What Is Crypto? How do Cryptocurrencies Work?

Crypto has become incredibly popular. But how does this digital currency work? And are there cryptos other than Bitcoin?
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What Is Cryptocurrency? How do Cryptocurrencies Work?

Cryptocurrency (crypto) is a digital or virtual currency that is made secure using cryptography. This is a kind of encryption that makes it nearly impossible to counterfeit or “double spend”, that is, to spend the same crypto coin for more than one transaction.

So, what is crypto?

Cryptocurrency can be used for transactions between individuals, it can be used for online purchases, and as a store of value, which means people can purchase crypto and hold it in a digital wallet.

Crypto runs on a blockchain, which is a type of digital ledger that records and verifies every transaction.

Cryptocurrencies, such as Bitcoin, are decentralised, which means that no government, person, or “central organisation” has control over it. And that is exactly why some people love the idea of cryptocurrencies.

History of cryptocurrencies

The first cryptocurrency can be traced back to 2009 when an anonymous person, or group of people, created Bitcoin. They used the pseudonym Satoshi Nakamoto to represent the creator.

So far, no one knows for sure who Satoshi Nakamoto is, but this has created a lot of interest and reams of news articles about just who the mysterious creator of this revolutionary breakthrough cryptocurrency. People have guessed Nakamoto to be anyone from Elon Musk, to John McAfee, through to Hal Finney, who was the first person to receive Bitcoin, sent by Satoshi Nakamoto. But Nick Szabo is probably the most realistic candidate.

In any case, the creation of Bitcoin marked a significant milestone in the development of how “money” works, and many people are fascinated by the potential of how cryptocurrency could change the world for the better.

Bitcoin: The first cryptocurrency

Bitcoin, as the first cryptocurrency, became popular among tech enthusiasts and libertarians, who saw it as a way to bypass the traditional financial system. It was such a good idea that many other cryptocurrencies were created, including Ethereum, XRP, Solana, Dogecoin, and many others.

Each of these cryptocurrencies has their own unique features and use cases. But they all share the core principle of decentralisation and use blockchain technology to verify transactions.

What are altcoins?

Altcoins, or alternative cryptocurrencies, are any cryptocurrency other than Bitcoin. While Bitcoin is still the most well-known and widely used cryptocurrency, there are thousands of other cryptocurrencies that have emerged since its creation in 2009.

Altcoins can vary widely in terms of their features and use cases. Some altcoins are designed to improve upon the limitations of Bitcoin, such as faster transaction times or greater privacy features. Others are designed for specific use cases, such as gaming or social media platforms.

Cryptocurrency types: Types of crypto you need to know

There are over 12,000 cryptocurrencies currently available on the market. While most of these will die off and forever live in the crypto graveyard of broken dreams, some are really useful and are used by many people around the world.

Here are a few examples.

Bitcoin (BTC)

The first cryptocurrency, Bitcoin, is still the most popular and widely used cryptocurrency today.

It has the highest market capitalisation which means more people have bought it than any other cryptocurrency.

Ethereum (ETH) The name of Ethereum can be a little confusing, so this needs a bit of explaining. Ethereum is a network that anyone can use, but no one controls it (however developers do upgrade it occasionally). It lets people create and run different kinds of programs, such as games, social networks, or other cryptos, using smart contracts.

Ether is the cryptocurrency that powers the Ethereum network. It pays for things like the use of smart contracts and creating apps (called dApps) on the blockchain.

So, Ethereum is the network and Ether is the cryptocurrency. But confusingly, these two terms are used interchangeably when talking about the cryptocurrency. While the proper name for the crypto is Ether, most people just call it Ethereum, or “Eth”.

People can also own Ether just as an investment, and ETH is the cryptocurrency with the second-highest market capitalisation after Bitcoin. ETH enthusiasts often say a day will come when ETH will be more popular than Bitcoin, and they call this day “the flippening”. However, at the time of writing, this seems unlikely.


XRP is a cryptocurrency, intended for quick and secure international transactions. It is owned by a company called Ripple. It is used on the Ripple network, but anyone can buy and hold XRP as an investment.

Ripple have been part of a huge drama in the USA around regulation, so if you want a crypto rabbit hole to go down, the Ripple vs The U.S.’s SEC is a good one!


