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To cut through some of the confusion surrounding bitcoin, we need to separate it into two components. On the one hand, you have bitcoin-the-token, a snippet of code that represents ownership of an electronic concept sort 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 machine enables payments to be sent between users without passing through a central authority, such as a bank or payment gateway. It's made and kept electronically. Bitcoins arent printed, for example dollars or euros theyre made by computers all around the world, using free software.
It was the very first instance of what we today call cryptocurrencies, a growing strength class that shares some features of traditional currencies, together with verification based on cryptography.
A pseudonymous software programmer going by the name of Satoshi Nakamoto suggested bitcoin in 2008, within an electronic payment method based on mathematical proof. The idea was to generate a means of exchange, independent of any central authority, which could be transferred electronically in a secure, verifiable and immutable way.
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Bitcoin can be utilized to cover things electronically, if both parties are willing. In that sense, its like conventional dollars, euros, or yen, that can also be traded digitally.
Bitcoins most important characteristic is that it is decentralized. No single institution controls the bitcoin network. It is maintained by a group of volunteer coders, and run by an open network of dedicated servers spread around the globe. This attracts individuals and groups who are uncomfortable with the control that banks or government institutions have over their money. .
Bitcoin simplifies the double spending problem of electronic currencies (in which electronic assets can readily be replicated 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. With bitcoin, the integrity of the 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 try to manipulate a currencys worth relative to other people. Holders of this currency (and especially citizens with 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 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 previous transactions to confirm that the sender gets the necessary bitcoin as well as the authority to send them.
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In practice, each user is identified with the address of his or her wallet. Transactions can, with some effort, be monitored this way. Also, law enforcement has developed methods to identify consumers if necessary.
Furthermore, most exchanges are required by law to perform identity checks on their clients before they are allowed to buy or sell bitcoin, facilitating another manner that bitcoin utilization can be monitored. Since the network is transparent, the advancement of a particular 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 recorded on the network, and if more than an hour has passed, then it's not possible to modify.
Even though this might 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's one hundred millionth of a bitcoin (0.00000001) at todays prices, about one hundredth of a cent. This could conceivably enable microtransactions that traditional electronic money cannot.
Read more to find out how bitcoin transactions are processed and how bitcoins are mined, what it can be used for, as well as how you can buy, sell and save 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 help you, without floundering into technical details, this manual is for you. It will explain how the system operates, how you can use it to your profit, which scams to avoid. It will also guide you to resources that will enable you to shop and use your very first parts of digital currency.