What is Bitcoin? Understanding BTC and other crypto-currencies
What is Bitcoin?
Bitcoin has grabbed headlines over the past year for its massive spike in value and the ensuing rush to regulate it, followed by a nasty crash. However, the real story is the degree to which Bitcoin democratizes global financial systems.
While Bitcoin may often be referred to as anonymous money, its blockchain is also perfectly transparent and may be inspected by anybody at will. That apparent contradiction makes it a revolutionary way for people around the world to realize greater financial freedom: Bitcoin does to money what the internet did to information by providing indiscriminate access to a decentralized financial system.
Bitcoin is not just a cryptocurrency, but also a new financial system comprised of many components. It was invented in 2008 by the mysterious Satoshi Nakamoto and released shortly after to the public. Most importantly, Bitcoin is not controlled or owned by any individual, corporation, or government. It extensively uses cryptography and relies on a peer-to-peer network.
The Bitcoin protocol lays out the rules of this financial system, including how many Bitcoins can exist, and how they are created and transferred between participants. This protocol is incredibly difficult to change, as any change requires overwhelming consensus from its participants.
Bitcoin software refers to programs that use the Bitcoin protocol to verify their rules and individual transactions. These programs act as nodes in the distributed Bitcoin network. Nodes can also act as miners, meaning they will use cryptographic proofs of burned electricity to secure the network, for which they are rewarded with newly minted Bitcoin.