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What is a Whitepaper in Cryptocurrency? – Explained

What is a Whitepaper in Cryptocurrency? – Explained

A crypto white paper is a concise document outlining the technology and mechanics of a new digital currency. Learn more about what is a white paper in...

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Bitcoin is in its 14th year! Bitcoin’s legendary whitepaper was posted to a mailing list for the first time on 31st October 2008 while the first block on the blockchain was mined on 3rd January 2009. Irrespective of which date you follow as the anniversary, crypto followers, in general, keep them close to their hearts. The recipients in the mailing list probably would not have imagined in their wildest dreams the potential of Bitcoin, the network, and Bitcoin, the cryptocurrency. Because we are not just seeing decentralization in cryptography but we are now looking at blockchain and other Web 3 networks aiming to introduce decentralization to the masses living across the world.

So, what is a whitepaper in cryptocurrency? Or what is a blockchain whitepaper? Both might be pressing questions on your mind. Historically, Bitcoin whitepaper is cited as the first-ever whitepaper released about a peer-to-peer public network. Since then experienced investors and crypto enthusiasts have followed a good practice to check the whitepaper of any new Web 3 project launched. Similar to an IPO prospectus, albeit much shorter and stuffed with relevant technical details, whitepapers are essential to conducting due diligence about a new project by both institutional and retail investors like you and me. Yes, it is understandably wordy but that doesn’t mean that retail investors especially can take it for granted or worse, ignore it. Let’s explore why investing your time in reviewing the whitepaper should precede your investment with money.

What is a Whitepaper in Cryptocurrency?

What is a Whitepaper in Cryptocurrency
Source| What is a whitepaper in cryptocurrency?

A whitepaper for cryptocurrency is a comprehensive document that outlines the concept, technology, and goals of a particular project. In the cryptocurrency industry, a whitepaper is an essential document that explains the technical details of a project, including its features, underlying technology, and roadmap. 

A whitepaper typically starts with an introduction that explains the problem the project aims to solve. It then describes the project’s vision and goals, detailing how the technology will address the problem in question. The document will also provide an overview of the technical aspects of the project, including details of the underlying blockchain technology, consensus mechanism, and any other relevant technical details.

Whitepapers are also a useful tool for outlining the economic and financial aspects of a project. This can include details on the token or cryptocurrency that powers the project, how it will be distributed, and any potential economic incentives for users or investors. 

In addition to technical and economic aspects, a whitepaper may also include information about the team behind the project, its advisors, and its overall governance structure. This can help establish credibility and trust in the project, as well as provide transparency about how the project is managed and developed.

Whitepapers are often used to attract investment and interest in a project. They are typically released prior to the launch of a project’s initial coin offering (ICO) or initial exchange offering (IEO) and can be used to persuade potential investors to contribute funds to the project.

Overall, a whitepaper is a crucial document for any crypto or blockchain project. It serves as a detailed blueprint for the project and provides potential investors and users with the information they need to make informed decisions about whether to invest or participate in the project. 

We do hope this makes the answer to ‘what is a blockchain whitepaper?’ a little clearer to you. 

Why are Whitepapers Important?

A whitepaper for cryptocurrency is important because: 

  • They provide a comprehensive and detailed overview of a crypto or blockchain project. 
  • They serve as a roadmap for the project’s development and can help establish credibility and trust in the project’s team and technology.
  • Whitepapers are also important for attracting investment and interest in a project. By providing potential investors with a clear understanding of the project’s goals, technical specifications, and potential benefits, a whitepaper can help persuade them to invest funds in the project.
  • Furthermore, whitepapers can serve as a tool for education and understanding of complex technologies and concepts. They can provide a clear and concise explanation of the underlying blockchain technology, consensus mechanisms, and other technical aspects of the project.
  • Overall, whitepapers play a crucial role in the cryptocurrency and blockchain industry by providing transparency, credibility, and a detailed roadmap for the development of new and innovative projects. 

