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Bitcoin is the oldest, biggest and most important of all cryptocurrencies.
Created in 2009 by an anonymous person or group going by the name of Satoshi Nakamoto, Bitcoin was the first currency to be built on a blockchain. In essence, a blockchain is a way of recording all the transactions that have ever occurred in a single, public ledger.
The blockchain uses this information to verify new transactions in real time, preventing double-spending and removing the need for a trusted intermediary such as a bank to check whether the person making the transaction has the funds to do so. The blockchain itself is shared between a vast global network of computers making it impossible to alter.
Bitcoin has a hardcoded upper limit of 21 million coins, which are released at roughly 10-minute intervals through a process known as ‘mining’. In mining, powerful computers compete to solve complex cryptographic problems (hence cryptocurrency). The successful computer receives an amount of Bitcoin while also adding a new ‘block’ of verified transactions to the blockchain. This system is called a Proof-of-Work consensus mechanism
The release of new Bitcoin is designed to be deflationary (i.e. over time one Bitcoin should gain more purchasing power). Every four years, the network undergoes a process called the ‘Halving’, which halves the amount of Bitcoin sent to successful miners. At the beginning, each block generated 50 Bitcoin. Three Halvings later, that’s been reduced to 6.25 Bitcoin. It’s expected that the final Bitcoin will be mined in the year 2140.
As the oldest and most traded cryptocurrency, you’ll often see Bitcoin used as a trading pair for altcoins. For many cryptocurrency traders and investors, the goal isn’t to earn more fiat currency (which are inflationary by design) but rather to accumulate as much Bitcoin as they possibly can.
Note: there are a number of so-called Bitcoin ‘forks’ in existence that split off the main chain and became independent currencies. These include Bitcoin Cash (BCH), Bitcoin Satoshi’s Vision (BSV), Bitcoin Diamond (BTCD) and Bitcoin Gold (BTCG). Always make sure when you’re buying Bitcoin, you’re buying coins on the original chain.
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