Bitcoin Table of contents expand: 1. What is Bitcoin? 2. Understanding Bitcoin 3. How Bitcoin Works 4. What's a Bitcoin Worth? 5. How Bitcoin Began 6. Who Invented Bitcoin? 7. Before Satoshi 8. Why Is Satoshi Anonymous? 9. The Suspects 10. Can Satoshi's Identity Be Proven? 11. Receiving Bitcoins As Payment 12. Working For Bitcoins 13. Bitcoin From Interest Payments 14. Bitcoins From Gambling 15. Investing in Bitcoins 16. Risks of Bitcoin Investing 17. Bitcoin Regulatory Risk 18. Security Risk of Bitcoins 19. Insurance Risk 20. Risk of Bitcoin Fraud 21. Market Risk 22. Bitcoin's Tax Risk What is Bitcoin?
Bitcoin is a digital currency created in January 2009. It follows the ideas set out in a white paper by the mysterious Satoshi Nakamoto, whose true identity is yet to be verified. Bitcoin offers the promise of lower transaction fees than traditional online payment mechanisms and is operated by a decentralized authority, unlike government-issued currencies.
There are no physical bitcoins, only balances kept on a public ledger in the cloud, that – along with all Bitcoin transactions – is verified by a massive amount of computing power. Bitcoins are not issued or backed by any banks or governments, nor are individual bitcoins valuable as a commodity. Despite it not being legal tender, Bitcoin charts high on popularity, and has triggered the launch of other virtual currencies collectively referred to as Altcoins.
Understanding Bitcoin Bitcoin is a type of cryptocurrency: Balances are kept using public and private "keys," which are long strings of numbers and letters linked through the mathematical encryption algorithm that was used to create them. The public key (comparable to a bank account number) serves as the address which is published to the world and to which others may send bitcoins. The private key (comparable to an ATM PIN) is meant to be a guarded secret and only used to authorize Bitcoin transmissions. Style notes: According to the official Bitcoin Foundation, the word "Bitcoin" is capitalized in the context of referring to the entity or concept, whereas "bitcoin" is written in the lower case when referring to a quantity of the currency (e.g. "I traded 20 bitcoin") or the units themselves. The plural form can be either "bitcoin" or "bitcoins."
How Bitcoin Works Bitcoin is one of the first digital currencies to use peer-to-peer technology to facilitate instant payments. The independent individuals and companies who own the governing computing power and participate in the Bitcoin network, also known as "miners," are motivated by rewards (the release of new bitcoin) and transaction fees paid in bitcoin. These miners can be thought of as the decentralized authority enforcing the credibility of the Bitcoin network. New bitcoin is being released to the miners at a fixed, but periodically declining rate, such that the total supply of bitcoins approaches 21 million. One bitcoin is divisible to eight decimal places (100 millionths of one bitcoin), and this smallest unit is referred to as a Satoshi. If necessary, and if the participating miners accept the change, Bitcoin could eventually be made divisible to even more decimal places. Bitcoin mining is the process through which bitcoins are released to come into circulation. Basically, it involves solving a computationally difficult puzzle to discover a new block, which is added to the blockchain and receiving a reward in the form of a few bitcoins. The block reward was 50 new bitcoins in 2009; it decreases every four years. As more and more bitcoins are created, the difficulty of the mining process – that is, the amount of computing power involved – increases. The mining difficulty began at 1.0 with Bitcoin's debut back in 2009; at the end of the year, it was only 1.18. As of February 2019, the mining difficulty is over 6.06 billion. Once, an ordinary desktop computer sufficed for the mining process; now, to combat the difficulty level, miners must use faster hardware like Application-Specific Integrated Circuits (ASIC), more advanced processing units like Graphic Processing Units (GPUs), etc.
What's a Bitcoin Worth? In 2017 alone, the price of Bitcoin rose from a little under $1,000 at the beginning of the year to close to $19,000, ending the year more than 1,400% higher. Bitcoin's price is also quite dependent on the size of its mining network since the larger the network is, the more difficult – and thus more costly – it is to produce new bitcoins. As a result, the price of bitcoin has to increase as its cost of production also rises. The Bitcoin mining network's aggregate power has more than tripled over the past twelve months.
How Bitcoin Began
Aug. 18, 2008: The domain name bitcoin.org is registered. Today, at least, this domain is "WhoisGuard Protected," meaning the identity of the person who registered it is not public information.