What are the Examples of Whitepapers?

There are many examples of a whitepaper for cryptocurrency and the blockchain industry. Here are two notable instances:

1. Bitcoin Whitepaper

The Bitcoin whitepaper is a document that was released in 2008 by an individual or group using the pseudonym of Satoshi Nakamoto. It introduced the world to the concept of Bitcoin, which is a decentralized digital currency that operates on a peer-to-peer network.

The whitepaper explains how Bitcoin operates, including its use of the blockchain to record transactions and cryptography to validate them. Transactions are added to the blockchain through mining.

The whitepaper highlights Bitcoin’s advantages, including its decentralized nature and secure network achieved through cryptography. It eliminates the need for intermediaries like central banks or governments.

The whitepaper discusses Bitcoin’s potential to enable fast and secure transactions globally without third-party intermediaries. It also notes the limited supply of 21 million bitcoins gradually released over time.

Overall, the Bitcoin Whitepaper is a seminal document in the world of cryptocurrency and has had a profound impact on the development of blockchain technology and the broader financial industry. 

2. Ethereum Whitepaper

The Ethereum whitepaper was released in 2013 by Vitalik Buterin, proposing a decentralized platform for building decentralized applications (dapps) using smart contracts. The whitepaper outlines the technical details of the Ethereum blockchain, including its use of a Turing-complete programming language and its consensus mechanism, which allows for the validation of transactions and execution of smart contracts.

The whitepaper also highlights the advantages of Ethereum over traditional computing platforms, including its decentralized nature, security, and the ability to execute code on a global scale without the need for intermediaries. 

Overall, the Ethereum whitepaper introduced a revolutionary concept of using blockchain technology for more than just currency, paving the way for the development of numerous decentralized applications and projects within the blockchain space. The Ethereum network has since grown to become one of the most widely used and popular blockchain platforms, with a thriving ecosystem of developers and users.  

These whitepapers served as blueprints for two of the most influential and groundbreaking projects in the cryptocurrency and blockchain industry. They provided a clear and concise explanation of the underlying technology, the project’s goals, and its potential benefits, helping to establish credibility and attract investment in the projects.

What is the Difference Between Whitepaper and Litepaper in Crypto?

Here are five key differences between whitepapers and litepapers in the crypto industry:

Length is typically longer and more comprehensive Usually around 10 pages or less
Provides a detailed explanation of the project’s technology, features, and underlying principlesProvides a high-level overview of the project
Intended for technical experts, developers, and investors who are interested in the project’s technical detailsDesigned for a broader audience, including casual investors and those interested in the project’s high-level goals and potential benefits
Covers all aspects of a project, including its technical, economic, and governance aspectsTypically focuses on the project’s goals and potential benefits 
Often used to attract investment in a projectUsed to generate interest and awareness about a project

Screening Web 3 & Crypto Projects

White Paper helps an investor assess the utility and use cases of the projects that appear promising to them at first. Although analyzing a white paper is a vital process in crypto investment, it should always be done in concurrence with raising your queries about a new blockchain project on the official social media channels, enquiring about the project management plans, validating your risk profiles and favorite themes, etc. Having said that, a well-written white paper should give the investor answers to key questions given below.

1. What is the Project About?

The title gives an idea regarding the nature of the project, whether it is an NFT, DeFi, meme, or any other utility project. A structured white paper answers what the project intends to solve.

2. How Will the Project Function?

The sustainability of the project is backed ideally by facts such as proof of concept, governance structure, whether it is open source or not, what role the community will play, and what the reward structure for all parties involved looks like among others gain investor attention.

3. What is the Need for the Project?

When there is an established player already, the need for a similar like-minded project is definitely not a bad idea speaking purely from a competition perspective. But it is key for the whitepaper to tell you how the new project will add value to the communities we live in and the society at large especially when we are talking about borderless resources. And considering the infancy of the industry, a project often challenges itself to overcome and improve the deficiencies of the existing networks in Web 3. Whitepaper again should be able to demonstrate how it will add value and what is that it will primarily look to solve. 

