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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've got bitcoin-the-token, a snippet of code that represents ownership of an electronic concept kind of like a digital IOU. On the other hand, you have 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, such as a bank or payment gateway. It's made and held electronically. Bitcoins arent printed, for example dollars or euros theyre produced by computers all around the world, using free software.
It was the first instance of what we call cryptocurrencies, a growing asset class which shares several characteristics 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 system based on mathematical evidence. The idea was to generate a means of exchange, independent of any central power, which could be transferred electronically in a secure, verifiable and immutable manner.
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Bitcoin can be used to pay for things electronically, if the two parties are willing. In that sense, its similar to conventional dollars, euros, or yen, that are also 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 committed computers spread around the world. This brings individuals and groups who 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. 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 value relative to others. Holders of the currency (and notably citizens with very little alternative) keep 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 function in semi-anonymity. Since there's absolutely no central validator, users do browse this site not need to identify themselves when sending bitcoin to another user. When a transaction request is filed, the protocol assesses all previous transactions to confirm that the sender gets the necessary bitcoin in addition to the ability to send them.
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In practice, each user is identified by 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 required by law to perform identity checks on their customers before they're allowed to purchase or sell bitcoin, facilitating another way that bitcoin usage can be tracked. Since the network is transparent, the advancement of a particular 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 more than an hour has passed, it is impossible to modify.
While this may 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 could 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 utilized for, as well as how you can purchase, sell and store your bitcoin. We also 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, how you can get it and how it can help 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 profit, which scams to avoid. It is going to also guide you to sources that will help you shop and use your very first parts of digital currency.