Oct. 31, 2008: Someone using the name Satoshi Nakamoto makes an announcement on The Cryptography Mailing list at metzdowd.com: "I've been working on a new electronic cash system that's fully peer-to-peer, with no trusted third party. The paper is available at http://www.bitcoin.org/bitcoin.pdf." This
link leads to the now-famous white paper published on bitcoin.org entitled "Bitcoin: A Peer-to-Peer Electronic Cash System." This paper would become the Magna Carta for how Bitcoin operates today.
Jan. 3, 2009: The first Bitcoin block is mined, Block 0. This is also known as the "genesis block" and contains the text: "The Times 03/Jan/2009 Chancellor on brink of second bailout for banks," perhaps as proof that the block was mined on or after that date, and perhaps also as relevant political commentary.
Jan. 8, 2009: The first version of the Bitcoin software is announced on The Cryptography Mailing list.
Jan. 9, 2009: Block 1 is mined, and Bitcoin mining commences in earnest.
Who Invented Bitcoin?
No one knows. Not conclusively, at any rate. Satoshi Nakamoto is the name associated with the person or group of people who released the original Bitcoin white paper in 2008 and worked on the original Bitcoin software that was released in 2009. The Bitcoin protocol requires users to enter a birthday upon signup, and we know that an individual named Satoshi Nakamoto registered and put down April 5 as a birth date. And that's about it.
Though it is tempting to believe the media's spin that Satoshi Nakamoto is a solitary, quixotic genius who created Bitcoin out of thin air, such innovations do not happen in a vacuum. All major scientific discoveries, no matter how original-seeming, were built on previously existing research. There are precursors to Bitcoin: Adam Back’s Hashcash, invented in 1997, and subsequently Wei Dai’s b-money, Nick Szabo’s bit gold and Hal Finney’s Reusable Proof of Work. The Bitcoin white paper itself cites Hashcash and b-money, as well as various other works spanning several research fields.
Why Is Satoshi Anonymous?
There are two primary motivations for keeping Bitcoin's inventor keeping his or her or their identity secret. One is privacy. As Bitcoin has gained in popularity – becoming something of a worldwide phenomenon – Satoshi Nakamoto would likely garner a lot of attention from the media and from governments.
The other reason is safety. Looking at 2009 alone, 32,489 blocks were mined; at the then-reward rate of 50 BTC per block, the total payout in 2009 was 1,624,500 BTC, which at today’s prices is over $900 million. One may conclude that only Satoshi and perhaps a few other people were mining through 2009 and that they possess a majority of that $900 million worth of BTC. Someone in possession of that much BTC could become a target of criminals, especially since bitcoins are less like stocks and more like cash, where the private keys needed to authorize spending could be printed out and literally kept under a mattress. While it's likely the inventor of Bitcoin would take precautions to make any extortion-induced transfers traceable, remaining anonymous is a good way for Satoshi to limit exposure.
Numerous people have been suggested as possible Satoshi Nakamoto by major media outlets. Oct. 10, 2011, The New Yorker published an article speculating that Nakamoto might be Irish cryptography student Michael Clear or economic sociologist Vili Lehdonvirta. A day later, Fast Company suggested that Nakamoto could be a group of three people – Neal King, Vladimir Oksman and Charles Bry – who together appear on a patent related to secure communications that were filed two months before bitcoin.org was registered. A Vice article published in May 2013 added more suspects to the list, including Gavin Andresen, the Bitcoin project’s lead developer; Jed McCaleb, co-founder of now-defunct Bitcoin exchange Mt. Gox; and famed Japanese mathematician Shinichi Mochizuki.
In December 2013, Techcrunch published an interview with researcher Skye Grey who claimed textual analysis of published writings shows a link between Satoshi and bit-gold creator Nick Szabo. And perhaps most famously, in March 2014, Newsweek ran a cover article claiming that Satoshi is actually an individual named Satoshi Nakamoto – a 64-year-old Japanese-American engineer living in California. The list of suspects is long, and all the individuals deny being Satoshi.
Can Satoshi's Identity Be Proven?
It would seem even early collaborators on the project don’t have verifiable proof of Satoshi’s identity. To reveal conclusively who Satoshi Nakamoto is, a definitive link would need to be made between his/her activity with Bitcoin and his/her identity. That could come in the form of linking the party behind the domain registration of bitcoin.org, email and forum accounts used by Satoshi Nakamoto, or ownership of some portion of the earliest mined bitcoins. Even though the bitcoins Satoshi likely possesses are traceable on the blockchain, it seems he/she has yet to cash them out in a way that reveals his/her identity. If Satoshi were to move his/her bitcoins to an exchange today, this might attract attention, but it seems unlikely that a well-funded and successful exchange would betray a customer's privacy.
