What Is Bitcoin?
Bitcoin — ‘digital gold’ — the world’s biggest cryptocurrency: Here’s your 101 guide to BTC, how it works, and how to buy and trade it.
- Bitcoin is a peer-to-peer (P2P) digital currency system that operates independently of any central authority.
- It was launched in 2009 by an anonymous person or group known as Satoshi Nakamoto.
- Bitcoin gained popularity for several reasons, including scarcity, security, privacy, and decentralisation.
- Bitcoin uses blockchain technology to secure and verify transactions.
- BTC, Bitcoin’s native coin, can be earned through mining or purchased on an exchange.
- Freely available to anyone, Bitcoin wallets are typically used to buy, store, and send Bitcoin.
- Bitcoin’s price volatility makes it attractive to certain traders.
- An estimated 14% of all US adults own Bitcoin.
Bitcoin is a digital currency that operates independently of any central authority, such as a government or bank. It was launched in 2009 by an anonymous person or group of people using the pseudonym Satoshi Nakamoto. Bitcoin is based on a technology called blockchain, which is a decentralised ledger that records all transactions made within the network.
Bitcoin is not physical, existing solely in digital form. It is used to buy goods and services online or exchanged for other cryptocurrencies. Each Bitcoin transaction is recorded on the blockchain, making it transparent and auditable.
There are several benefits Bitcoin offers, including faster and low-cost transactions, especially for international transfers. Currently, a large part of the global population remains unbanked, with no access to financial services, as they don’t qualify for bank accounts. Bitcoin is capable of providing financial inclusivity, as anyone with an internet connection can, in principle, access and use Bitcoin, regardless of their location.
Who Created Bitcoin?
In 2008, Satoshi Nakamoto introduced the world to Bitcoin and its underlying technology: blockchain. But the true identity of Bitcoin’s creator remains a mystery to this day. While there have been speculations and proposed candidates, no concrete proof of Nakamoto’s identity has been uncovered.
Regardless of their identity, Nakamoto’s impact and legacy in the cryptocurrency world are undeniable, and Nakamoto’s identity continues to be a topic of interest and discussion within the cryptocurrency community. It is estimated that Nakamoto may possess around 1.1 million BTC, equivalent to 5% of all bitcoins to be created.
Why Was Bitcoin Created?
While Bitcoin’s creator remains anonymous, the reasons behind its creation remain speculation. However, it may have been driven by several factors, as gleaned from the white paper:
First, Bitcoin aimed to address the flaws of traditional financial (TradFi) systems based on trust, such as centralised control, high transaction fees, and limited accessibility.
Second, Bitcoin’s underlying principles include decentralisation, trustlessness, security, and privacy — all achieved through blockchain technology. By eliminating intermediaries, Bitcoin enables fast and low-cost transactions, financial inclusivity, and greater transparency.
These factors also mirror public criticism of the global financial system at the time of Bitcoin’s launch — soon after the 2007–08 global financial crisis.
Bitcoin Blockchain Technology
Bitcoin is based on a technology called blockchain, which is governed by a consensus mechanism. In simple terms, a blockchain notes down all transactions in a digital ledger, which can be publicly viewed by anyone online.
Bitcoin is not governed by one centralised institution; rather, a group of stakeholders maintain the ledger (the blockchain) together to reach agreement on which transactions are right or wrong. This is called a consensus mechanism. Bitcoin relies on the Proof of Work (PoW) consensus mechanism, the first blockchain consensus ever created.
How Is Bitcoin Used?
Bitcoin can be used in various ways:
First, Bitcoin can be mined, where miners solve complex mathematical problems to validate transactions and secure the network. In return, they are rewarded with new bitcoins.
Additionally, users can buy and sell Bitcoin on cryptocurrency exchanges, with the goal of taking advantage of price fluctuations to make profits.
Third, Bitcoin can also be used for online purchases and transactions, providing convenience and expanding its utility.
