The record of all Bitcoin transactions that these computers are constantly updating is known as the blockchain.
Criminals have taken to Bitcoin because anyone can open a Bitcoin address and start sending and receiving Bitcoins without giving a name or identity. There is no central authority that could collect this information.
Bitcoin first took off in 2011 after drug dealers began taking payments in Bitcoin on the black-market website known as the Silk Road. Although the Silk Road was shut down in 2013, similar sites have popped up to replace it.
More recently, Bitcoin has become a method for making ransom payments for example, when your computer is taken over by so-called ransomware.
The records of the Bitcoin network, including all balances and transactions, are stored on every computer helping to maintain the network about 9,500 computers in late 2017.
If the government made it illegal for Americans to participate in this network, the computers and people keeping the records in other countries would still be able to continue. The decentralized nature of Bitcoin is also one of the qualities that have made it popular with people who are suspicious of government authorities.
Anyone helping to maintain the database of all Bitcoin transactions the blockchain could change his or her own copy of the records to add more money. But if someone did that, the other computers maintaining the records would see the discrepancy, and the changes would be ignored.
Only a small percentage of all transactions on the Bitcoin network are explicitly illegal. Most transactions are people buying and selling Bitcoins on exchanges, speculating on future prices. A whole world of high-frequency traders has sprung up around Bitcoin.
People in countries with high inflation, like Argentina and Venezuela, have bought Bitcoin with their local currency to avoid losing their savings to inflation.
One of the most popular business plans is to use Bitcoin to move money over international borders. Large international money transfers can take weeks when they go through banks, while millions of dollars of Bitcoin can be moved in minutes. So far, though, these practical applications of Bitcoin have been slow to take off.
There are companies in most countries that will sell you Bitcoins in exchange for the local currency. In the United States, a company called Coinbase will link to your bank account or credit card and then sell you the coins for dollars. Opening an account with Coinbase is similar to opening a traditional bank or stock brokerage account, with lots of identity verification to satisfy the authorities.
For people who do not want to reveal their identities, services like LocalBitcoins will connect people who want to meet in person to buy and sell Bitcoins for cash, generally without any verification of identity required.
The price of Bitcoin fluctuates constantly and is determined by open-market bidding on Bitcoin exchanges, similar to the way that stock and gold prices are determined by bidding on exchanges.
Bitcoin mining refers to the process through which new Bitcoins are created and given to computers helping to maintain the network. The computers involved in Bitcoin mining are in a sort of computational race to process new transactions coming onto the network. The winner generally the person with the fastest computers gets a chunk of new Bitcoins, 12.5 of them right now. (The reward is halved every four years.)
There is generally a new winner about every 10 minutes, and there will be until there are 21 million Bitcoins in the world. At that point, no new Bitcoins will be created. This cap is expected to be reached in 2140. So far, about 16 million Bitcoin have been distributed.
Every Bitcoin in existence was created through this method and initially given to a computer helping to maintain the records. Anyone can set his or her computer to mine Bitcoin, but these days only people with specialized hardware manage to win the race.
Plenty. But these other virtual currencies do not have as many followers as Bitcoin, so they are not worth as much. As in the real world, a currency is worth only as much as the number of people willing to accept it for goods and services.
Bitcoin was introduced in 2008 by an unknown creator going by the name of Satoshi Nakamoto, who communicated only by email and social messaging. While several people have been identified as likely candidates to be Satoshi, as the creator is known in the world of Bitcoin, no one has been confirmed as the real Satoshi, and the search has gone on.
Satoshi created the original rules of the Bitcoin network and then released the software to the world in 2009. Satoshi largely disappeared from view two years later. Anyone can download and use the software, and Satoshi now has no more control over the network than anyone else using the software.
