To cut through some of the confusion surrounding bitcoin, we need to separate it into two components. On the one hand, you have bitcoin-the-token, a snippet of code that represents ownership of a digital concept — sort of like a virtual IOU.
On the other hand, you have bitcoin-the-protocol, a distributed network that maintains a ledger of balances of bitcoin-the-token. The system enables payments to be sent between users without passing through a central authority, such as a bank or payment gateway. It is created and held electronically. It was the first example of what we today call cryptocurrencies, a growing asset class that shares some characteristics of traditional currencies, with verification based on cryptography.
The idea was to produce a means of exchange, independent of any central authority, that could be transferred electronically in a secure, verifiable and immutable way.
Bitcoin can be used to pay for things electronically, if both parties are willing. No single institution controls the bitcoin network. It is maintained by a group of volunteer coders , and run by an open network of dedicated computers spread around the world. This attracts individuals and groups that are uncomfortable with the control that banks or government institutions have over their money.
In electronic fiat currencies, this function is fulfilled by banks, which gives them control over the traditional system. With bitcoin, the integrity of the transactions is maintained by a distributed and open network, owned by no-one. Fiat currencies dollars, euros, yen, etc. Holders of the currency and especially citizens with little alternative bear the cost.
With bitcoin, on the other hand, the supply is tightly controlled by the underlying algorithm. A small number of new bitcoins trickle out every hour, and will continue to do so at a diminishing rate until a maximum of 21 million has been reached. This makes bitcoin more attractive as an asset — in theory, if demand grows and the supply remains the same, the value will increase. While senders of traditional electronic payments are usually identified for verification purposes, and to comply with anti-money laundering and other legislation , users of bitcoin in theory operate in semi-anonymity.
When a transaction request is submitted, the protocol checks all previous transactions to confirm that the sender has the necessary bitcoin as well as the authority to send them. The system does not need to know his or her identity. In practice, each user is identified by the address of his or her wallet.
Transactions can, with some effort, be tracked this way. Furthermore, most exchanges are required by law to perform identity checks on their customers before they are allowed to buy or sell bitcoin, facilitating another way that bitcoin usage can be tracked. Since the network is transparent, the progress of a particular transaction is visible to all.
While this may disquiet some, it does mean that any transaction on the bitcoin network cannot be tampered with. The smallest unit of a bitcoin is called a satoshi. It is one hundred millionth of a bitcoin 0. This could conceivably enable microtransactions that traditional electronic money cannot.
Read more to find out how bitcoin transactions are processed and how bitcoins are mined , what it can be used for , as well as how you can buy , sell and store your bitcoin.
We also explain a few alternatives to bitcoin , as well as how its underlying technology — the blockchain — works. Authored by Noelle Acheson. Network image via Shutterstock. The leader in blockchain news, CoinDesk is a media outlet that strives for the highest journalistic standards and abides by a strict set of editorial policies. CoinDesk is an independent operating subsidiary of Digital Currency Group, which invests in cryptocurrencies and blockchain startups.
But how? You can pay for them in a variety of ways, ranging from hard cash to credit and debit cards to wire transfers, or even with other cryptocurrencies, depending on who you are buying them from and where you live.
The first step is to set up a wallet to store your bitcoin — you will need one, whatever your preferred method of purchase. This could be an online wallet either part of an exchange platform, or via an independent provider , a desktop wallet, a mobile wallet or an offline one such as a hardware device or a paper wallet. Even within these categories of wallets there is a wide variety of services to choose from, so do some research before deciding on which version best suits your needs.
You can find more information on some of the wallets out there, as well as tips on how to use them, here and here. If you lose them, you lose access to the bitcoin stored there.
Cryptocurrency exchanges will buy and sell bitcoin on your behalf. As with wallets, it is advisable to do some research before choosing — you may be lucky enough to have several reputable exchanges to choose from, or your access may be limited to one or two, depending on your geographical area. Other high-volume exchanges are Coinbase , Bitstamp and Poloniex , but for small amounts, most reputable exchanges should work well. Note: at time of writing, the surge of interest in bitcoin trading is placing strain on most retail buy and sell operations, so a degree of patience and caution is recommended.
With the clampdown on know-your-client KYC and anti-money-laundering AML regulation, many exchanges now require verified identification for account setup.
This will usually include a photo of your official ID, and sometimes also a proof of address. Most exchanges accept payment via bank transfer or credit card, and some are willing to work with Paypal transfers. Each exchange has a different procedure for both setup and transaction, and should give you sufficient detail to be able to execute the purchase.
If not, consider changing the service provider. Once the exchange has received payment, it will purchase the corresponding amount of bitcoin on your behalf, and deposit them in an automatically generated wallet on the exchange. This can take minutes, or sometimes hours due to network bottlenecks. If you wish recommended , you can then move the funds to your off-exchange wallet. Platforms such as LocalBitcoins will help you to find individuals near you who are willing to exchange bitcoin for cash.
