Base58 is a group of binary-to-text encoding schemes used to represent large integers as alphanumeric text, introduced by Satoshi Nakamoto for use with Bitcoin. It has since been applied to other cryptocurrencies and applications. It is similar to Base64 but has been modified to avoid both non-alphanumeric characters and letters which might look ambiguous when printed. It is therefore designed for human users who manually enter the data, copying from some visual source, but also allows easy copy and paste because a double-click will usually select the whole string.
Details and variants
Compared with Base64, the following similar-looking letters are omitted: 0 (zero), O (capital o), I (capital i) and l (lower case L) as well as the non-alphanumeric characters + (plus) and / (slash). In contrast with Base64, the digits of the encoding do not line up well with byte boundaries of the original data. For this reason, the method is well-suited to encode large integers, but not designed to encode longer portions of binary data. The actual order of letters in the alphabet depends on the application, which is the reason why the term “Base58” alone is not enough to fully describe the format. A variant, Base56, excludes 1 (one) and o (lowercase o) compared with Base 58.
For Bitcoin addresses, the following alphabet is used:
Base58Check is a Base58 encoding format that unambiguously encodes the type of data in the first few characters and includes an error detection code in the last few characters.
- Andreas M. Antonopoulos. "Mastering Bitcoin". section "Base58 and Base58Check Encoding". (O’Reilly, 2015).
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