In a recent Bloomberg phone poll, 46% of Americans had no idea what Bitcoin was, while 42% knew that it was a virtual currency. Even funnier was the fact that 6% thought it was a new iPhone App and another 6% thought it was an Xbox game. I found that poll amazing, as I was sure that more people knew what Bitcoin was.
Exactly what is Bitcoin and how does it work?
Bitcoin is the world's first decentralized digital currency. Originally outlined in a paper by Satoshi Nakamoto in 2008, the Bitcoin network was developed and the first Bitcoins were released in 2009. This experimental cryptocurrency process claims to conduct quick, freeze-proof, irreversible chain of digitally-signed transactions in any country, without using a financial institution as an intermediary.
Bitcoins are predictable and limited in supply, unlike that of centralized currency. The total amount of Bitcoins in circulation is set to top out in 2140 at 20 million coins.
This open source, peer-to-peer payment network and digital currency uses public-key cryptography for security. Users send payments by broadcasting digitally signed messages from their "wallets" that transfer ownership of Bitcoins to another user. Then a decentralized network of specialized computers called "Miners" verify and time stamp all transactions using a proof-of-work system. The operators are then rewarded with transaction fees and newly minted Bitcoins.
Bitcoin was first noticed due to its use in illegal activities. In 2013, the FBI shut down the Silk Road online black market and seized $28.5 million worth of Bitcoin from the alleged mastermind. More recently, they have gained traction in the investing community and can be used to buy everything from pizza to a Tesla car. Even with its volatile exchange rate, do you think Bitcoin will be able to overtake current forms of currency and change the way people use money online?