Tether is a stablecoin. This is a cryptocurrency that tries to keep its value stable by being backed by another asset, such as a fiat currency, or something like gold.

One Tether is worth one US dollar, most of the time. However, the stablecoin has been known to drop in value against the US dollar sometimes. At the time of writing, Tether was the most popular stablecoin.


Solana is a cryptocurrency and a blockchain platform with a goal of having high transaction speeds, while being decentralised. It charges lower fees than competing blockchains like Ethereum. The Solana network uses their native crypto (called SOL) to pay for things on the Solana network.


Dogecoin was created as a huge joke in 2013. For this reason, it is known as a “memecoin”. But strangely, it became really popular and has evolved into a well-known cryptocurrency.

It is even sometimes mentioned by Elon Musk, and the price usually jumps afterward.

The cryptocurrency has now found a use-case in tipping, donating, or sending money online. However, as a memecoin, Dogecoin price can be very volatile.

How does cryptocurrency work?

Cryptocurrencies work through a decentralised and distributed ledger called the blockchain.

Crypto and the blockchain

The blockchain records all transactions that occur on the network and is maintained by a network of nodes that validate and verify these transactions.

When you send or receive cryptocurrency, the transaction is broadcasted to the network of nodes on the blockchain. These nodes verify the transaction and add it to the blockchain ledger, creating a permanent transaction record.

Why is crypto so popular?

Crypto is gaining more recognition every day. The popularity of crypto can be attributed to its potential to disrupt traditional financial systems, offer greater privacy and security, and provide new investment opportunities.

However, cryptocurrency prices can be volatile. Also the crypto environment, being so new, is sometimes unregulated, or regulations around it are uncertain. This can make some people sceptical about it.

How to buy and sell cryptocurrency?

Cryptocurrencies can be bought and sold on cryptocurrency exchanges.

Cryptocurrency and exchanges

Exchanges are online platforms that allow users to buy, sell, and trade cryptocurrencies for other cryptocurrencies or fiat currencies, such as US dollars or euro.

To buy cryptocurrency, you will typically need to create an account with a cryptocurrency exchange like CoinJar, provide identification information, and link a bank account or credit card to your account.

Once you have purchased cryptocurrency, you can use it to buy goods and services from merchants who accept cryptocurrency as a form of payment.

How to make money investing in crypto?

Investing in cryptocurrencies can be a potentially lucrative way to make money, but it can also be risky due to the volatility of the market. If you're looking to make money by investing in crypto, here are some tips to keep in mind.

Do your research

Before investing in any cryptocurrency, it's essential to do your research and understand the technology behind the coin, as well as the market trends and its historical performance.

Diversify your portfolio

It’s best to diversify your cryptocurrency portfolio to minimise your risk. You can do this by investing in several different cryptocurrencies across different market sectors and geographic regions.

Invest for the long-term

Cryptocurrency markets are seen as highly volatile, and prices can fluctuate often. It's important to invest for the long term and avoid making impulsive decisions based on short-term market movements.

Cryptocurrency prices

The price of each cryptocurrency varies widely and is determined by the supply and demand in the market. The price of a cryptocurrency is typically determined by the price of the most recent trade on a cryptocurrency exchange.

When a new cryptocurrency is launched, its price is often initially set by the creators or developers, who determine the initial supply and set the initial price.

The initial price of a cryptocurrency can vary widely depending on various factors, including the demand for the cryptocurrency and the overall market sentiment towards cryptocurrencies.

How are institutions planning to use cryptos?

Institutions are exploring a variety of use cases for cryptocurrencies.

Automatic sales tax payment

Some governments are exploring the use of cryptocurrencies to automate sales tax payments. For example, in Switzerland, in some areas, citizens can actually pay their tax using crypto.

And in Colorado in the U.S., citizens can pay their taxes in crypto. Several states in the USA are also moving towards allowing their citizens to pay their tax with crypto.

And of course, in El Salvador, where Bitcoin is legal tender, citizens can also pay their tax using crypto.

Tax collection

Cryptocurrency exchanges are used to improve tax collection. For example, the South Korean government has implemented a cryptocurrency tax law that requires cryptocurrency exchanges to report users' transactions to the government.

International payments

Cryptocurrencies can be used for international payments, bypassing the traditional banking system and the SWIFT network. In fact, companies are starting to pay other companies using crypto.


