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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've got bitcoin-the-token, a snippet of code which represents ownership of an electronic concept kind of like a virtual IOU. On the other hand, you've got bitcoin-the-protocol, a distributed 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, like a bank or payment gateway. It is made and held electronically. Bitcoins arent printed, like dollars or euros theyre produced by computers all around the planet, using free software.
It was the very first instance of what we today call cryptocurrencies, a growing strength class that shares some characteristics of traditional currencies, with verification based on cryptography.
A pseudonymous software programmer going by the name of Satoshi Nakamoto suggested bitcoin in 2008, within an electronic payment system based on mathematical proof. The idea was to produce a means of exchange, independent of any central authority, 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, that can also be traded digitally.
Bitcoins most important characteristic is that 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 committed computers 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 simplifies the dual spending issue of electronic currencies (in which digital assets can readily be copied 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 value relative to others. Holders of this currency (and notably citizens with very little alternative) bear the price.
Together with bitcoin, on the other hand, the distribution is closely controlled by the underlying algorithm. Even a small number of new bitcoins trickle every hourand will continue to do so at a diminishing rate until a max of 21 million has been attained. This creates bitcoin more appealing as an asset in theory, if demand grows and the supply remains the same, the value will increase. .
Even though senders of traditional electronic payments are often identified (for verification purposes, and to abide by anti-money laundering and other legislation), users of bitcoin in theory operate 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 filed, 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, every user is identified with the address of their pocket. Transactions can, with a little effort, be tracked this way. Also, law enforcement has developed methods to identify consumers if necessary.
Additionally, most exchanges are additional info required by law to perform identity checks on their customers before they're allowed to buy or sell bitcoin, facilitating another manner that bitcoin utilization can be tracked. 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 ok, return the money. When a transaction is recorded on the network, and when greater than an hour has passed, then it is not possible 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 called a satoshi. It's one hundred millionth of a bitcoin (0.00000001) at todays prices, roughly 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, in addition to how you can buy, 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 manual is for you. It'll explain how the system operates, how you can use it to your gain, which scams to avoid. It will also direct you to resources that will help you store and use your first pieces of digital currency.