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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've got bitcoin-the-token, a snippet of code that represents ownership of an electronic concept sort of like a digital IOU. On the other hand, you've got 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, for example dollars or euros theyre produced by computers all around the planet, using free software.
It was the first example of what we call cryptocurrencies, a growing strength class that shares several features of traditional currencies, with verification based on cryptography.
A pseudonymous software developer going by the name of Satoshi Nakamoto suggested bitcoin in 2008, as an electronic payment system 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 used to cover things electronically, if the two parties are willing. In that sense, its like conventional dollars, euros, or yen, that are also traded digitally.
Bitcoins most important feature 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 servers spread around the world. This attracts individuals and groups that 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 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 the transactions is maintained by a distributed and open network, useful reference 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 very little alternative) keep the price.
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 submitted, the protocol assesses all prior transactions to confirm that the sender has the necessary bitcoin as well as the ability to send them.
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In practice, every user is identified by the address of their wallet. Transactions can, with a little effort, be monitored this way. Also, law enforcement has developed approaches to identify users if necessary.
Additionally, most exchanges are required by law to perform identity checks on their customers before they're allowed to purchase or sell bitcoin, facilitating another manner that bitcoin usage can be monitored. Since the network is transparent, the advancement of a particular transaction is visible to all.
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This is because there is no central adjudicator that can say okay, return the money. When a transaction is listed on the network, and if greater than an hour has passed, look these up then it is impossible to change.
Even though this might disquiet some, it will 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 may conceivably enable microtransactions that traditional electronic money cannot.
Read more to find out how bitcoin transactions are processed and the way bitcoins are mined, what it can be used for, in addition to how you can buy, sell and save your bitcoin. We also explain a few alternatives to bitcoin, as well as the way 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'll explain how the system operates, how you can use it for your gain, which scams to avoid. It will also direct you to sources that will help you shop and use your first pieces of digital currency.