What is Bitcoin?
Bitcoin is a form of digital currency, created and held electronically. No one controls it. Bitcoins aren’t printed, like dollars or euros – they’re produced by people, and increasingly businesses, running computers all around the world, using software that solves mathematical problems.
It’s the first example of a growing category of money known as cryptocurrency.
What makes it different from normal currencies and other cryptocurrency?
Bitcoin can be used to buy things electronically. In that sense, it’s like conventional dollars, euros, or yen, which are also traded digitally.
However, bitcoin’s most important characteristic, and the thing that makes it different to conventional money, is that it is decentralized. No single institution controls the bitcoin network. This puts some people at ease, because it means that a large bank can’t control their money.
Who is its creator?
A software developer called Satoshi Nakamoto proposed bitcoin, which was an electronic payment system based on mathematical proof. The idea was to produce a currency independent of any central authority, transferable electronically, more or less instantly, with very low transaction fees.
Who is printing it?
No one. This currency isn’t physically printed in the shadows by a central bank, unaccountable to the population, and making its own rules. Those banks can simply produce more money to cover the national debt, thus devaluing their currency.
Instead, bitcoin is created digitally, by a community of people that anyone can join. Bitcoins are ‘mined’, using computing power in a distributed network.
This network also processes transactions made with the virtual currency, effectively making bitcoin its own payment network.
The bitcoin protocol – the rules that make bitcoin work – say that only 21 million bitcoins can ever be created by miners. However, these coins can be divided into smaller parts (the smallest divisible amount is one hundred millionth of a bitcoin and is called a ‘Satoshi’, after the founder of bitcoin).
On what is bitcoin based ?
Conventional currency has been based on gold or silver. Theoretically, you knew that if you handed over a dollar at the bank, you could get some gold back (although this didn’t actually work in practice). But bitcoin isn’t based on gold; it’s based on mathematics.
Around the world, people are using software programs that follow a mathematical formula to produce bitcoins. The mathematical formula is freely available, so that anyone can check it.
The software is also open source, meaning that anyone can look at it to make sure that it does what it is supposed to.
What are Bitcoin characteristics?
Bitcoin has several important features that set it apart from government-backed currencies.
1. It’s decentralized
2. It’s easy to set up
Conventional banks make you jump through hoops simply to open a bank account. Setting up merchant accounts for payment is another Kafkaesque task, beset by bureaucracy. However, you can set up a bitcoin address in seconds, no questions asked, and with no fees payable.
3. It’s anonymous
Well, kind of. Users can hold multiple bitcoin addresses, and they aren’t linked to names, addresses, or other personally identifying information. However…
4. It’s completely transparent
…bitcoin stores details of every single transaction that ever happened in the network in a huge version of a general ledger, called the blockchain. The blockchain tells all.
If you have a publicly used bitcoin address, anyone can tell how many bitcoins are stored at that address. They just don’t know that it’s yours.
There are measures that people can take to make their activities more opaque on the bitcoin network, though, such as not using the same bitcoin addresses consistently, and not transferring lots of bitcoin to a single address.
5. Transaction fees are miniscule
Your bank may charge you a £10 fee for international transfers. Bitcoin doesn’t.
6. It’s fast
You can send money anywhere and it will arrive minutes later, as soon as the bitcoin network processes the payment.
7. It’s non-repudiable
So, bitcoin has a lot going for it, in theory. But how does it work, in practice? Read more to find out how bitcoins are mined, what happens when a bitcoin transaction occurs, and how the network keeps track of everything.
Have you ever heard of cryptocurrency? In short, it is a digital currency. At the moment, the most popular cryptocurrency is BitCoin. It is more advantaged than common currencies and bank accounts. BitCoin is not controlled by anybody. It does not have an owner, which means that no one is able to freeze or to take away your capital. You can send money anonymously halfway around the world for free in the blink of an eye. You can use BitCoins to pay for your online shopping, you can withdraw them from a cash machine, you can even buy a car with BitCoins! More and more companies decide to make BitCoins a fully acceptable form of payment.
Now, imagine this: it is 2010 and you find out that the first cryptocurrency, BitCoin, was created. At the beginning, it was almost of no value, now, however, one BitCoin is worth $1 on the stock market. Interesting entrepreneurship – you think – I will buy BitCoins for $100. On one hand, it’s $100 so it would be a pity if I lost it. On the other hand, however, if this project works out, and in 2 or 3 years one BitCoin would cost $10, $100 would turn into $1000. What would you do if you had such opportunity?
I don’t know what you would have done, but let me tell you what I did – NOTHING. I read about BitCoin, I closed the web page, and returned to my regular duties… If you are not familiar with the history of BitCoin, I will tell you what happened after three years. Its value didn’t reach $10. After three years its value was $1,200! It means that BitCoins purchased for $100 were worth $120,000! It was a huge speculative bubble, indeed, and its price declined drastically, but since this crash it has been going up systematically, and in 2017 it reached $1000 again.