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To cut through some of this 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 kind of like a virtual IOU. On the other hand, you have bitcoin-the-protocol, a dispersed network that maintains a ledger of balances of bitcoin-the-token.
The machine enables payments to be sent between users without passing via a central authority, such as a bank or payment gateway. It's made and kept electronically. Bitcoins arent printed, like dollars or euros theyre produced by computers all around the planet, using free software.
It was the first instance of what we today call cryptocurrencies, a growing asset class that 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 produce a means of exchange, independent of any central authority, that may be transferred electronically in a secure, verifiable and immutable manner.
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Bitcoin can be used to pay for things electronically, if both parties are willing. In that sense, its similar to 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 through an open network of dedicated computers 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 easily 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. 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 other people. Holders of the currency (and especially citizens with little alternative) keep the cost.
Together with bitcoin, on the other hand, the supply is closely controlled by the underlying algorithm. Even a small number of new bitcoins trickle out every hourand will continue to do so at a diminishing rate until a maximum of 21 million has been reached. This makes bitcoin more attractive as an asset in concept, if demand grows and the distribution 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 concept function 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 in addition to the ability to send them.
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In practice, every user is identified with the address of his or her pocket. Transactions can, with some effort, be monitored this way. Additionally, law enforcement has developed methods to identify users if necessary.
Additionally, most exchanges are required by law to perform identity checks on their customers before they're permitted to purchase or sell bitcoin, facilitating another manner that content bitcoin utilization can be monitored. Since the network is transparent, the progress of a specific transaction is visible to all.
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This is because there's no central adjudicator that can say okay, return the money. If a transaction is recorded on the network, and when greater than an hour has passed, it is impossible to change.
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 is one hundred millionth of a bitcoin (0.00000001) in todays prices, about one hundredth of a cent. This may 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, in addition to how you can purchase, sell and save your bitcoin. We also explain a few alternatives to bitcoin, as well as how its underlying technology the blockchain functions. .
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'll explain how the system works, how you can use it for your profit, which scams to avoid. It is going to also guide you to sources which will help you store and use your very first parts of digital currency.