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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 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 system enables payments to be sent between users without passing via 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 world, using free software.
It was the very first instance of what we today call cryptocurrencies, a growing strength class which shares several features 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 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 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's maintained by a group of volunteer coders, and run through an open network of committed servers spread around the world. This brings individuals and groups who are uncomfortable with all the control that banks or government institutions have over their money. .
Bitcoin solves the double spending issue 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, 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 this currency (and notably citizens with very little alternative) keep the cost.
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 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 gets the necessary bitcoin as well as the authority to send them.
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In practice, each user is identified with the address of their wallet. Transactions can, with a little effort, be tracked this way. Additionally, law enforcement has developed approaches to identify users if necessary.
Additionally, most exchanges are required by legislation to perform identity checks on their customers before they're allowed to purchase or sell bitcoin, facilitating another manner that bitcoin utilization can be tracked. Since the network is transparent, the advancement of a particular transaction is visible to all.
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This is because there's no central adjudicator that can say okay, return the money. When a transaction is listed on the network, and if more than an hour has passed, it is impossible to modify.
While this may disquiet a few, 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) in anonymous 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, in addition to how you can purchase, sell and save your bitcoin. We also explain a few alternatives to bitcoin, as well as 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 help 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 profit, which scams to avoid. It will also direct you to sources which will help you shop and use your very first pieces of digital currency.