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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 which represents ownership of a digital concept kind of like a virtual IOU. On the other hand, you have bitcoin-the-protocol, a dispersed network which maintains a ledger of balances of bitcoin-the-token.
The system enables payments to be sent between users without passing through a central authority, like a bank or payment gateway. It's made and held electronically. Bitcoins arent printed, like dollars or euros theyre made by computers all around the world, using free software.
It was the first instance of what we today call cryptocurrencies, a growing strength class which shares some characteristics of traditional currencies, with verification based on cryptography.
A pseudonymous software developer going by the name of Satoshi Nakamoto suggested bitcoin in 2008, within an electronic payment method based on mathematical evidence. The idea was to generate a means of exchange, independent of any central power, which may be transferred electronically in a secure, verifiable and immutable manner.
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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 through an open network of committed servers spread around the globe. This brings individuals and groups who are uncomfortable with the control that banks or government institutions have over their money. .
Bitcoin solves the double spending issue of electronic currencies (in which electronic assets can readily be replicated and re-used) via 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 value relative to other people. Holders of this currency (and notably citizens with very little alternative) bear the cost.
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 function in semi-anonymity. Since there's absolutely no central validator, users do not need to identify themselves when sending bitcoin to another user. When a transaction request is submitted, the protocol assesses all prior transactions to confirm that the sender gets the necessary bitcoin as well as the ability to send them.
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In practice, each user is identified with the address of their pocket. Transactions can, with some effort, be monitored this way. Additionally, law enforcement has developed methods to identify users if necessary.
Furthermore, most exchanges are required by legislation to perform identity checks on their customers before they're permitted to buy or sell bitcoin, facilitating another way that bitcoin utilization can be monitored. Since the network is transparent, the advancement of a specific transaction is observable to all.
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This is because there's no central adjudicator that can say ok, return the money. If a transaction is listed on the network, and if greater than an hour has passed, it is not possible to change.
While this may disquiet some, it does mean that any transaction on the bitcoin network cannot be tampered with.
The smallest unit of a bitcoin is called a satoshi. It is one hundred millionth of a bitcoin (0.00000001) in todays prices, about 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 check that way bitcoins are mined, what it can be used for, as well as how you can purchase, sell and store your bitcoin. We also explain a few alternatives to bitcoin, in addition to how 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 is going to also direct you to sources which will help you store and use your first pieces of digital currency.