What is bitcoin ?
Bitcoin is a digital currency created in 2009 that uses decentralised technology for secure payments and storing money that doesn’t require banks or people’s names. It was announced on an email circular as a way to liberate money in a similar way to how the internet made information…
Bitcoin was the first cryptocoin currency ever invented. No one knows exactly who created it – cryptocurrencies are designed for maximum anonymity – but bitcoins first appeared in 2009 from a developer supposedly named Satoshi Nakamoto. He has since disappeared and left behind a Bitcoin fortune.
Why Bitcoin ?
Bitcoins can be used to buy merchandise anonymously. In addition, international payments are easy and cheap because bitcoins are not tied to any country or subject to regulation. Small businesses may like them because there are no credit card fees. Some people just buy bitcoins as an investment, hoping that they’ll go up in value.
How to get bitcoins ?
Bitcoins can be obtained in a number of different ways. It’s possible to accept them as payment for goods or services.
Buy on an exchange :
Many marketplaces called “bitcoin exchanges” allow people to buy or sell bitcoins using different currencies. Coinbase is a leading exchange, along with Bitstamp and Bitfinex. But security can be a concern: bitcoins worth tens of millions of dollars were stolen from Bitfinex when it was hacked in 2016.
People can send bitcoins to each other using mobile apps or their computers. It’s similar to sending cash digitally.
People compete to “mine” bitcoins using computers to solve complex math puzzles. This is how bitcoins are created. Currently, a winner is rewarded with 12.5 bitcoins roughly every 10 minutes.
How bitcoins work ?
Bitcoins are completely virtual coins designed to be ‘self-contained’ for their value, with no need for banks to move and store the money.
Once you own bitcoins, they behave like physical gold coins: they possess value and trade just as if they were nuggets of gold in your pocket. You can use your bitcoins to purchase goods and services online, or you can tuck them away and hope that their value increases over the years.
Bitcoins are traded from one personal ‘wallet’ to another. A wallet is a small personal database that you store on your computer drive (i.e cold storage), on your smartphone, on your tablet, or somewhere in the cloud (hot storage).
For all intents, bitcoins are forgery-resistant. It is so computationally-intensive to create a bitcoin, it isn’t financially worth it for counterfeiters to manipulate the system.
Abuse of bitcoin
1) Technical weakness – time delay in confirmation: bitcoins can be double-spent in some rare instances during the confirmation interval. Because bitcoins travel peer-to-peer, it takes several seconds for a transaction to be confirmed across the P2P swarm of computers. During these few seconds, a dishonest person who employs fast clicking can submit a second payment of the same bitcoins to a different recipient.
While the system will eventually catch the double-spending and negate the dishonest second transaction, if the second recipient transfers goods to the dishonest buyer before they receive confirmation, then that second recipient will lose both the payment and the goods.
2) Human dishonesty – pool organizers taking unfair share slices: Because bitcoin mining is best achieved through pooling (joining a group of thousands of other miners), the organizers of each pool get the privilege of choosing how to divide up any bitcoins that are discovered. Bitcoin mining pool organizers can dishonestly take more bitcoin mining shares for themselves.
3) Human mismanagement – online exchanges: With Mt. Gox being the biggest example, the people running unregulated online exchanges that trade cash for bitcoins can be dishonest or incompetent. This is the same as Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac investment banks going under because of human dishonesty and incompetence. The only difference is that conventional banking losses are partially insured for the bank users, while bitcoin exchanges have no insurance coverage for users.
Four Reasons Why Bitcoins Are Such a Big Deal
There is a lot of controversy around bitcoins. These are the top reasons why:
1) Bitcoins are not created by any central bank, nor regulated by any government. Accordingly, there are no banks logging your money movement, and government tax agencies and police cannot track your money. This is bound to change eventually, as unregulated money is a real threat to government control, taxation, and policing.
Indeed, bitcoins have become a tool for contraband trade and money laundering, precisely because of the lack of government oversight. The value of bitcoins skyrocketed in the past because wealthy criminals were purchasing bitcoins in large volumes. Because there is no regulation, however, you can lose out immensely as a miner or investor.
2) Bitcoins completely bypass banks. Bitcoins are transferred via a peer-to-peer network between individuals, with no middleman bank to take a slice.
Bitcoin wallets cannot be seized or frozen or audited by banks and law enforcement. Bitcoin wallets cannot have spending and withdrawal limits imposed on them. For all intents: nobody but the owner of the bitcoin wallet decides how their wealth will be managed.
This is really threatening to banks, as you might guess.
3) Bitcoins are changing how we store and spend our personal wealth. Since the advent of printed (and eventually virtual) money, the world has handed over the power of currency to a central mint and various banks. These banks print our virtual money, store our virtual money, move our virtual money, and charge us for their middleman services.
If banks need more currency, they simply print more or conjure more digits in their electronic ledgers. This system is easily abused and gamed by banks because paper money is essentially paper checks with a promise to have value, with no actual physical gold behind the scenes to back those promises.
Bitcoins are designed to put the control of personal wealth back into the hands of the individual. Instead of paper or virtual bank balances that promise to have value, Bitcoins are actual packages of complex data that have value in themselves.
4) Bitcoin transactions are irreversible. Conventional payment methods, like a credit card charge, bank draft, personal checks, or wire transfer, do have the benefit of being insured and reversible by the banks involved. In the case of bitcoins, every time bitcoins change hands and change wallets, the result is final. Simultaneously, there is no insurance protection of your bitcoin wallet: If you lose your wallet’s hard drive data or even your wallet password, remember: your wallet’s contents are gone forever.