What Is Bitcoin, and How Does It Work? – The New York Times
- Bitcoin USD - BTCUSD Overview - MarketWatch - February 28th, 2018
- Buy Bitcoin IRA | Bitcoin IRA Investment & Retirement Account ... - February 28th, 2018
- Bitcoin Fees Have Become Infeasible - Bitcoin News - December 23rd, 2017
- Bitcoin's incredible surge takes it above $9,500 - Nov. 27 ... - November 27th, 2017
- Warning Signs About Another Giant Bitcoin Exchange - November 23rd, 2017
- Why Beanie Babies make for a better investment than bitcoin - MarketWatch - September 5th, 2017
- Bitcoin's price hit $5000 last week. It's still a dumb investment - Los Angeles Times - September 5th, 2017
- Bitcoin dips another $300 after China's cryptocurrency crackdown - CNBC - September 5th, 2017
- IRS Eyes Profits From Bitcoin and Bitcoin Cash Investments - Investopedia - September 5th, 2017
- Sequoia, IDG to Invest in China Bitcoin Mining Giant - Bloomberg - September 4th, 2017
- Bitcoin Price Drops By Over $250 as Crypto Markets Lose Billions - CoinDesk - September 4th, 2017
- Bitcoin $5,000: Currency Hits New Record High | Fortune.com - Fortune - September 2nd, 2017
- Bitcoin Drops Below $5000 as Crypto Markets See $13 Billion Sell-Off - CoinDesk - September 2nd, 2017
- Searching for the future of currency, major companies try Bitcoin technology - PBS NewsHour - September 2nd, 2017
- Bitcoin Mempool is Empty and High Transaction Fees are no Longer Required - newsBTC - September 2nd, 2017
- Literally just one huge chart showing bitcoin's incredible rise to $4800 - MarketWatch - September 2nd, 2017
- Bitcoin's nearly five-fold climb in 2017 looks very similar to tech ... - CNBC - September 2nd, 2017
- BTC-e's Big Claim: Bitcoin Withdrawals to Begin Tomorrow - CoinDesk - CoinDesk - September 2nd, 2017
- As bitcoin surges in price and popularity, so do the complaints - CNBC - August 31st, 2017
- Here is how Indians are minting a fortune in bitcoins - Economic Times - August 31st, 2017
- Why Miners Are Mining Bitcoin Cash and Losing Money Doing It - CoinDesk - August 30th, 2017
- Bitcoin jumps nearly 70% for August to record high, offshoot 'bitcoin cash' falls to more than one-week low - CNBC - August 30th, 2017
- Bitcoin Foundation seeks legal protection from US currency regulation - The Independent - August 30th, 2017
- Bitcoin's epic rise leaves late-1990s tech bubble in the dust - Economic Times - August 30th, 2017
- 99Bitcoins | Buy Bitcoin, Bitcoin Guides & Reviews for ... - August 29th, 2017
- Dark web finds bitcoin increasingly more of a problem than a help, tries other digital currencies - CNBC - August 29th, 2017
- Bitcoin Meets Zcash: Developers Test Tool for Trustless Trades - CoinDesk - August 29th, 2017
- Russian Regulator: Bitcoin Should Be Limited to 'Qualified Investors' - CoinDesk - August 29th, 2017
- As bitcoin and rivals surge, so too have complaints to the CFPB - MarketWatch - August 29th, 2017
- Is Bitcoin the New Gold? - TheStreet.com - August 28th, 2017
- This Swedish guy bet all his life savings on bitcoin and it made him 100 times richer - Business Insider Nordic - August 28th, 2017
- How To Gain Bitcoin Exposure Inside Of Your Traditional Brokerage Account - Seeking Alpha - August 28th, 2017
- Value of all digital currencies hits record around $160 billion as ... - MarketWatch - August 28th, 2017
- Why Motherboard Is Capitalizing 'Bitcoin' Again - Motherboard - August 28th, 2017
- New Bitcoin.com Charts: The Bitcoin Ecosystem at a Glance - Bitcoin News (press release) - August 27th, 2017
- Expert Predicts Bitcoin Will be Worth up to $20000 in the Next Three Years - Futurism - August 27th, 2017
- Does Bitcoin Have a Mining Monopoly Problem? - Fortune - August 27th, 2017
- Bitcoin poised to challenge record after recovering from correction - MarketWatch - August 26th, 2017
- Bitcoin Prices Rise But Fall Short of All-Time High - CoinDesk - CoinDesk - August 26th, 2017