Receiving Bitcoins As Payment
Bitcoins can be accepted as a means of payment for products sold or services provided. If you have a brick and mortar store, just display a sign saying “Bitcoin Accepted Here” and many of your customers may well take you up on it; the transactions can be handled with the requisite hardware terminal or wallet address through QR codes and touch screen apps. An online business can easily accept bitcoins by just adding this payment option to the others it offers, like credit cards, PayPal, etc. Online payments will require a Bitcoin merchant tool (an external processor like Coinbase or BitPay).
Working For Bitcoins
Those who are self-employed can get paid for a job in bitcoins. There are several websites/job boards which are dedicated to the digital currency:
Work For Bitcoin brings together work seekers and prospective employers through its websiteCoinality features jobs – freelance, part-time and full-time – that offer payment in bitcoins, as well as Dogecoin and LitecoinJobs4Bitcoins, part of reddit.comBitGigs
Bitcoin From Interest Payments
Another interesting way (literally) to earn bitcoins is by lending them out and being repaid in the currency. Lending can take three forms – direct lending to someone you know; through a website which facilitates peer-to-peer transactions, pairing borrowers and lenders; or depositing bitcoins in a virtual bank that offers a certain interest rate for Bitcoin accounts. Some such sites are Bitbond, BitLendingClub, and BTCjam. Obviously, you should do due diligence on any third-party site.
Bitcoins From Gambling
It’s possible to play at casinos that cater to Bitcoin aficionados, with options like online lotteries, jackpots, spread betting, and other games. Of course, the pros and cons and risks that apply to any sort of gambling and betting endeavors are in force here too.
Investing in Bitcoins
There are many Bitcoin supporters who believe that digital currency is the future. Those who endorse it are of the view that it facilitates a much faster, no-fee payment system for transactions across the globe. Although it is not itself any backed by any government or central bank, bitcoin can be exchanged for traditional currencies; in fact, its exchange rate against the dollar attracts potential investors and traders interested in currency plays. Indeed, one of the primary reasons for the growth of digital currencies like Bitcoin is that they can act as an alternative to national fiat money and traditional commodities like gold.
In March 2014, the IRS stated that all virtual currencies, including bitcoins, would be taxed as property rather than currency. Gains or losses from bitcoins held as capital will be realized as capital gains or losses, while bitcoins held as inventory will incur ordinary gains or losses.
Like any other asset, the principle of buying low and selling high applies to bitcoins. The most popular way of amassing the currency is through buying on a Bitcoin exchange, but there are many other ways to earn and own bitcoins. Here are a few options which Bitcoin enthusiasts can explore.
Risks of Bitcoin Investing
Though Bitcoin was not designed as a normal equity investment (no shares have been issued), some speculative investors were drawn to the digital money after it appreciated rapidly in May 2011 and again in November 2013. Thus, many people purchase bitcoin for its investment value rather than as a medium of exchange.
However, their lack of guaranteed value and digital nature means the purchase and use of bitcoins carries several inherent risks. Many investor alerts have been issued by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA), the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), and other agencies.
The concept of a virtual currency is still novel and, compared to traditional investments, Bitcoin doesn't have much of a long-term track record or history of credibility to back it. With their increasing use, bitcoins are becoming less experimental every day, of course; still, after eight years, they (like all digital currencies) remain in a development phase, still evolving. "It is pretty much the highest-risk, highest-return investment that you can possibly make,” says Barry Silbert, CEO of Digital Currency Group, which builds and invests in Bitcoin and blockchain companies.
Bitcoin Regulatory Risk
Investing money into Bitcoin in any of its many guises is not for the risk-averse. Bitcoins are a rival to government currency and may be used for black market transactions, money laundering, illegal activities or tax evasion. As a result, governments may seek to regulate, restrict or ban the use and sale of bitcoins, and some already have. Others are coming up with various rules. For example, in 2015, the New York State Department of Financial Services finalized regulations that would require companies dealing with the buy, sell, transfer or storage of bitcoins to record the identity of customers, have a compliance officer and maintain capital reserves. The transactions worth $10,000 or more will have to be recorded and reported.
Although more agencies will follow suit, issuing rules and guidelines, the lack of uniform regulations about bitcoins (and other virtual currency) raises questions over their longevity, liquidity, and universality.
