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I first got quite confused about having different "addresses" to get or send bitcoins.

But is it as simple as, we can have different email addresses:

molly.rosie@gmail.com
peterpan123@gmail.com
peterpan456@yahoo.com

and so you use them as accounts for yourself, to send and receive money, and nobody know who is who with these "addresses"?

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No, bitcoin addresses are not analogous to email addresses.

A bitcoin address should be used only once, for important privacy reasons. If you re-use addresses, it is very bad for your privacy, and for the privacy of those you transact with. If you only use one address, then anyone watching the network will be able to know your entire financial history, if they know your address. On the other hand, an email address is almost always used more than once.

It is perhaps better to consider bitcoin addresses like 'invoices', in that you wouldn't give the same invoice to multiple people, you would create a new one each time.

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  • so an address can be used 0 to any times (like a million times), but the advice is to just use it once? Don't you have to use it at least twice? For example, receive 0.001 bitcoins from Mary, and then send it to your main account? But I guess that reveals who you are, if all these transfers go back to one "main" address. Then how does it work? Your wallet just have a lot of these addresses... each with 0.001 bitcoins, 0.000033 bitcoins, 0.2 bitcoins, etc? So it is like a physical wallet with a lot of compartments? – nonopolarity Jan 31 at 11:21
  • As it happens, I do actually use a different email address for each different site I create an account on. Well, not always, but often. The advantage bitcoin addresses have here over email addresses is that they have no discernible connection, whereas my multiple email addresses are all on the same domain. – Steve Jessop Jan 31 at 18:56
  • I suspect you don't use a different email address for every received email, though. – Pieter Wuille Feb 1 at 1:12
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is it as simple as, we can have different email addresses:

Yes and no. Mostly no.

You can, and normally should, create a new receiving address every time you receive money. You could, but normally shouldn't, create a new email address every time you want to receive an email message.

  • A street address identifies a specific place.
  • An email address identifies a specific person
  • An IP address identifies a particular network port on a computer
  • A bitcoin address doesn't identify anything.

The purpose of a Bitcoin address is unlike most other things for which we use the name "address". A Bitcoin address is really just like a random number in most regards. It's just a seemingly random number that in fact has a useful mathematical relationship to a really random number that is secret.


so you use them as accounts for yourself

You can use them that way. But that's something extra you do outside the Bitcoin network. There are also privacy issues if multiple people or businesses send money to the same one of your addresses. So you shouldn't use an address as a "sales" account for example.

nobody know who is who with these "addresses"?

Correct. But if you reuse addresses, information about you and your money leaks out.

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