- Bitcoin and Artificial Intelligence Can Help Fight Sex Trafficking ... - Fortune - August 26th, 2017
- Bitcoin Investors, Beware: The IRS Is Coming for Your Vast Riches - TheStreet.com - August 26th, 2017
- Bitcoin's Lightning Network Moves Closer to Compatibility - CoinDesk - CoinDesk - August 26th, 2017
- A sketchy Satoshi has popped up to promote his new blockchain - The Verge - August 26th, 2017
- Bitcoin And Why You Think You're Right (Even When You're Wrong) - Seeking Alpha - August 26th, 2017
- Bitcoin and Ether rise, helping take crypto space above $150 billion market cap - MarketWatch - August 23rd, 2017
- Bitcoin Prices Are Up Over $100 Already Today - CoinDesk - August 23rd, 2017
- MGT Capital Raises $2.4 Million to Expand Bitcoin Mining Operation - CoinDesk - August 23rd, 2017
- Hackers Swipe Bitcoin by Stealing Your Cell Phone Number First - Inc.com - August 23rd, 2017
- Bitcoin rebounds after briefly entering correction territory - MarketWatch - August 22nd, 2017
- Here's Why Bitcoin Rose More than $1000 in Two Months - Futurism - August 22nd, 2017
- The IRS Has Special Software to Find Bitcoin Tax Cheats - Fortune - August 22nd, 2017
- Bitcoin Prices Dip Below $4000 to Hit 7-Day Low - CoinDesk - August 22nd, 2017
- China's two biggest bitcoin exchanges helped themselves to $150 million in idle client funds - Quartz - August 22nd, 2017
- Bitcoin Analysts Compete for the Highest Price Forecast - Bloomberg - August 21st, 2017
- A Bitcoin Law for Every State? Interest and Animosity Greet Model US Regulation - CoinDesk - August 21st, 2017
- Take Two: Bitcoin Miner BTCS Announces New Merger Deal - CoinDesk - August 21st, 2017
- Bitcoin About To Burst - Seeking Alpha - August 21st, 2017
- 10 Bitcoin Wallet Apps You Should Consider Using Today - HuffPost - August 20th, 2017
- Bitcoin-accepting shops leave cookie trail that crumbles anonymity - The Register - August 20th, 2017
- Bitcoin Trades Sideways as Bitcoin Cash Price Drops to $800 - CoinDesk - August 20th, 2017
- 'Bitcoin cash' surges 40% in single day as investors bet on its faster processing speeds - CNBC - August 19th, 2017
- 'Bitcoin cash' soars to record high above $900 as 'mining' profits jump - CNBC - August 19th, 2017
- Photos: Inside one of the world's largest bitcoin mines - Quartz - August 18th, 2017
- Bitcoin Surged to a New High Adding $17 Billion in Just Over a Week - Fortune - August 18th, 2017
- Another major country joins China and Japan in cracking down on bitcoin exchanges - CNBC - August 18th, 2017
- Bitcoin Cash Breaks Price Doldrums to Push Past $400 - CoinDesk - August 18th, 2017
- Poloniex and Breadwallet Will Support Bitcoin Cash Transfers - The Merkle - August 14th, 2017
- Bitcoin Price Flies To More Than $4100 Over Weekend - PYMNTS.com - August 14th, 2017
- Why is Bitcoin worth more than gold? - Independent Online - August 14th, 2017
- Bitcoin breaks $4000 - BetaNews - August 13th, 2017
- Bitcoin just passed $4000 - TechCrunch - August 13th, 2017
- Bitcoin vaults to new record above $4K, boosted by Japan and multiplying its value fourfold - CNBC - August 13th, 2017
- What is bitcoin? - CoinDesk - August 12th, 2017
- Bitcoin surges to fresh record above $3500, beats gold amid the global market sell-off - CNBC - August 12th, 2017
- 'Blockchain technology will change the world': Fidelity Labs SVP - CNBC - August 12th, 2017
- The Bitcoin Cash Hard Fork Will Show Us Which Coin Is Best - Fortune - August 12th, 2017
- Bitcoin Price Index - Real-time Bitcoin Price Charts - August 11th, 2017
- $5000 Bitcoin? 3 Reasons to Buyand to Stay Away - Fortune - August 11th, 2017
- Fundstrat's Tom Lee" Bitcoin will be the best asset through year-end - CNBC - August 11th, 2017
- Howard Marks, who has called past market bubbles, says 'I don't understand what's behind bitcoin' - CNBC - August 11th, 2017