Bitcoin has almost become a household name with ever increasing coverage in the media, and fair to say its notoriety continues to increase. So what’s all the fuss about? Bitcoin appeared around 2009 as a new form of digital currency and was develop from the off as open-source by a clever chap called Satoshi Nakamoto. We are told his true identify is ‘shrouded in mystery’ like he’s some kind of Marvel superhero, I suspect this simply means he’s a super nerd, but there’s no question, he’s certainly a pioneer…
So what’s it all about?
Bitcoin is a form of currency the same as any other, however it is not under the control of any government or financial institution. The premise is for it to be owned and managed by its own community. Bitcoin is de-centralised and managed by peer-to-peer members who all partake in new transaction activity and store previous activity in what are known as ‘block chains’. This means that a full ‘copy’ of all transactions are stored locally and used to verify, between participants, new activity, thereby preventing any one person from malforming, adding or creating fake transactions within the block chain. This ‘consensus’ approach protects the security of Bitcoin transactions.
Bitcoin works in not a dissimilar way to PayPal in that you have a digital wallet with a unique address where people can send you Bitcoins. You can simply install a wallet on your device, or you can download the full Bitcoin wallet and participate in the network as a node.
Bitcoin’s value is very much an effect of supply and demand with risky investors gambling on the highs. Currently a single Bitcoin (shown as 1.0000000) is worth £573 or $935. You can purchase Bitcoins at any of the 8 decimal places so for example 0.0100000 would cost you £5.70 and 0.1000000 would cost you £57.00, no surprise where Bitcoin got its name!
OK, where do I buy Bitcoins?
Unless you have some Bitcoins coming your way via a payment, you will need to purchase Bitcoins in your existing currency. Purchasing is all about trust as it is not regulated, however that’s sort of how eBay started out, where users trusted each other to pay for and send items, and they’ve done rather well for themselves…