Institutional investors are increasingly investing in cryptocurrencies as an asset class because they can provide diversification benefits and potentially higher returns than traditional assets.

Blockchain technology adoption

Many institutions are also exploring the use of blockchain technology (which underpins cryptocurrencies) for a variety of applications beyond just payments. These include supply chain management, asset tracking, and more.

Cryptocurrency: A secure network

Peer-to-peer (P2P) technology is closely related to cryptocurrencies, as many cryptocurrencies use P2P networks to facilitate transactions and secure the network.

In a P2P network, each node (or user) on the network can act as both a client and a server, meaning they can both consume and provide resources to other nodes on the network. In the context of cryptocurrencies, this means that each node on the network can validate and verify transactions, as well as store a copy of the blockchain ledger.

What are advantages of crypto?

The following are some advantages of cryptocurrency.


Cryptocurrencies operate on a decentralised network, meaning no single entity or government controls the network. This makes cryptocurrencies immune to government interference or manipulation.


Cryptocurrencies can be used anonymously without revealing personal information or identity, which is particularly attractive to users concerned about privacy.


Cryptocurrencies can be used by anyone with just an internet connection, regardless of their location or financial status.


Cryptocurrency transactions are usually processed faster than traditional payment methods, especially for cross-border transactions.


Cryptocurrencies are secured through advanced cryptography, which ensures that transactions are secure and cannot be altered or reversed.


Cryptocurrencies are stored in digital wallets, which can be either software or hardware-based. Software wallets are typically free and easy to use, but they may be less secure than hardware wallets, which are physical devices that store your private keys offline.

Frequently Asked Questions

What applications run using cryptocurrencies?

Cryptocurrencies enable a variety of decentralised applications, such as Decentralised Finance (DeFi), which offers traditional financial services such as lending, borrowing, and trading without intermediaries; non-fungible tokens (NFTs), which allow for unique digital assets such as art and collectibles to be bought and sold; and Decentralised Autonomous Organisations (DAOs), which allow for decentralised decision-making and governance through voting systems.

These are just a few examples of how cryptocurrencies and blockchain technology can be used.

Are cryptocurrencies good investments?

Whether or not cryptocurrencies are good investments depends on various factors, such as your risk tolerance, investment goals, and market conditions. Cryptocurrencies have been known to experience extreme volatility, with prices fluctuating rapidly, sometimes in a matter of minutes or hours.

Are cryptocurrencies legal?

Cryptocurrencies are legal in many countries, but their legal status varies from country to country. Some countries have embraced cryptocurrencies and have even developed regulatory frameworks to govern their use, while others have banned or restricted their use.

What is cryptocurrency and how does it work?

To summarise the above, cryptocurrency is a digital payment system that does not rely on banks or intermediaries to verify transactions. It uses cryptography, or the process of writing and deciphering code, to issue, verify, and secure transactions.

Cryptocurrency exists only in digital form, and people mainly use it for online transactions, although some physical purchases are possible. Cryptocurrency transactions are verified and recorded on a distributed public ledger called a blockchain, which is maintained by a network of computers. Cryptocurrency can also be bought, sold, or traded on crypto exchanges like CoinJar.

Is crypto legal in Australia?

Yes, cryptocurrency is legal in Australia and is treated as property. However, it is subject to various laws and regulations, such as the Anti-Money Laundering and Counter-Terrorism Financing Act, which requires cryptocurrency exchanges to register with AUSTRAC, implement identification and verification of users, maintain compliant records, and comply with existing AML/CTF obligations.

Is crypto a real money?

Cryptocurrency actually does meet the definition of money. It is a form of digital money that can be used for the exchange of goods, services, or other currencies, including other cryptocurrencies or cash.

Cryptocurrency has no physical form and is not backed by any government or institution.

How does crypto make you money?

There are many ways to make money with cryptocurrency, depending on your goals, skills, and risk tolerance. Some of the common methods are:

Invest or trade: You can buy and sell cryptocurrency on various platforms, hoping to profit from price fluctuations.

Stake and lend: You can use your cryptocurrency to stake or lend to others, earning interest or rewards in return.

Participate: You can also make money by participating in the cryptocurrency ecosystem, such as mining, earning rewards, or creating content.

What is Web3 in crypto?