Also, LibertyX lists retail outlets across the United States at which you can exchange cash for bitcoin. And WallofCoins , Paxful and BitQuick will direct you to a bank branch near you that will allow you to make a cash deposit and receive bitcoin a few hours later. ATMs are machines that will send bitcoin to your wallet in exchange for cash. Coinatmradar can help you to find a bitcoin ATM near you. Note: specific businesses mentioned here are not the only options available, and should not be taken as a recommendation.
Bitcoin image via Shutterstock. Before owning any bitcoin , you need somewhere to store them. If the wallet software is well designed, it will look as if your bitcoins are actually there, which makes using bitcoin more convenient and intuitive. Actually, a wallet usually holds several private keys, and many bitcoin investors have several wallets.
Electronic wallets can be downloaded software, or hosted in the cloud. The former is simply a formatted file that lives on your computer or device, that facilitates transactions. Hosted cloud-based wallets tend to have a more user-friendly interface, but you will be trusting a third party with your private keys. Installing a wallet directly on your computer gives you the security that you control your keys.
Most have relatively easy configuration, and are free. The disadvantage is that they do require more maintenance in the form of backups. If your computer gets stolen or corrupted and your private keys are not also stored elsewhere, you lose your bitcoin. They also require greater security precautions. If your computer is hacked and the thief gets a hold of your wallet or your private keys, he also gets hold of your bitcoin. The original software wallet is the Bitcoin Core protocol, the program that runs the bitcoin network.
As you can guess, this takes up a lot of memory — at time of writing, over GB. Exodus can track multiple assets with a sophisticated user interface. Some such as Jaxx can hold a wide range of digital assets, and some such as Copay offer the possibility of shared accounts.
Online or cloud-based wallets offer increased convenience — you can generally access your bitcoin from any device if you have the right passwords. All are easy to set up, come with desktop and mobile apps which make it easy to spend and receive bitcoin, and most are free. The disadvantage is the lower security. Some leading online wallets are attached to exchanges such as Coinbase and Blockchain. Some offer additional security features such as offline storage Coinbase and Xapo.
Mobile wallets are available as apps for your smartphone, especially useful if you want to pay for something in bitcoin in a shop, or if you want to buy, sell or send while on the move. All of the online wallets and most of the desktop ones mentioned above have mobile versions, while others — such as Abra , Airbitz and Bread — were created with mobile in mind. Hardware wallets are small devices that occasionally connect to the web to enact bitcoin transactions.
They are extremely secure, as they are generally offline and therefore not hackable. They can be stolen or lost, however, along with the bitcoins that belong to the stored private keys. Some large investors keep their hardware wallets in secure locations such as bank vaults.
Trezor , Keepkey and Ledger and Case are notable examples. Perhaps the simplest of all the wallets, these are pieces of paper on which the private and public keys of a bitcoin address are printed. They are, however, easier to lose. With services such as WalletGenerator , you can easily create a new address and print the wallet on your printer. Send some bitcoin to that address, and then store it safely or give it away. See our tutorial on paper wallets here. The safest option is a hardware wallet which you keep offline, in a secure place.
That way there is no risk that your account can be hacked, your keys stolen and your bitcoin whisked away.
The least secure option is an online wallet, since the keys are held by a third party. It also happens to be the easiest to set up and use, presenting you with an all-too-familiar choice: convenience vs safety. Whatever option you go for, please be careful.
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If you find the concept of Bitcoin confusing, you are not. The virtual currency has been a constant source of controversy, but it is still not well understood. A Bitcoin is a digital token — with no physical backing — that can be sent electronically from one user to another, anywhere in the world. A Bitcoin can be divided out to eight decimal places, so you can send someone 0. This smallest fraction of a Bitcoin — the penny of the Bitcoin world — is referred to as a Satoshi, after the anonymous creator voes Bitcoin. This all gets confusing, because Bitcoin is also the name of the payment network on which the Bitcoin digital tokens are stored and moved.
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As a new user, you can get started with Bitcoin without understanding the technical details. Once you've installed a Bitcoin wallet on your computer or mobile phone, it will generate your first Bitcoin address and you can create more whenever you need one. You can disclose your addresses to your friends so that they can pay you or vice versa. In fact, this is pretty similar to how email works, except that Bitcoin addresses should be used only once. The block chain is a shared public ledger on which the entire Bitcoin network relies.
If you cut the information inside computers into smaller pieces, you will find 1s and 0s. These are called 1 what is bitcoin and how does it work. You already know about coins. Bitcoins are just the plural of Bitcoin. They are coins stored in computers. They are not physical and only exist in the digital world! By the end of the guide, even total beginners will understand what Bitcoin is, how to get Bitcoin, and how to use Bitcoin.
There are three types of people in this world: the producer, the consumer, and the middleman. This is the same in almost every industry! Bitcoin was invented to remove one type of middleman — the banks. They take a fee for processing. Once the money reaches the bank in the U. Banks store lots of private data about their customers. Many banks have been hacked over the last 10 years, which is very dangerous for the people that use banks.
This is why it is important to understand how does Bitcoin work. They have too much control over the people that use the banks and they have abused their power. They played a big role in the financial crisis of. Bitcoin started injust after that crisis. Many people believe that the crisis was one of the reasons for creating Bitcoin.
