Updates and other decisions are made by the ‘miners’. Miners use computers or specialized hardware to generate large amounts of computer processing power, and this is used to operate the network and process transactions. In return, they receive transaction fees. They will also receive freshly generated bitcoins until the last bitcoin of the 21 million BTC supply is ‘mined.’ At the current pace of mining, this will happen in the year 2140. If Bitcoin is still around, the miners will be incentivized to do their work for the fees alone, keeping the network up and running.
In the case of Bitcoin, miners run computer programs to verify the data that creates a complete transaction history of all Bitcoin. A technology known as the blockchain, which is used to create irreversible and traceable transactions, makes the process of verification possible. Once a miner has verified the data (which comes in a block, hence, blockchain), they are rewarded with some amount of digital currency, the same currency for which they were verifying the transaction history. So mining Bitcoin, for example, would earn you Bitcoin.
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