What are the basics to know about Bitcoin?
Bitcoin is a form of digital currency that aims to eliminate the need for central authorities such as banks or governments. Instead, Bitcoin uses blockchain technology to support peer-to-peer transactions between users on a decentralized network.
Transactions are authenticated through Bitcoin’s proof-of-work consensus mechanism, which rewards cryptocurrency miners for validating transactions.
Bitcoin can be divided into smaller units known as “satoshis” (up to 8 decimal places) and used for payments, but it’s also considered a store of value like gold. This is because the price of a single bitcoin has increased considerably since its inception – from less than a cent to tens of thousands of dollars. When discussed as a market asset, bitcoin is represented by the ticker symbol BTC.
The term “decentralized” is used often when discussing cryptocurrency, and simply means something that is widely distributed and has no single, centralized location or controlling authority. In the case of bitcoin, and indeed many other cryptocurrencies, the technology and infrastructure that govern the creation, supply, and security of it do not rely on centralized entities, like banks and governments, to manage it.
By design, bitcoin supply is limited to 21 million coins of which 18.77 million have already been mined. This makes bitcoin scarce and controls the inflation that might occur if there was an unlimited supply of the cryptocurrency. According to the Gadgets 360 article titled “Bitcoin mining: How Many Coins Can Be Mined in Total and How Does It Impact Pricing?” 83% of all the bitcoin that will ever exist has already been circulated.
Each Bitcoin is a digital asset that can be stored at a cryptocurrency exchange or in a digital wallet. Each individual coin represents the value of Bitcoin’s current price, but you can also own partial shares of each coin. The smallest denomination of each Bitcoin is called a Satoshi, sharing its name with Bitcoin’s creator. Each Satoshi is equivalent to a hundred millionth of one Bitcoin, so owning fractional shares of Bitcoin is quite common.
Blockchain: Bitcoin is powered by open-source code known as blockchain, which creates a shared public history of transactions organized into “blocks” that are “chained” together to prevent tampering. This technology creates a permanent record of each transaction, and it provides a way for every Bitcoin user to operate with the same understanding of who owns what.
Private and public keys: A Bitcoin wallet contains a public key and a private key, which work together to allow the owner to initiate and digitally sign transactions. This unlocks the central function of Bitcoin — securely transferring ownership from one user to another.
Bitcoin mining: Users on the Bitcoin network verify transactions through a process known as mining, which is designed to confirm that new transactions are consistent with other transactions that have been completed in the past. This ensures that you can’t spend a Bitcoin you don’t have, or that you have previously spent.