Who created Bitcoin? The creator of Bitcoin is unknown. The name used was Satoshi Nakamoto, but this was a fake name and nobody knows who the real creator is. The solution was to build a system that has no single authority like a bank. The banks and the governments controlled the currencies, so a new currency had to be created. Bitcoin is the solution: it has no single authority. That means no banks, no PayPal, no government to be able to tell the bank to freeze your account.
The creator of Bitcoin made three main concepts for Bitcoin that are essential in understanding the principles of Bitcoin:. Then, both computers start talking to each other and your browser shows images, buttons. In a decentralized network, the data is. If Google used a decentralized network, you would still be able to see the data, because it is everywhere and not just in one place.
This means that Google would never go offline! In World War II cryptography was used a lot. It converted radio messages into code that nobody could read. To read it, you would need to convert back to the original message.
To do that, you needed a key. It was possible through mathematical formulas! Bitcoin uses cryptography in the same way. Instead of converting radio messages, Bitcoin uses cryptography to convert transaction data.
That is why Bitcoin is called a crypto currency. Knowing that takes you one step closer to understanding how does Bitcoin work. Bitcoin does this using the blockchain. Last week when John visited the bakery, only one cake was left. Four other people wanted it. This is the main concept of supply and demand: when something is limited, it has more value. The more people that want it, the more the price of it will go up. Bitcoin uses this same concept. The supply of bitcoin is limited.
Bitcoin is produced at a fixed rate, which will decrease over time — it halves every four years. Bitcoin has a limit of 21 million coins; once there are 21 million Bitcoins, no more Bitcoins can be created. How many Bitcoins are there at the moment? Well, currently To really learn how Bitcoin works, we should move on to how the Bitcoin transactions work….
Now, let us see how these concepts work. To record transactions, we need to put them in a database like an Excel sheet.
This would normally be stored in one place in a centralized network. But because Bitcoin uses a decentralized network, the Bitcoin database is shared. This shared database is known as a distributed ledger and it is accessed using 1 what is bitcoin and how does it work blockchain.
To learn more about blockchain technology and understand what are Bitcoins from the blockchain perspective better, read my Blockchain Explained guide. The message would be then broadcasted to all the computers in the network.
When you create a Bitcoin wallet to store your Bitcoinyou receive a public key and a private key. Public keys and private keys are a set of long numbers and letters; they are like your username and password. Both are very important for truly understanding how does Bitcoin work. People need your public key if they want to send money to you. Because it is just a set of numbers and digits, nobody needs to know your name or email address.
As for your private keyyou should never let anyone see it. On the blockchain, your private key is your identity. You use your private key to access your Bitcoin. If someone sees it, they can steal all your Bitcoin — so be very careful! So yes, technically, your identity can be faked. If someone gets your private key, they can use it to send Bitcoin from your wallet to their wallet. This is why you must keep your private key very, very safe. Your real identity your name, address.
Bitcoin transactions are grouped together and stored in blocks. These blocks are linked back to one another in a series. This is why it is called a blockchain. Each transaction in the block has a public key written on it. If it is your Bitcoin, it 1 what is bitcoin and how does it work be your private key that is written on it. Because each block is connected to the block before it, no Bitcoin can be spent twice. If someone tried to send the same Bitcoin twice, this is what would happen:.
This is one of the key elements of how does Bitcoin work. This is possible, but it is near impossible to achieve. To add new blocks to the blockchain, they must be mined. This process is called mining because the nodes that do it are rewarded with Bitcoin — like gold miners being rewarded with gold.
In mining, the nodes must process Bitcoin transactions and verify that they are real. To do this, they must solve a mathematical problem. When the problem is solved, the block of transactions is verified, and a new block is created. Each block has a new problem and a new solution for miners to. The first node to solve this problem gets new Bitcoins. Mining uses a lot of electricity, so the miners need to be rewarded! You should already know what most of the advantages of Bitcoin are after reading this far into the guide.
Then you will fully know and be an expert on how does Bitcoin work question. Another key element of how does Bitcoin work is that anyone anywhere in the world can send money to each. With a bank, you must use your ID when you apply for an account. Because of this, hundreds of millions of people around the world do not have bank accounts. They cannot send or receive money. But now, with Bitcoin, they finally can! If you send it using Bitcoin, it will only take around 10 minutes. The fee for Bitcoin changes often and the developers are trying to keep it as low as possible.
Bitcoin explained and made simple - Guardian Animations
The digital-currency has plunged over 50 per cent in the past 13 trading days.
Transactions are defined using a Wnat -like scripting language. But how? At present The supply of bitcoin is limited. The bow protocol specifies that the reward for adding a block will be halved everyblocks approximately every four years. Usually, the public key or bitcoin address is also printed, so that a holder of a paper wallet can check or add funds without exposing the private key to a device. The Telegraph. Mining also creates the equivalent of a competitive lottery that prevents any individual from easily adding new blocks consecutively to the block chain. Archived from the original on 18 October It does so by throwing miners a curveball: Their hash must be below a certain target. Home Insurance. Retrieved 10 April Bitcoin started in wnd, just after that crisis. But what is Bitcoin and how does it all work?