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That said, bitcoin is designed to offer users a unique set of advantages over other payment methods. We'll take a closer look at those below, but before we do, it will be useful to explore what bitcoin is.
By better understanding how bitcoin was designed, it will be easier to see what the advantages of using bitcoin for payments are. Bitcoin is a decentralized, peer-to-peer cryptocurrency system designed to allow online users to process transactions through digital units of exchange called bitcoins BTC. Started in by a mysterious entity named Satoshi Nakamoto, the Bitcoin network has come to dominate and even define the cryptocurrency space, spawning a legion of altcoin followers and representing for many users an alternative to government flat currencies like the U.
Why the need for bitcoin in the first place, if there are already so many traditional means of making payments? A key element of bitcoin is its decentralized status, meaning that it is not controlled or regulated by any central authority. This immediately distinguishes it from fiat currencies. Bitcoin payments are processed through a private network of computers linked through a shared ledger.
Each transaction is simultaneously recorded in a "blockchain" on each computer that updates and informs all accounts. The blockchain serves as a distributed ledger and obviates the need for any central authority to maintain such records.
Bitcoins are not issued by a central bank or government system like fiat currencies. Rather, bitcoins are either "mined" by a computer through a process of solving increasingly complex mathematical algorithms in order to verify transaction blocks to be added to the blockchain, or they are purchased with standard national money currencies and placed into a "bitcoin wallet" that is accessed most commonly through a smartphone or computer.
Now that we have seen a brief overview of what bitcoin is, we can better understand how this leading cryptocurrency provides potential benefits to its users. The primary draw of bitcoin for many users, and indeed one of the central tenets of cryptocurrencies more generally, is autonomy. Digital currencies allow users more autonomy over their own money than fiat currencies do, at least in theory. Users are able to control how they spend their money without dealing with an intermediary authority like a bank or government.
Bitcoin purchases are discrete. Unless a user voluntarily publishes his Bitcoin transactions, his purchases are never associated with his personal identity, much like cash-only purchases, and cannot easily be traced back to him.
In fact, the anonymous bitcoin address that is generated for user purchases changes with each transaction. This is not to say that bitcoin transactions are truly anonymous or entirely untraceable, but they are much less readily linked to personal identity than some traditional forms of payment. The bitcoin payment system is purely peer-to-peer, meaning that users are able to send and receive payments to or from anyone on the network around the world without requiring approval from any external source or authority.
While it is considered standard among cryptocurrency exchanges to charge so-called "maker" and "taker" fees , as well as occasional deposit and withdrawal fees, bitcoin users are not subject to the litany of traditional banking fees associated with fiat currencies. This means no account maintenance or minimum balance fees, no overdraft charges and no returned deposit fees, among many others. Standard wire transfers and foreign purchases typically involve fees and exchange costs.
Since bitcoin transactions have no intermediary institutions or government involvement, the costs of transacting are kept very low. This can be a major advantage for travelers. Additionally, any transfer in bitcoins happens very quickly, eliminating the inconvenience of typical authorization requirements and wait periods.
Like with many online payment systems, bitcoin users can pay for their coins anywhere they have Internet access. This means that purchasers never have to travel to a bank or a store to buy a product. However, unlike online payments made with U.
Because users are able to send and receive bitcoins with only a smartphone or computer, bitcoin is theoretically available to populations of users without access to traditional banking systems, credit cards and other methods of payment. Your Money. He said he hoped it would be worth enough one day to buy a house. One hundred dollars, or 0. My wife's opinion of me has reportedly decreased by the same amount. Other cryptocurrencies have seen similar spikes, though they trade for much less than bitcoin.
There's a long list of factors people may point to in an attempt to explain this. Regulators have taken a hands-off approach to bitcoin in certain markets. Dozens of new hedge funds have launched this year to trade cryptocurrencies like bitcoin.
The Nasdaq and Chicago Mercantile Exchange plan to let investors trade bitcoin futures , which may attract more professional investors. Yet a key reason the price of bitcoin keeps going up is, well, because it keeps going up.
Small investors like yours truly have a fear of missing out on a chance to get rich quick. And when the value of your bitcoin doubles in a week, as it did for me, it's easy to think you're a genius. But you can get burned assuming it will keep skyrocketing. Some investors have likened the bitcoin hype to the dot-com bubble. Others, like Dimon, have said it's even " worse " than the Dutch tulip mania from the s, considered one of the most famous bubbles ever.
As Buffett put it back in , "the idea that [bitcoin] has some huge intrinsic value is just a joke in my view. There's also no interest or dividends. Bitcoin serves as a new kind of currency for the digital era. It works across international borders and doesn't need to be backed by banks or governments. Or at least that was the promise when it was created in The surge and volatility of bitcoin this year may be great for those who invested early, but it undermines bitcoin's viability as a currency.
Related: Bitcoin boom may be a disaster for the environment. Then again, if bitcoin crashes, at least I'll always have the socks.
Rather than a currency, bitcoin is being treated more like an asset, with the hope of reaping great returns in the future. So is there anything truly valuable about bitcoin? Bitcoin is built on the blockchain , a public ledger containing all the transaction data from anyone who uses bitcoin. Transactions are added to "blocks" or the links of code that make up the chain, and each transaction must be recorded on a block.
Even bitcoin critics like Dimon have said they support the use of blockchain technology for tracking payments. Is there a legal and legitimate way to invest in bitcoin?