4. Who are the Core Team Members?

Projects may reveal or conceal the details of team members based on certain situations. For instance, whenever the details of core team members behind the project are protected, it’s a good idea to check whether they have been audited by a reputed third-party audit firm like Certik which has a security score feature for the projects audited by them.

5. Project Roadmap

Roadmaps are steps taken by the core team to achieve their (technical) goals with the help community, partnerships, research, and product testing among others. This sequence of events may not be an absolute surety as they are dependent on multiple factors. That said, screening the road map gives you an idea regarding the future marketability and sustainability of the project.

6. Opportunities and Threats

The business scenario consists of opportunities and threats. A good project will be prepared, agile, and adapt to various internal/external threats and opportunities. For instance, when a project has a direct established competitor, it can envision in its whitepaper how it will mitigate this risk by design.

7. Tokenomics

This section in the whitepaper gives the investor an idea regarding the native token or coin (cryptocurrency) released after the project is launched. Tokenomics will include (but not limited to) the total supply of native coins, reward structure for core team members, network validators, and community, and whether the coin will be inflationary or deflationary by design. Many projects also would opt for a prolonged lock-in period for the team tokens when they themselves are convinced about their long-term prospects.

Now that you have an understanding of what a whitepaper is in the context of cryptocurrency, feel free to explore the Shardeum whitepaper. 


In short, reading and analyzing the whitepaper is one of the crucial steps before investing in a project. A good whitepaper helps an investor make informed decisions. The art of reading the whitepaper needs to be inculcated as part of a sound crypto investment regimen. Investors should be aware that there are other key factors they need to look at within and outside the white paper like consensus mechanism, energy efficiency, transaction costs, method of fundraising, efforts to make the community central to the project, etc. A fundamentally sound project further will always look to have control over the information delta between the core team and its community before the community can take over after the project launch.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

1. What should I look for in the Crypto Whitepaper?

When reviewing a whitepaper for a cryptocurrency project, there are several key things to look for:

  • The project’s goals and objectives: what problems does the project aim to solve? What are its key objectives?
  • The technology and infrastructure: How does the project’s technology work? What are its key features and functionalities?
  • The team: Who are the key team members and advisors? What experience and expertise do they bring to the project?
  • The tokenomics: What is the role of the project’s native token? How is it used within the project’s ecosystem?
  • The roadmap and milestones: What are the project’s key milestones and development roadmap? What are the timelines for each stage of development?

Overall, a good whitepaper should provide a clear and detailed explanation of the project’s goals, technology, team, and tokenomics, as well as a well-defined roadmap for development and growth.

2. Where to Find Crypto Whitepapers?

Crypto whitepapers are typically available on the project’s website or on popular crypto forums and databases such as GitHub. Additionally, many whitepapers are available on the project’s social media channels or through their community networks. It is important to ensure that the whitepaper is authentic and has not been altered or tampered with.

3. What Defines a Whitepaper?

A whitepaper is an authoritative report or guide that informs readers about a complex issue, technology, or project. In the context of cryptocurrencies, a whitepaper is a detailed document that outlines the goals, technology, team, and tokenomics of a new crypto project. The purpose of a whitepaper is to provide potential investors and users with a comprehensive understanding of the project’s goals and technology, as well as a clear roadmap for development and growth. Whitepapers are often used to attract investment in a project and to establish credibility and legitimacy in the crypto industry. 

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Opinions expressed in this publication are those of the author(s). They do not necessarily purport to reflect the opinions or views of Shardeum Foundation.

About the Author : Bibin Prasannan is a passionate musculoskeletal physiotherapist interested in exploring future value gems in crypto. He is keen to explore the benefits of blockchain technology for the health care sector. You can follow him on LinkedIn

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