Bitcoin has become a hot, controversial topic, but what is it and how is it used? Bitcoin is one of several digital currencies, but, as of 2014, it is the most popular one. It is a form of money, but for online use only. Bitcoin is the system of how payments are made, while bitcoin refers to the unit of online currency. Unlike traditional currency, Bitcoin is not regulated by a central organization.
Even though it's been around for more than five years, not too much is known about the origins of Bitcoin. In 2008, a Japanese programmer or programming group using the pseudonym Satoshi Nakamoto published a report about digital currency. The following year, Satoshi Nakamoto presented software that would create the first Bitcoin network and currency. However, by 2010, Satoshi Nakamoto disappeared from the online community.
How Bitcoin Works
In the simplest definition, bitcoins are online money, transferred from one person's digital wallet to another. A new user must install a Bitcoin wallet on their mobile phone or computer. Once the Bitcoin wallet has been installed, a Bitcoin address is generated. The payment transaction is similar to email with one exception: Bitcoin addresses should only be used once. A user can generate as many Bitcoin addresses as needed.
Users earn bitcoins by accepting them as a form of payment, trading, and completing tasks on various websites such as BitVisitor or CoinWorker. Another way to earn bitcoins is through a process called mining. Mining is how new Bitcoins are created. The process is similar to mining for gold. Bitcoin miners solve cryptographic puzzles to earn bitcoins. Like gold, there is a finite number of bitcoins. It is predicted that the last bitcoins will be mined by 2140. As of Jan. 2014, there are 12 million bitcoins in circulation.
All transactions are sent to a shared public ledger, which works like a peer file-sharing server except money is being shared instead of files. All confirmed transactions are lodged on the block chain. Cryptography maintains the chronological order and integrity of the shared public ledger. Through this process, balances of Bitcoin wallets are tracked and bitcoins are verified. All Bitcoin wallets...