Security Risk of Bitcoins
Bitcoin exchanges are entirely digital and, as with any virtual system, are at risk from hackers, malware and operational glitches. If a thief gains access to a Bitcoin owner's computer hard drive and steals his private encryption key, he could transfer the stolen Bitcoins to another account. (Users can prevent this only if bitcoins are stored on a computer which is not connected to the internet, or else by choosing to use a paper wallet – printing out the Bitcoin private keys and addresses, and not keeping them on a computer at all.) Hackers can also target Bitcoin exchanges, gaining access to thousands of accounts and digital wallets where bitcoins are stored. One especially notorious hacking incident took place in 2014, when Mt. Gox, a Bitcoin exchange in Japan, was forced to close down after millions of dollars worth of bitcoins were stolen.
This is particularly problematic once you remember that all Bitcoin transactions are permanent and irreversible. It's like dealing with cash: Any transaction carried out with bitcoins can only be reversed if the person who has received them refunds them. There is no third party or a payment processor, as in the case of a debit or credit card – hence, no source of protection or appeal if there is a problem.
Some investments are insured through the Securities Investor Protection Corporation. Normal bank accounts are insured through the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) up to a certain amount depending on the jurisdiction. Bitcoin exchanges and Bitcoin accounts are not insured by any type of federal or government program.
Risk of Bitcoin Fraud
While Bitcoin uses private key encryption to verify owners and register transactions, fraudsters and scammers may attempt to sell false bitcoins. For instance, in July 2013, the SEC brought legal action against an operator of a Bitcoin-related Ponzi scheme.
Like with any investment, Bitcoin values can fluctuate. Indeed, the value of the currency has seen wild swings in price over its short existence. Subject to high volume buying and selling on exchanges, it has a high sensitivity to “news." According to the CFPB, the price of bitcoins fell by 61% in a single day in 2013, while the one-day price drop in 2014 has been as big as 80%.
If fewer people begin to accept Bitcoin as a currency, these digital units may lose value and could become worthless. There is already plenty of competition, and though Bitcoin has a huge lead over the other 100-odd digital currencies that have sprung up, thanks to its brand recognition and venture capital money, a technological break-through in the form of a better virtual coin is always a threat.
Bitcoin's Tax Risk
As bitcoin is ineligible to be included in any tax-advantaged retirement accounts, there are no good, legal options to shield investments from taxation.
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The satoshi is the smallest unit of the bitcoin cryptocurrency. It is named after Satoshi Nakamoto, the creator of the protocol used in block chains and the bitcoin cryptocurrency.
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A guide to help you understand what blockchain is and how it can be used by industries. You've probably encountered a definition like this: “blockchain is a distributed, decentralized, public ledger." But blockchain is easier to understand than it sounds.
By Satoshi Nakamoto
Read it once, go read other crypto stuff, read it again… keep doing this until the whole document makes sense. It’ll take a while, but you’ll get there. This is the original whitepaper introducing and explaining Bitcoin, and there’s really nothing better out there to understand on the subject.
“What is needed is an electronic payment system based on cryptographic proof instead of trust, allowing any two willing parties to transact directly with each other without the need for a trusted third party
People need to realize, that at the current (and still raising) popularity of Bitcoin, bigger blocks wouldn't help much if at all.
The thing is, it is very easy to fill blocks. If blocks aren't consistently full, users can effectively set fees to as low as they want and miners will include them anyway. Maybe there's going to be some delay, maybe not. Nice and dandy, but it doesn't work for long. It worked for BTC because the number of users was tiny. And it will work for altcoins, as long as they are tiny. But as soon as a given altcoin gets popular enough to be even remotely significant, it will hit the same wall.
As soon as there is more demand than room on the blockchain, some transactions will be left-over and start piling up: the mempool will keep raising until some people are priced out. Some users will say: "well, that's too much, I'm not going to do that test transaction" or "I'm going to use an altcoin for this". There is a "cut-off cliff of pain". I estimate that this pain-price point to be around $10-$20 and kind-of fixed. Exactly between "too expensive for paying for any coffee" and "super-cheap way to make international wires". Where rich users are fine paying, but smaller users have been cut-off. Bitcoin got there already. That's why it's nearing $20k/BTC. That's what many of you wanted, right?
Tip for people with small amounts stuck: get your wallets ready and maybe, if you're lucky, there will another time when network will calm-down a bit (around new year maybe? or maybe when Coinbase finally start supporting SegWit, etc) and either: consolidate all your small outputs into one bigger TXO (segwit one!), or send to an exchange during that time so at least you can sell it. Just three weeks ago we had a period of 2-5sat/B transaction clearing out.
