What is bitcoin?

You may have heard or seen the word bitcoin somewhere, but not fully understand what bitcoin is or how crypto currency works. The article below will answer all the questions you have, and if it does not ask your question in the comments section below.

What is Bitcoin?
Bitcoin is a form of digital currency, created and held electronically. No one controls it. Bitcoins aren’t printed, like dollars or euros – they’re produced by people, and increasingly businesses, running computers all around the world, using software that solves mathematical problems. It’s the first example of a growing category of money known as crypto currency.

Unlike traditional currency which can be printed endlessly. The bitcoin protocol – the rules that make bitcoin work – say that only 21 million bitcoins can ever be created by miners. However, these coins can be divided into smaller parts, making it viable as a medium for transactions as well as providing deflation resistance.

What are its characteristics?

Bitcoin has several important features that set it apart from government-backed currencies.

1. It is easy to set up

Conventional banks make you jump through hoops simply to open a bank account. Setting up merchant accounts for payment is another Kafkaesque task, beset by bureaucracy. However, you can set up a bitcoin address in seconds, no questions asked, and with no fees payable.

2. It is decentralized

The bitcoin network isn’t controlled by one central authority. Every machine that mines bitcoin and processes transactions makes up a part of the network, and the machines work together. That means that, in theory, one central authority can’t tinker with monetary policy and cause a meltdown – or simply decide to take people’s bitcoins away from them, as the Central European Bank decided to do in Cyprus in early 2013. And if some part of the network goes offline for some reason, the money keeps on flowing.

3. It's anonymous

Well, kind of. Users can hold multiple bitcoin addresses, and they aren’t linked to names, addresses, or other personally identifying information. However…

4. It's completely transparent

…bitcoin stores details of every single transaction that ever happened in the network in a huge version of a general ledger, called the blockchain. The blockchain tells all.
If you have a publicly used bitcoin address, anyone can tell how many bitcoins are stored at that address. They just don’t know that it’s yours.
There are measures that people can take to make their activities more opaque on the bitcoin network, though, such as not using the same bitcoin addresses consistently, and not transferring lots of bitcoin to a single address.

5. Transaction fees are miniscule

Your bank may charge you a $10-$20 fee for international transfers. Bitcoin doesn’t.

6. It’s fast

You can send money anywhere and it will arrive minutes later, as soon as the bitcoin network processes the payment.

7. It’s non-repudiable

When your bitcoins are sent, there’s no getting them back, unless the recipient returns them to you.

So, bitcoin has a lot going for it, in theory. But how does it work, in practice? Read more to find out how bitcoins are mined, what some of the common myths and misconceptions about bitcoin are, and how the network keeps track of everything.

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