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Bitcoin was launched in 2009 by an unknown developer or group of developers using the alias Satoshi Nakamoto. Satoshi Nakamoto's original concept for Bitcoin was "an electronic payment system based on cryptographic proof rather than trust." Bitcoin's genesis block, or first block, was mined on January 3, 2009. Bitcoin was the first cryptocurrency and is still the most valuable today, inspiring the creation of thousands of other cryptocurrencies. The cryptocurrency has also grown in popularity as a means of payment. Bitcoin holders can make purchases from merchants and retailers who accept them.
Bitcoin operates on a shared database or distributed ledger called a blockchain. A blockchain is made up of blocks that are arranged chronologically and contain data about each transaction on the Bitcoin network, such as the date and time, the parties involved, the total value transacted, and a unique identification code for each transaction.
The blockchain is a public ledger, and once a transaction (in the form of a block) is added, it is publicly accessible to anyone. It is also a decentralized technology, which means it is not controlled by a central body. Anyone with access can validate a transaction and, as a result, add a new block. While the fact that anyone can validate transactions on the blockchain may appear to be a disadvantage, it is actually an advantage. In fact, this serves as the foundation for blockchain's trustworthiness and security. A block must be verified by a majority of Bitcoin holders before it can be added to the blockchain. Furthermore, each transaction requires verification codes, which are long, statistically random numbers, making fraudulent Bitcoin transactions extremely difficult.
Bitcoin mining is the process of adding new transactions to the Bitcoin blockchain and creating new Bitcoins. Mining ensures that new transactions are consistent with previous completed transactions. This eliminates the "double-spending" problem, which means you can't spend a Bitcoin you don't have or have already spent.
Mining employs a consensus mechanism known as Proof-of-Work (PoW). Miners, also known as nodes, use their high-speed computers to solve complex mathematical problems, independently confirming the authenticity of each new transaction. The miner who solves the problem first and successfully adds a block to the Bitcoin network is rewarded with 6.25 Bitcoins. This is how new Bitcoins are created. Also, nodes reduce the possibility of fraud or false entries into the Bitcoin blockchain because a majority of them must confirm the authenticity of each transaction before the miner adds a new block.
Since the cryptocurrency's inception in 2009, the price of Bitcoin has fluctuated dramatically. Bitcoin surpassed $0.1 for the first time in October 2010 and wouldn’t reach $1 until February 2011. On November 10, 2021, Bitcoin reached an all-time high of $68,770.
The current circulating supply of Bitcoin is 19.34 million bitcoins, with a maximum supply of 21 million. All Bitcoins will be mined by the year 2140. One Bitcoin can be divided into eight decimal places, and the smallest unit is known as a Satoshi.
Issuance: Traditional currencies are issued by central authorities, which are usually the governments of the countries in question. Bitcoin is a peer-to-peer monetary system that is not controlled by a central authority. Bitcoin’s stability and security relies on the combined computing power of a network of participants and cryptography.
Tangibility: Traditional currencies are physical and can be exchanged primarily as coins or notes. Bitcoin, on the other hand, is intangible and has no physical form. It is a digital currency that uses encrypted codes.
Legality: Traditional currencies are a legal medium of exchange by default because they are backed by the government. Some countries prohibit the use of Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies. Because these currencies are not under government control, they may be used for illegal activities.
Supply: Traditional currencies are printed by the government based on the needs of the country. It is difficult to estimate the amount of money in circulation. Bitcoin, on the other hand, has a fixed limited supply of 21 million Bitcoins that cannot be altered or manipulated.
Third Parties: Traditional money transfers require the involvement of a middleman, such as banks and payment processors. In contrast, Bitcoin is decentralized and does not require a third party for transfers or validation.
A bitcoin hard fork is a significant modification to the blockchain's protocol that creates two distinct potential futures. Following the fork, each distinct branch can choose a set of rules to follow. Typically, one follows the previous protocol and the other the new version. Bitcoin has had several forks since its inception. Some of them have even led to the creation of newer versions of the cryptocurrency.
Bitcoin Cash and Bitcoin Gold are two of the most successful Bitcoin hard forks. However, Bitcoin XT was the first notable Bitcoin hard fork. Bitcoin XT aimed to increase the number of transactions per second from 7 to 24 by increasing the block size from 1 MB to 8 MB. Bitcoin XT was a brief success, but ultimately lost momentum as users lost interest and abandoned the project.
Other notable Bitcoin forks include:
Bitcoin Classic: Launched in 2016 following the failure of Bitcoin XT. Bitcoin Classic aimed to increase its block size to just 2 MBs.
Bitcoin Unlimited: Also released in 2016. Bitcoin Unlimited allowed miners to choose the size of their blocks, with a maximum of 16MB.
Bitcoin Satoshi Vision: A hard fork from Bitcoin Cash in 2018 due to disagreements over block size. Bitcoin SV is currently the biggest Bitcoin fork, with a size of more than 2.5 TB.
Cryptocurrencies are highly speculative, and investors should only invest what they can afford to lose. However, Bitcoin is one of the most stable and least volatile cryptocurrencies. Furthermore, Bitcoin's value is expected to rise further as it becomes more widely used as a medium of exchange, and finds new use cases.
After buying Bitcoin, you can store it on an exchange or in a non-custodial wallet that you maintain control over. If your BTC is held in an exchange, the exchange also maintains control over it.
Bitcoin is a digital currency that can be traded, exchanged, and used as payment without the intervention of central banks or governments. To conduct transactions without the use of a middleman, Bitcoin employs a peer-to-peer model supported by blockchain technology.
Bitcoin’s blockchain is a publicly accessible ledger. It's also a decentralized technology, which means it's not governed by a single entity or government. To validate transactions and maintain network security, Bitcoin relies on a network of computers and participants known as miners or nodes. Miners use computers with high processing speeds and computing power to solve complex mathematical problems in order to validate a transaction. The Bitcoin node compensates miners in Bitcoins for their efforts.
While both are used as a medium of exchange, Bitcoin is very different from traditional money systems. The most significant distinction is that, unlike federal currencies, Bitcoin is a decentralized currency not controlled by any central entity. Bitcoin has grown in value and popularity over the years. Its exponential growth is expected to continue in the future, making it one of the best long-term crypto investments.
Bitcoin (BTC): A cryptocurrency that can be traded, exchanged, and used as a form of payment independent of central entities and governments.
Peer-to-Peer (P2P) monetary system: a model that allows participants to conduct transactions without the intervention of a third-party.
Blockchain: A publicly distributed ledger made up of blocks that are arranged chronologically and contain data about each transaction on the Bitcoin network, including the date and time, the parties involved, the total value transacted, and a unique identification code for each transaction.
Decentralized: Free from control by a central entity.
Bitcoin mining: Procedure for validating new transactions on the Bitcoin blockchain and creating new bitcoins.
Proof-of-Work (PoW): an energy-intensive consensus mechanism in which participants solve complex mathematical problems to validate the legitimacy of a blockchain transaction.
Bitcoin hard fork: a significant modification to a blockchain protocol that results in two separate branches of the network with different potential futures.
Satoshi: the smallest unit of Bitcoin.
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