Moreover, some individuals hold Bitcoin, hoping its value will increase over time, allowing them to sell at a higher price. This is not guaranteed, however, as Bitcoin is a highly volatile asset; these individuals are at risk of losing part, or the entirety, of the value of their initial purchase monies.
Is Bitcoin Valuable?
Bitcoin is valued by members of the cryptocurrency community for several reasons. First, it is a decentralised currency, meaning its issuance is not controlled by any government or central authority.
Second, Bitcoin has a limited supply, with only 21 million coins ever to be mined. This scarcity is often compared to gold by the cryptocurrency community and makes Bitcoin an attractive asset for some. Unsurprisingly, Bitcoin has been dubbed ‘digital gold’.
Third, Bitcoin operates on a secure and transparent technology called blockchain. This ensures that transactions are recorded and verified by a network of computers, making it virtually impossible to alter or counterfeit transactions.
Some consider that these factors have combined to make Bitcoin a valuable and increasingly sought-after digital asset.
Who Owns the Bitcoin Network?
Unlike fiat currencies, which are issued and backed by governments, no one owns the Bitcoin payment network itself; it is entirely independent of any one person or organisation (miners work together to maintain the Bitcoin network). However, people and organisations can own BTC, the native currency of the Bitcoin network, and make software to buy, store, or transfer bitcoins.
How Many People Own Bitcoin?
In 2023, the number of Bitcoin owners has continued to steadily grow. According to a Morning Consult survey, 26% of millennials and 14% of all US adults own Bitcoin. Globally, it is estimated there are 516 million crypto owners, with over 267 million Bitcoin owners. These estimates translate to an average global crypto ownership rate of 6.5% as of June 2023.
Who Owns the Most Bitcoin?
The largest holder of Bitcoin is believed to be Satoshi Nakamoto, the pseudonymous founder of Bitcoin. Nakamoto is estimated to own over one million BTC. Additionally, there are other large holders of Bitcoin, known as ‘whales’.
Sending and Receiving Bitcoin
While miners mine to be rewarded and receive bitcoins, their mining fulfils another important task (other than creating new bitcoins): It records Bitcoin transactions safely and immutably (i.e., they can’t be tampered with) on the Bitcoin blockchain.
Both the sender and receiver need a Bitcoin wallet to complete a Bitcoin transaction with each other. The sender transmits the amount of Bitcoin and wallet address to the network, and within a few minutes, the transaction is verified by miners, included in the next block, and considered complete. The receiver can then log in to their wallet with their private key (i.e., the password to their wallet) and confirm the receipt of the transaction.
In addition, everyone in the Bitcoin network can verify and accept the transaction as valid, as the wallet addresses are immutably recorded on the blockchain and can be viewed publicly with a block explorer.
How Has the Price of Bitcoin Changed Over Time?
Since its inception in 2009, Bitcoin has experienced significant price fluctuations, making it a highly volatile asset. In its early years, Bitcoin was traded for less than a cent per coin. In 2011, it reached its first milestone by surpassing the US$1 mark. BTC continued to gain traction, and in 2013, it reached a peak of $260.
Bitcoin’s first notable price surge came in 2017 when it reached an all-time high (ATH) of nearly $20,000. However, the price corrected sharply in the following months, dropping to around $3,000 by the end of 2018.
The cryptocurrency market as a whole experienced another major surge in 2021, with Bitcoin reaching over $60,000 in April of that year. However, it experienced a subsequent correction, and the price dropped to under $20,000 by November 2022.
As of October 24, 2023, Bitcoin’s price stands at over $33,000.
How Many Bitcoins Are There in Total?
According to the latest data, there are 19,426,087 bitcoins in circulation (at the time of writing), while the maximum supply of bitcoins is capped at 21 million.
In other words, 1,573,913 bitcoins are left to be mined. It takes around 10 minutes to mine a block of Bitcoin (with 6.25 BTC as a miner reward); currently, approximately 900 new bitcoins are entered into circulation every day. This number will decrease in the near future, as the next Bitcoin halving is on the horizon and estimated to happen in 2024.