Anyway, there is no other way. We can't have billions of people on-chain. If we had 8MB blocks, we would still fill them up, until some people wouldn't be able to compete with the fees. Maybe we would buy ourselves a month or two.
Also: I've heard many people complain that using the coins is most important, and better for Bitcoin than holding it. It's absolute rubbish. The value of Bitcoin is set by how many people are willing to HODL it at a given price-point, not how many people are willing to spend it. "Spending" Bitcoin is just a transfer of Bitcoin from person A, to person B - nothing in the system changed except current owner of some coins. It's even worse if B automatically sells for fiat immediately. Holding BTC means that your consider it worth more than a current market price. Bitcoin could totally work and be worth millions per piece, even with transactions at $100, as long as people consider it safe and worth holding. As long as I can spend $100 once a year to increase my BTC-retirement-fund, and then spend $100 once a year, once I retired to cash out to some local currency, I'm all good.
Now, I now it sucks if you're not rich, and you can't toy with it, and keep sending between wallets etc. And you feel like altcoins are better etc. And it's true - ATM many altcoins a cheaper way to send small sums of money around. But saving / investing... let me tell you how it looks from my perspective...
I am a software engineer in Sillicon Valley. I have a well-paying job, I eat $20-worth of sushi for dinner, pay $10 every time I trade stocks, pay $3k each month for rent. I can invest $10k in BTC without thinking too much about it. And I'm not telling you this to make you jealous. The wealth inequality is so vast! That's just reality and I think it gives some perspective. I know as I wasn't born here. And I'm no one special here. I'm a nobody. I can't even afford a decent house here. (hindsight is always 20/20, ha)
And there are thousands of software engineers like this. They receive and trade stocks on a weekly/monthly basis, worry about the overpriced stock market, overpriced housing, pilling up cash that they have no idea what to do with. Do you think they care if Bitcoin transaction costs $10? No, they don't. And how many people who complain about $1 fees will take to invest as much as a person like me can? Hundreds. And as I said - I'm nobody. A CEOs here can drop $1MM on Bitcoin, just because they feel playful a given day, or they got jealous of some other CEO friend told them how awesome they are doing with BTC, during a golf game on Saturday. And they wouldn't worry about 50% correction much if at all. And do you think these people buy value-phones and look for good deals on economy-class cars? Do you think they have time to research which altcoin of the day has low transactions? Come on. They will all think something like: "let's put 0.1% of my cash into this magic internet money and see what happens. I want that Bitcoin thing too.".
So, you're free to have your own opinion, but if you ask me, for time being, the people who can not afford to transmit Bitcoin too often will and should just hold it, transferring it when it's relatively cheaper, and use altcoins for playfull spending etc. Just don't expect too much return on your altcoin holdings. I expect Bitcoin to consistently keep growing the fastest, while altcoins keep multiplying. It is a self-fulfilling prophecy. Or an iPhone vs hundreds of Android spin-offs thing. I use Android, but do I believe someone will dethrone iPhone? Nope.
In a sense... you want to invest in Apple stocks, even if you can't afford to drop $1k on an iPhone yourself. Because of people richer than you that can, and will.
And if it makes it any better, I know that LN will solve it all for us. We just need to wait a couple of months.. a year maybe for it to be more common. And I've been through all the early hacks, crashes, MtGox, great depression, forking drama... years and years of problems. And Bitcoin being too popular is like the smallest problem I've seen so far. The problem that smaller coins would like to have, haha. Being patient and some educated faith is what you are rewarded for.
Edit: I woke up, and I have to work, so I'm just going to address some common themes.
Obviously I created this account as throw-away. Duh.
I already can send quickly money for free. I send my friends money with Google Wallet every day. And in many countries in Europe free wires were a thing for like 10 years now. And for purchasing stuff I am very happy with credit cards. They give me points and stuff. If someone thinks Bitcoin can compete as a "payment processor", then I don't know what to say... Wake up, Bitcoin in itself was never really that great at it. Bitcoin won't be a payment processor for the masses. It will be an alternative monetary and banking system. And on top of it, we will get cheap payments and such.
The reason why I hold Bitcoin is that I have something that can't be taken away from me. Through theft, inflation, confiscation, economic crisis, banking collapse, unjust court order, you name it. Noone can prove I have it, noone can take it away. I can keep 1% of my wealth in this weird thing and sleep better at night. Other reasons are secondary, though sure... speculation on the price is a nice thing.
LN networks are going to work. As a software engineer, I understood how Bitcoin works since I've read the whitepaper and did some research. I've