Bitcoin has emerged as the most successful cryptographic currency in history. Within two years of its quiet launch in 2009, Bit coin grew to comprise billions of dollars of economic value despite only cursory analysis of the system’s design. Since then a growing literature has identified hidden-but-important properties of the system, discovered attacks, proposed promising alternatives, and singled out difficult future challenges. Meanwhile a large and vibrant open-source community has proposed and deployed numerous modifications and extensions. We provide the first systematic exposition Bit coin and the many related crypto currencies or ‘altcoins.’ Drawing from a scattered body of knowledge, we identify three key components of Bit coin’s design that can be decoupled. This enables a more insightful analysis of Bit coin’s properties and future stability. We map the design space for numerous proposed modifications, providing comparative analyses for alternative consensus mechanisms, currency allocation mechanisms, computational puzzles, and key management tools. We survey anonymity issues in Bit coin and provide an evaluation framework for analyzing a variety of privacy-enhancing proposals. Finally we provide new insights on what we term disinter mediation protocols, which absolve the need for trusted intermediaries in an interesting set of applications. We identify three general disinter mediation strategies and provide a detailed comparison.