These halving events are hardcoded into Bitcoin’s blockchain (after every 210,000 blocks are added to the blockchain, or approximately every four years). They reduce the amount of bitcoins awarded to miners by 50% — a measure to prevent inflation. With future mining following the next, experts predict that the last bitcoin will be mined in the year 2140.
Note that it is estimated that ~20% of bitcoins in circulation are lost, due to a number of reasons: users forgetting the keys to their wallet or owners passing away without sharing their keys, for example.
What Are the Risks of Trading Bitcoin?
Trading Bitcoin comes with risks that beginners should be aware of.
First, Bitcoin is a highly volatile asset, meaning its price can experience significant fluctuations in short periods. This volatility makes it challenging to accurately predict price movements, leading to potential losses. Additionally, the cryptocurrency market operates 24/7, making it susceptible to sudden price swings even during off-hours.
Another risk is the potential for security breaches. As cryptocurrencies are stored in digital wallets, hackers can target these wallets to steal funds. Beginners should take proper security measures to protect their Bitcoin holdings, including using secure wallets like hardware wallets and enabling multi-factor authentication (MFA).
Lastly, scams and fraudulent activities are prevalent in the cryptocurrency space. Beginners should exercise caution when dealing with unfamiliar platforms or individuals offering guaranteed returns and/or investment opportunities that seem too good to be true.
It is essential for beginners to thoroughly research and understand these risks before venturing into Bitcoin trading.
Bitcoin has come a long way since its early days, revolutionising the financial landscape and soaring in price to unprecedented heights. Despite its volatility, Bitcoin has shown resilience and a degree of potential as a decentralised digital currency. Its ability to operate without traditional financial intermediaries and provide secure, transparent transactions has captured the attention of individuals and institutions worldwide.
With increasing adoption and acceptance, Bitcoin’s future looks promising. As the cryptocurrency market continues to evolve, it’s clear that Bitcoin has the potential to reshape the way we think about money and finance. Whether crypto serious or curious — it’s hard not to be excited about the possibilities Bitcoin holds.
Due Diligence and Do Your Own Research
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Frequently Asked Questions
Unlike traditional currencies, cryptocurrencies are not backed by a physical commodity or government, and their value is determined by market demand and supply. Cryptocurrencies can be used to buy goods and services, transfer funds, and trade in markets. Popular cryptocurrencies include Bitcoin, Ethereum, Litecoin, Ripple, and Cronos.
Many cryptocurrencies, like Bitcoin, are created through a process called mining, which involves solving complex mathematical equations to validate and record transactions on a blockchain. This mechanism is also called Proof of Work (PoW). Another consensus mechanism that has increased in popularity — as it is more energy efficient — is Proof of Stake (PoS). Instead of mining, PoS relies on network participants validating transactions. Ethereum, the second-largest cryptocurrency, uses this consensus mechanism.
Unlike traditional fiat currency, which is controlled by central banks and governments, Bitcoin operates independently of any central authority. Transactions are verified and recorded on the blockchain, which is a distributed ledger that maintains a permanent and transparent record of all transactions.
Bitcoin can be bought, sold, and exchanged on various cryptocurrency exchanges, and it can be used to purchase goods and services from merchants that accept Bitcoin as a form of payment. The supply of bitcoins is limited to 21 million units, and new bitcoins are created through mining, which involves using specialized computer hardware to solve complex mathematical equations.
Bitcoin is known for its high volatility, and its value can fluctuate rapidly in response to market conditions, news events, and other factors. Many traders, including institutional investors, see Bitcoin as a store of value and a way to participate in the growing cryptocurrency ecosystem.
- Brokerage services: Crypto brokers allow users to simply buy and sell cryptocurrencies. A popular example is the Crypto.com App, trusted by over 80 million users. It is available at the Apple Store and on Google Play.
