Bitcoin is a form of digital currency, created and held electronically. No one controls it. Bitcoins aren’t printed, like dollars or euros – they’re produced by people, and increasingly businesses, running computers all around the world, using software that solves mathematical problems.
It’s the first example of a growing category of money known as cryptocurrency.
What makes it different from normal currencies?
Bitcoin can be used to buy things electronically. In that sense, it’s like conventional dollars, euros, or yen, which are also traded digitally.
However, bitcoin’s most important characteristic, and the thing that makes it different to conventional money, is that it is decentralized. No single institution controls the bitcoin network. This puts some people at ease, because it means that a large bank can’t control their money.
Who created it?
A software developer called Satoshi Nakamoto proposed bitcoin, which was an electronic payment system based on mathematical proof. The idea was to produce a currency independent of any central authority, transferable electronically, more or less instantly, with very low transaction fees.
Who prints it?
No one. This currency isn’t physically printed in the shadows by a central bank, unaccountable to the population, and making its own rules. Those banks can simply produce more money to cover the national debt, thus devaluing their currency.
Instead, bitcoin is created digitally, by a community of people that anyone can join. Bitcoins are ‘mined’, using computing power in a distributed network.
This network also processes transactions made with the virtual currency, effectively making bitcoin its own payment network.
So you can’t churn out unlimited bitcoins?
That’s right. The bitcoin protocol – the rules that make bitcoin work – say that only 21 million bitcoins can ever be created by miners. However, these coins can be divided into smaller parts (the smallest divisible amount is one hundred millionth of a bitcoin and is called a ‘Satoshi’, after the founder of bitcoin).
Trusted Bitcoin wallet
Blockchain is the world’s leading software platform for digital assets. Offering the largest production blockchain platform in the world, we are using new technology to build a radically better financial system. Our software has powered over 100M transactions and empowered users in 140 countries across the globe to transact quickly and without costly intermediaries. We also offer tools for developers and real time transaction data for users to analyze the burgeoning digital economy.
Coinbase is the leading exchange service today in buying and selling Bitcoins. It was founded in 2012 and since then has received over US$31 million in venture capital funding. The Bitcoin exchange service is available in 19 countries around the world. Their Online wallet is beginners friendly but the fact that the company holds your funds is can be somewhat risky. Having said that Coinbase has recently launched their Vault service which denies the company control over your funds.
This fast, lightweight desktop app is a good choice for someone using older and less powerful computers for their bitcoin storage. The most processor intensive parts of the wallet are handled by remote servers. Electrum is well regarded for its advanced security and privacy features, and users can even recover their wallet with a secret pass phrase, though some people would prefer a wallet that doesn’t rely on remote servers.
Pros: While many apps are processor intensive, Electrum is known for being fast and light weight.
Cons: Not friendly for newbies, and the reliance on external servers could present security threats.
Xapo is a web-based wallet system, so alls you need to access it is a web browser and Internet connection. Xapo is known for having reasonably advanced privacy and security features, especially for a web-based wallet. The company supports payments through a debit card system, making it easy to spend your Bitcoins. The app is also friendly for newbies, so if you’re new to Bitcoin, give Xapo a close look.
Pros: Xapo debit card system allows you to use Bitcoin ATMs and spend at merchants across the world.
Cons: Web-based wallets face extra security threats, and you won’t be able to manage your Bitcoins without a Internet connection.
A user favorite, Green Address allows you to access your Bitcoins through a variety of methods, including online, through a mobile app, or through a desktop client. Better yet, Green Address’s is well regarded as being user-friendly. This makes Green Address one of the most flexible wallets around. Supports multi-signature features and has strong security and privacy features.
Pros: Very flexible and very easy to use, making Green Address a top choice for newbies
Cons:Requires the use of a remote app loaded from another location, and shared control over your Bitcoins (meaning the third-party has to approve payments).