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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 distributed 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 is made and kept 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 asset class that shares several characteristics of traditional currencies, together with verification based on cryptography.
A pseudonymous software developer going by the name of Satoshi Nakamoto proposed bitcoin in 2008, as an electronic payment method based on mathematical evidence. The idea was to produce a means of exchange, independent of any central power, 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 like conventional dollars, euros, or yen, that can also be traded digitally.
Bitcoins most important characteristic is 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 brings individuals and groups that are uncomfortable with the control that banks or government institutions have over their money. .
Bitcoin solves the double 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 very little alternative) keep the cost.
While senders of traditional electronic payments are often identified (for verification purposes, and to comply with anti-money laundering and other legislation), users of bitcoin in concept 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 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 this link his or her pocket. Transactions can, with a little effort, be tracked this way. Additionally, law enforcement has developed approaches to identify consumers if necessary.
Furthermore, most exchanges are required by legislation to perform identity checks on their clients before they are allowed to buy or sell bitcoin, facilitating another way that bitcoin usage can be tracked. Since the network is transparent, the progress 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. When a transaction is listed on the network, and when greater than an hour has passed, then it's not possible to change.
Even though this might disquiet a few, it will 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's one hundred millionth of a bitcoin (0.00000001) in todays prices, about one hundredth blog 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 purchase, sell and save your bitcoin. In addition, we explain a few alternatives to bitcoin, in addition to the way its underlying technology the blockchain functions. .
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 gain, which scams to avoid. It is going to also guide you to resources that will help you shop and use your very first parts of digital currency.