What is a ‘Cryptocurrency’?
A cryptocurrency is a digital or virtual currency that uses cryptography for security. A cryptocurrency is difficult to counterfeit because of this security feature. A defining feature of a cryptocurrency, and arguably its most endearing allure, is its organic nature; it is not issued by any central authority, rendering it theoretically immune to government interference or manipulation.
*The first cryptocurrency to capture the public imagination was Bitcoin, which was launched in 2009 by an individual or group known under the pseudonym Satoshi Nakamoto. As of September 2015, there were over 14.6 million bitcoins in circulation with a total market value of $3.4 billion. Bitcoin's success has spawned a number of competing cryptocurrencies, such as Ethereum, Litecoin, Electroneum etc.
Benefits and Drawbacks
Cryptocurrencies make it easier to transfer funds between two parties in a transaction; these transfers are facilitated through the use of public and private keys for security purposes. These fund transfers are done with minimal processing fees, allowing users to avoid the steep fees charged by most banks and financial institutions for wire transfers.
Central to the genius of Bitcoin is the block chain it uses to store an online ledger of all the transactions that have ever been conducted using bitcoins, providing a data structure for this ledger that is exposed to a limited threat from hackers and can be copied across all computers running Bitcoin software. Many experts see this block chain as having important uses in technologies, such as online voting and crowdfunding, and major financial institutions such as JP Morgan Chase see potential in cryptocurrencies to lower transaction costs by making payment processing more efficient.
However, because cryptocurrencies are virtual and do not have a central repository, a digital cryptocurrency balance can be wiped out by a computer crash if a backup copy of the holdings does not exist. Since prices are based on supply and demand, the rate at which a cryptocurrency can be exchanged for another currency can fluctuate widely.
Cryptocurrencies are not immune to the threat of hacking. In Bitcoin's short history, the company has been subject to over 40 thefts, including a few that exceeded $1 million in value. Still, many observers look at cryptocurrencies as hope that a currency can exist that preserves value, facilitates exchange, is more transportable than hard metals, and is outside the influence of central banks and governments.
What is a ‘Satoshi’?
Unlike the physical versions of global currencies, such as the British pound or U.S. dollar, cryptocurrencies predominately exist in the digital world. Despite this difference, a cryptocurrency can be divided into smaller units, just as the pound is broken into pence and the dollar into cents. In the case of bitcoins, the smallest unit available is called the satoshi.
The satoshi unit is named after Satoshi Nakamoto, published a paper in 2008 that jumpstarted the development of the bitcoin cryptocurrency. The paper, “Bitcoin: A Peer-to-Peer Electronic Cash System”, described the use of a peer-to-peer network as a solution to the problem of double-spending. The problem – that a digital currency or token can used in more than one transaction – is not found in physical currencies, as a physical bill or coin can, by its nature, only exist in one place at a single time. Since a digital currency does not exist in the physical space, using it in a transaction does not remove it from someone’s possession.
The satoshi represents one hundred millionth of a bitcoin. Small denominations make bitcoin transactions easier to conduct transactions with. The general unit structure of bitcoins has 1 bitcoin (BTC) equivalent to 1,000 millibitcoins (mBTC), 1,000,000 microbitcoins (μBTC), or 100,000,000 satoshis. While the exact figure is unknown, it is estimated that Satoshi Nakamoto may possess 1 million bitcoins, equivalent to 100,000,000,000,000 satoshi.
While not part of a major currency pair, bitcoins can be converted to and from other currencies. Bitcoin exchanges exist in order to allow individuals to conduct transactions. This involves depositing dollars, pounds, or other supported currencies into an account in one of the exchanges, where the balance can be used to buy or sell bitcoins and ultimately convert them into other currencies. Just as with the exchange rates between established currencies, the value of bitcoins will fluctuate according to supply and demand.
While individuals may keep a penny or pence in their pockets, physical versions of cryptocurrencies like bitcoin have not become as mainstream. This is primarily for practical reasons, since the main draw of bitcoin is that it is digital and hard to counterfeit. Not having a physical presence means that bitcoins are more secure, even before the block chain technology is taken into consideration. Another reason for the lack of physical bitcoins (and santoshi) is that bitcoins are not widely-accepted in day-to-day transactions.
Why Invest in Cryptocurrencies And Why Not?
First, because you want to hedge your net-worth against the fall of the Dollar imperium, which is assumed by many people to inevitably happen at some time. Second, because you support the social vision behind cryptocurrencies – that of a free and hard money for the whole world. Third, because you understand and like the technology.
However, there are also very bad reasons to invest in cryptocurrencies. Many people fall victim to the hype surrounding every cryptocurrency-bubble. There is always somebody captured by FOMO (fear of missing out), buying massively in at the peak of a bubble, just in hope to make quick money, while not understanding cryptocurrencies at all. Don’t do this. Learn before you invest.
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This was an overall view of the industry standard. Bitcoin, and what cryptocurrency is and how it works. The next part of ‘Cryptocurrency Basics’ will focus on the technical terms, and definitions.
Credits to Kristopher Butler link to page is here