Web3 in crypto is the vision of a new, decentralised internet that is powered by blockchain networks and smart contracts. Web3 in crypto aims to give users more control, privacy, and ownership over their data and transactions, without relying on intermediaries or central authorities.

Web3 in crypto also enables new possibilities for innovation, collaboration, and value creation in various domains, such as finance, art, gaming, and social media.

Which crypto is number 3?

While most people know Bitcoin, the number one cryptocurrency, and Ethereum, the number two cryptocurrency, not many people know which crypto is number three.

It’s Tether, a stablecoin. You can check which coins are topping the charts by checking websites like Coinmarketcap.

What is the 3rd biggest crypto?

Bitcoin and Ethereum are known by pretty much everyone. But what about Tether? Why is it so popular? Tether (USDT) is a popular stablecoin that is pegged to the U.S. dollar and backed by cash reserves.

It is widely used in the crypto space because it provides a stable and convenient way of transferring value between different platforms and exchanges, without having to deal with fiat currency conversions or volatility.

Cryptocurrency: Summary

The future of cryptocurrencies isn’t set in stone, but there is no doubt that they have already disrupted the financial industry and are continuing to gain traction. Some experts believe that cryptocurrencies will eventually replace traditional fiat currencies, while others see them as a complementary asset class.

If you are looking for an interesting side-gig then consider crypto meaning that while the prices can be volatile, the culture around it is interesting and fun.

Cryptocurrencies have already seen widespread adoption in certain areas, such as online payments, cross-border transactions, and investments. As blockchain technology continues to evolve and become more mainstream, it is likely that cryptocurrencies will continue to play an important role in the financial industry and beyond.

Cryptocurrency Definitions

Altcoins: Altcoins, or alternative cryptocurrencies, are any cryptocurrency other than Bitcoin. While Bitcoin is still the most well-known and widely used cryptocurrency, there are thousands of other cryptocurrencies that have emerged since its creation in 2009.

Bank account: A bank account is a deposit product that holds your money. Banks, credit unions, building societies or other financial institutions offer them.

Buy Bitcoin: Buying Bitcoin is the process of exchanging fiat currency (such as Australian dollars) for Bitcoin, a digital cryptocurrency.

Capital gains: Capital gains are the profits that are realised by selling an investment, such as property or shares.

Crypto: Cryptocurrency (crypto) is a digital or virtual currency secured by cryptography, making it difficult to counterfeit or double-spend. It operates independently of a central bank and uses a decentralised technology called the blockchain to record and verify transactions.

Crypto currency: An incorrect way of spelling cryptocurrency.

Decentralised Autonomous Organisations (DAOs): An organisation governed by its community, without any central authority. They allow for decentralised decision-making and governance through voting systems.

Decentralised Finance (DeFi): Offers traditional financial services such as lending, borrowing, and trading without intermediaries.

Digital currency: Digital currency in crypto is a type of digital or virtual money that is secured by cryptography and can be used for online transactions. Unlike traditional currencies, digital currencies in crypto are not issued or controlled by any central authority, and they operate on decentralised networks such as blockchains.

Digital wallet: A digital wallet is an online or offline place to store crypto.

Mining: Mining is the process of using computational power to solve complex mathematical puzzles in order to validate transactions and add new blocks to the blockchain.

Non-fungible tokens (NFTs): Unique tokens that are present on a blockchain and cannot be duplicated. They allow for unique digital assets such as art and collectibles to be bought and sold.

Peer-to-peer (P2P): Peer to Peer in crypto is a term that refers to the direct exchange of cryptocurrencies between individual parties without the involvement of a central authority or intermediary.

Proof of Work vs Proof of Stake vs Proof of space: Proof of Work (PoW) requires computational work to validate transactions and add new blocks. Proof of Stake (PoS) requires staking or holding a certain amount of cryptocurrency to validate transactions. Proof of Space (PoSpace) requires users to allocate hard drive space to validate transactions.

Satoshi Nakamoto: Satoshi Nakamoto is the name used by the presumed pseudonymous person or persons who developed Bitcoin, authored the Bitcoin White Paper, and created and deployed Bitcoin’s original reference implementation.

Staking: Staking is the process of holding a certain amount of cryptocurrency in a wallet to validate transactions and add new blocks to the blockchain.

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