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I searched the bitcoin wiki and found references to coinbase, but no clear cut explanation of what exactly it is. I know that miners can tag their coinbases (that is how some sites tell who mined a block).

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Not to be confused with the Bitcoin startup Coinbase, which is a hosted (shared) EWallet + exchange. –  Stephen Gornick Nov 26 '12 at 5:12

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The term "coinbase" is used to mean many different things. But the two you're probably asking about are:

  1. The "coinbase transaction" is the transaction inside a block that pays the miner his block reward.

  2. Inside the coinbase transaction is a field that is called the "coinbase". It's the generation transaction's equivalent of a scriptsig. Since it doesn't claim any existing outputs, it needs no normal scriptsig. It's basically just a random value that the miner can use as an additional nonce. BIP 34 changes this a bit.

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There's also now a Bitcoin exchange/hosted wallet web site called coinbase.com. –  gosmond Feb 21 '13 at 4:25

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