About 10 years ago, an inventor in the pseudonym of Satoshi Nakamoto gave birth to the concept of ‘a peer-to-peer electronic cash system’ (P2P) through a 2009 whitepaper. While Satoshi gave this concept the name Bitcoin, other software developers have over the years baptized it digital cash, the internet of money, cash for the internet, virtual currencies, an international payment network, cryptocurrencies, among others.
Although Satoshi has so far not been identified as a person or a group of persons, his concept of Bitcoins provoked the giant minds of other developers and programmers, to come up with similar currencies in principle, but more improved to take care of any shortcomings of Bitcoins. Today, the virtual economy (cryptospace) boasts of more than 800 cryptocurrencies in circulation, which have also come to be known as alternative coins to Bitcoins, or simply put – ‘altcoins’. Some of the altcoins ranking closely after Bitcoin include: Ethereum, Ripple, Ethereum Classic, NEM, Litecoin, Dash, Bitshares, Monero, Stratis, Waves, Bytecoin, Steem, Zcahs, Golem, Stellar Lumens, Siacoin, Dogecoin, Lisk, Augur and Bitconnect, among others. Whether you buy or sell Bitcoins/altcoins, you must have a wallet to receive or from which to send your coins. Here, you will need to familiarize yourself with the different types of wallets in order to choose the most convenient, reliable, and secure.
According to the current market capitalization, all the altcoins are at combined market cap of $40B, with Bitcoins leading the way at $30B market cap alone. In spite of the waves and tides in the digital market, Bitcoin has continuously dominated the market, hitting the $1000 mark in the early weeks of 2017. Perhaps this explains why many individuals and organizations have continued to show interest in investing or trading in Bitcoins and altcoins, lest they be overtaken by events when the world takes an about-turn in global digital currencies.
As opposed to decentralized money, one of the most outstanding characteristic of cryptocurrencies is that they are decentralized. That means that governments and financial institutions like central banks have not control whatsoever, of the Bitcoin network. In other words, we are talking about a currency which is independent of central authorities, and therefore they cannot control your funds – how about that? It is not something that governments can ‘print’ at will for whichever reason, as they do with dollars or euros.
And because by their very nature cryptocurrencies cannot be printed like FIAT currencies, Bitcoins are a digital creation through a process mining. The Bitcoin network is a distributed network that relies on computing power, and being an open source, anyone is free to join the community of developers or miners. According to the Bitcoin protocol, the mining process will generate no more than 21 million Bitcoins, and it is estimated that mining will come to an end by the year 2040/2041.
It is important to also note, that although there is a definite limitation of the number of Bitcoins that can be mined, it does not mean there will be a shortage in accommodating the 8 billion human beings in the universe. Every Bitcoin (BTC) can be divided into ‘satoshis’, which are the smallest divisible amounts and named after the founder.
The records for all Bitcoin transactions are permanently kept on a public distribution ledger known as ‘blockchain’, which serves to not only keep the network secure but also to have transactions verified by miners and nodes from different parts of the world, prevent double spending, keep records that are inalterable, and all this at little or zero cost yet in real time! Again, there is no requirement that miners need to know each other.
Initially, it was possible for persons to mine Bitcoins from the comfort of their laptops, but since the mining difficulty has significantly gone up, many people prefer to avoid the high costs of purchasing mining equipment and the exorbitant consumption of electricity. In light of this, most of the investors today are not focusing on mining, but rather trading in Bitcoins or altcoins.
Apart from being decentralized and secure, Bitcoin transactions are pseudonymous, perhaps the reason for which the inventor did not want to be identified. The transactions are also instant, fast and global, and do not need authorization or permission from anyone in order to send or receive Bitcoins/altcoins. It’s however very important to note that once a transaction has been confirmed, this process is irreversible, and that lost funds cannot be recovered.
Already anxious to receive your first Bitcoins? You can do so through classified services like localbitcoins, be paid for a product or service using Bitcoins, access a Bitcoin ATM for Bitcoin or other cryptocurrencies, or simply buy or sell Bitcoins at exchanges like bitquick, coincorner, bitbargain, xapo, localbitcoin.com, among others.
And like anything else anywhere in the world, remember to exercise caution against scams (Ponzi scams, mining scams, wallet scams, or exchange scams).
Thanks for reading!
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