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To cut through some of this confusion surrounding bitcoin, we need to divide it into two components. On the one hand, you have bitcoin-the-token, a snippet of code that represents ownership of a digital concept kind of like a virtual IOU. On the other hand, you've got bitcoin-the-protocol, a dispersed network that maintains a ledger of balances of bitcoin-the-token.
The system enables payments to be sent between users without passing via a central authority, like a bank or payment gateway. It's made and held electronically. Bitcoins arent printed, for example dollars or euros theyre made by computers all around the planet, using free software.
It was the very first instance of what we call cryptocurrencies, a growing strength class which shares several features of traditional currencies, with verification based on cryptography.
A pseudonymous software developer going by the name of Satoshi Nakamoto proposed bitcoin in 2008, as an electronic payment system based on mathematical proof. The idea was to generate a means of exchange, independent of any central power, which could be transferred electronically in a secure, verifiable and immutable way.
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Bitcoin can be utilized to pay for things electronically, if both parties are willing. In that sense, its like conventional dollars, euros, or yen, which can also be traded digitally.
Bitcoins most important feature is it is decentralized. No single institution controls the bitcoin network. It's maintained by a group of volunteer coders, and run by an open network of dedicated computers spread around the world. This brings individuals and groups who are uncomfortable with all the control that banks or government institutions have over their money. .
Bitcoin simplifies the dual spending problem of electronic currencies (in which digital assets can easily be copied and re-used) through an ingenious combination of cryptography and economic incentives. In electronic fiat currencies, this function is fulfilled by banks, which gives them control over the traditional system. Together with bitcoin, the integrity of these transactions is maintained by a distributed and open network, owned by no-one. .
Fiat currencies (dollars, euros, yen, etc.) have an unlimited supply central banks can issue as many as they want, and can attempt to manipulate a currencys worth relative to others. Holders of this currency (and notably citizens with little alternative) keep the price.
Together with bitcoin, on the other hand, the supply is closely controlled by the underlying algorithm. A small number of new bitcoins trickle every hour, and will continue to do so at a diminishing rate until a maximum of 21 million has been attained. This makes bitcoin more attractive as an asset in theory, if demand grows and the supply remains the same, the value will increase. .
While senders of traditional electronic payments are usually identified (for verification purposes, and to comply with anti-money laundering and other legislation), users of bitcoin in theory operate in semi-anonymity. Since there is no central validator, users do not need to identify themselves when sending bitcoin to another user. When a transaction request is submitted, the protocol checks all prior transactions to confirm that the sender has the necessary bitcoin as well as the ability to send them.
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In practice, every user is identified with the address of their wallet. Transactions can, with a little effort, be monitored this way. Additionally, law enforcement has developed methods to identify users if necessary.
Furthermore, most exchanges are required by law to perform identity checks on their clients before they are permitted to purchase or sell bitcoin, facilitating another manner that bitcoin usage can be monitored. Since the network is transparent, the progress of a specific transaction is observable to all.
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This is because there is no central adjudicator that can say okay, return the money. If a transaction is listed on the network, and when more than an hour has passed, then it's impossible to change.
While this may disquiet a few, it does mean that any transaction on the bitcoin network cannot be tampered with.
The smallest unit of a bitcoin is referred to as a satoshi. It is one hundred millionth of a bitcoin (0.00000001) in todays prices, roughly one hundredth of a cent. This could conceivably enable microtransactions that traditional electronic money cannot.
Read to find out how bitcoin transactions are processed and the way bitcoins are mined, what it can be used for, in addition to how you can buy, sell and save your bitcoin. We also explain a few alternatives content to bitcoin, as well as the way its underlying technology the blockchain works. .
If you want to know what is Bitcoin, the way you can get it and how it can assist you, without floundering into technical details, this guide is for you. It will explain how the system works, how you can use it to your profit, which scams to avoid. It will also direct you to sources that will enable you to shop and use your first pieces of digital currency.