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To cut through some of this confusion surrounding bitcoin, we need to divide it into two components. On the one hand, you've got bitcoin-the-token, a snippet of code which represents ownership of an electronic concept sort of like a digital IOU. On the other hand, you've got bitcoin-the-protocol, a dispersed 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's made and kept electronically. Bitcoins arent printed, for example dollars or euros theyre produced by computers all around the planet, using free software.

It was the very first instance of what we today call cryptocurrencies, a growing strength class that shares some features of traditional currencies, with verification based on cryptography.

A pseudonymous software programmer going by the name of Satoshi Nakamoto proposed bitcoin in 2008, as an electronic payment method based on mathematical evidence. The idea was to produce a means of exchange, independent of any central authority, that may be transferred electronically in a secure, verifiable and immutable way.

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Bitcoin can be used to pay for things electronically, if both parties are willing. In that sense, its like conventional dollars, euros, or yen, which can also be traded digitally.

Bitcoins most important feature is that it is decentralized. No single institution controls the bitcoin network. It is maintained by a group of volunteer coders, and run by an open network of committed servers spread around the world. This brings individuals and groups who are uncomfortable with all the control that banks or government institutions have over their money. .

Bitcoin simplifies the double spending issue of electronic currencies (in which electronic assets can easily be replicated and re-used) through an ingenious combination of cryptography and economic incentives. In electronic fiat currencies, this function is fulfilled by banks, which gives them control over the traditional system. With bitcoin, the integrity of these transactions is maintained by a distributed and open network, owned by no-one. .

Fiat currencies (dollars, euros, yen, etc.) have an unlimited supply central banks can issue as many as they want, and can attempt to manipulate a currencys worth relative to others. Holders of the currency (and notably citizens with little alternative) bear the price.

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With bitcoin, on the other hand, the distribution is tightly controlled by the underlying algorithm. Even a small number of new bitcoins trickle every hour, and will continue to do so at a diminishing rate until a max of 21 million has been attained. This makes bitcoin more appealing as an asset in theory, if demand grows and the distribution remains the same, the value will increase. .

Even though senders of traditional electronic payments are often identified (for verification purposes, and to comply with anti-money laundering and other legislation), users of bitcoin in theory function in semi-anonymity. Since there's absolutely no central validator, users do not need to identify themselves when sending bitcoin to another user. When a transaction request is filed, the protocol assesses all previous transactions to confirm that the sender has the necessary bitcoin in addition to the ability to send them.

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In practice, each user is identified by the address of his or her pocket. Transactions can, with some effort, be tracked this way. Additionally, law enforcement has developed approaches to identify users if necessary.

Furthermore, most exchanges are required by legislation to perform identity checks on their clients before they are allowed to purchase or sell bitcoin, facilitating another manner that bitcoin usage can be tracked. Since the network is transparent, websites the advancement of a specific transaction is observable to all.

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This is because there's no central adjudicator that can say ok, return the money. If a transaction is recorded on the network, and when more than an hour has passed, it is impossible to change.

Even though this might disquiet some, it does mean that any transaction on the bitcoin network cannot be tampered with.

The smallest unit of a bitcoin is referred to as a satoshi. It is one hundred millionth of a bitcoin (0.00000001) at todays prices, roughly one hundredth of a cent. This could conceivably enable microtransactions that traditional electronic money cannot.

Read more to find out how bitcoin transactions are processed and the way bitcoins are mined, what this hyperlink it can be used for, as well as how you can buy, sell and save your bitcoin. We also explain a few alternatives to bitcoin, in addition to how its underlying technology the blockchain works. .

If you want to know what is Bitcoin, the way you can get it and how it can help you, without floundering into technical details, this manual is for you. It will explain how the system operates, how you can use it for your gain, which scams to avoid. It will also guide you to sources which will help you shop and use your first parts of digital currency.

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