mined the first ever block (genesis block) of the Ethereum network?
Block 0 and the genesis address
Here , you can click on “Last” to be able to see info on the first couple of blocks of the Ethereum network. At block “0”, you will see the address in question : “0x0000000000000000000000000000000000000000“
Today, this address contains 8,412 Ethereum at a value of 15,204,000$USD and billions of erc-20 tokens. (The 4b$ valuation shouldn’t be trusted as many of these coins have close to no volume so their valuation is all over the place). These numbers have never ceased growing.
Who mined the first block? Who has the private keys?
Eth’s first block was never actually mined, it was coded into existence. This also means that no one owns this address as nobody mined this block. This address doesn’t even have a private key. Because of that, the genesis address could be considered as a black hole of an address, coins can get it but nothing gets out*. An address like that can be used for something called “Proof of Burn”.
*Ethereum can NEVER be withdrawn, but some tokens can be depending on the contract
Proof of Burn (PoB)
Proof of burn is a validation system (such as PoW and PoS ). This system’s idea is to eliminate the crazy amount of hardware and energy necessary to mine a Proof of Work coin such has Bitcoin. People who want to verify transactions (be a “miner”) of a PoB token don’t have to buy mining rigs/ASICS. They “burn” tokens/ETH by sending them to a burner address (the genesis address is considered as one). By doing so, they unlock virtual mining power depending on how much they actually burned. This is their investment in the token’s network.
Mistakes and funds loss related to the “0x0” address
- Interacting with brand new and poorly made smart contracts can sometimes result in you sending your Ether to the genesis address. Doesn’t take much to find many people having their Ethereum locked forever because of that. Look at this transaction as an example.
- With some wallets, not entering a receiving address can lead to it adding the number “0” in the empty field, thus transferring your funds to the 0x0000000000000000000000000000000000000000 address.
Many wallets/smart contracts don’t have safety nets to prevent their users from sending their coins to the genesis address. An other form of this problem is wallets not preventing their users from sending an ERC-20 token to the contract address of said token. Always verify the recipient address before sending. Once the transaction is confirmed, your funds should be considered lost.
Let’s imagine that the genesis address had a private key, could you get access to the juicy funds?
Yes, but no. Just like every other wallet, if you gain access to the private key, you have access to the funds. This address would be no more or less difficult to get access to than yours or mine.
The thing is that it’s incredibly hard to decrypt a private key. There is over 2^256 of them, this is frankly a shit ton of zeroes. If the whole 2011 bitcoin’s network was focused at breaking a single private key, it was calculated here that it could take millions if not billions of years to decrypt it. At this point, let’s just say that your funds are safe as long as you keep your private keys undisclosed and that the genesis address will forever remain a graveyard for some Ethereum tokens.