- Cryptocurrency exchanges: These are online platforms where users can buy, sell, and trade cryptocurrencies using fiat currency or other cryptocurrencies. They offer more complex functions compared to a crypto brokerage, adding trading instruments like crypto derivatives. The Crypto.com Exchange is an example of a popular crypto exchange.
- Peer-to-peer (P2P) marketplaces: These are platforms where buyers and sellers can directly trade cryptocurrencies without the involvement of a third-party exchange. This is also known as DeFi, short for decentralized finance. Multiple P2P crypto marketplaces can be accessed all in one app via the Crypto.com DeFi Wallet.
- Choose a crypto platform to use, like the Crypto.com Exchange or Crypto.com App.
- Create an account on the chosen platform by providing personal information and ID verification, also known as ‘Know Your Customer’ (KYC) procedures.
- Deposit fiat currency or another cryptocurrency into the newly created account. The Crypto.com App supports bank transfers, credit cards, debit cards, and cryptocurrency transfers to buy crypto, depending on region.
- Navigate to the ‘Buy’ section of the Crypto.com Exchange or App and select the crypto to buy.
- Enter the amount of cryptocurrency to buy and confirm the transaction.
- The crypto will be deposited into the account. From here, it can be transferred to other crypto wallets or converted back to fiat currency and paid out to a bank account.
- Choose a reputable cryptocurrency platform that supports Bitcoin trading. Popular options include the Crypto.com App and the Crypto.com Exchange.
- Create an account on the chosen platform and complete the KYC verification process, which may require providing personal identification documents.
- Fund an account using a bank transfer, credit/debit card, or other cryptocurrency, depending on region.
- Navigate to the ‘Buy’ section of the platform and select Bitcoin as the cryptocurrency to buy.
- Enter the amount of bitcoin to buy, or the amount of fiat or cryptocurrency to spend.
- Review the transaction details and confirm the purchase.
- Once the transaction is complete, the bitcoin will be deposited into the chosen account. From here, the funds can be transferred to other crypto wallets or converted back to fiat currency and paid out to a bank account.
- Choose a cryptocurrency exchange that supports trading. A popular option is the Crypto.com Exchange.
- Create an account on the chosen platform and perform ID verification, known as KYC (‘Know Your Customer’).
- Deposit funds into the newly created account using a supported payment method. The Crypto.com Exchange supports bank transfers and credit/debit cards.
- Navigate to the trading section of the platform and select the cryptocurrency pair to trade.
- Choose whether to buy or sell the cryptocurrency, and enter the amount to trade.
- Set the preferred price and order type. There are several types of orders, including market orders, limit orders, stop orders, and crypto options, which allow users to buy or sell at a specific price or under certain conditions.
- Submit the trade order and wait for it to be executed. Depending on market conditions, the trade may be filled immediately, or it may take time to be filled.
- Monitor trades and adjust strategies as necessary.
It is crucial to note that trading cryptocurrency carries risk, and it is important to trade only what you can afford to lose.
- Mining: Cryptocurrency mining involves using specialized computer hardware to solve complex mathematical equations that validate transactions on a blockchain network. Successful miners are rewarded with newly minted cryptocurrency for their efforts.
- Staking/Lockups: Staking and lockups involve holding or locking up a certain amount of cryptocurrency in a wallet or on a platform to support the operations of the blockchain network. Stakers are rewarded with new cryptocurrency as a form of interest for their support.
- Trading: Trading cryptocurrency involves buying and selling cryptocurrencies on exchanges or other trading platforms. Those who have a good understanding of market trends and are able to make informed trading decisions can earn profits through trading.
- Airdrops: Airdrops are free distributions of cryptocurrency to users who meet certain criteria or participate in promotional activities.
- Crypto Projects: Some blockchain projects offer rewards or bounties for users who contribute to their development or community. This can include activities like bug bounties, testing, or content creation.
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