What Is Bitcoin?


The simplest explanation of bitcoin is that it is electronic money.


Bitcoin is a form of digital currency, it is decentralised, and created and held electronically. No one controls it. Bitcoins aren’t printed, like Rand, dollars or euros – they’re produced by lots of people running computers all around the world, using software that solves mathematical problems. These people and their computers are called ‘bitcoin miners’. It’s the first example of a growing category of money known as cryptocurrency.

What makes it different from regular currencies?

Bitcoin’s most important characteristic, and the thing that makes it different to conventional money, is that it is decentralized. No single institution controls the bitcoin network. This puts some people at ease, because it means that a large bank can’t control their money.

Who created bitcoin?

Bitcoin was invented by anonymous user ‘Satoshi Nakamoto’, who published his invention in 2008, and released as open-source software in 2009.

Satoshi Nakamoto proposed bitcoin as an electronic payment system based on mathematical proof. The idea was to produce a currency independent of any central authority, transferable electronically, more or less instantly, with very low transaction fees.

Who prints or creates bitcoin?

No one. This currency isn’t physically printed in the shadows by a central bank, unaccountable to the population, and making its own rules. Those banks can simply produce more money to cover the national debt, thus devaluing their currency.

Instead, bitcoin is created digitally, by a community of people that anyone can join. Bitcoins are ‘mined’, using computing power in a distributed network. This network also processes transactions made with the virtual currency, effectively making bitcoin its own payment network.

The Bitcoin protocol – the rules that make bitcoin work – say that only 21 million bitcoins can ever be created by miners. However, these coins can be divided into smaller parts (the smallest divisible amount is one hundred millionth of a bitcoin and is called a ‘Satoshi’, after the founder of bitcoin).

What is bitcoin based on?

Conventional currency has been based on gold or silver. Theoretically, you knew that if you handed over a dollar at the bank, you could get some gold back (although this didn’t actually work in practice). But bitcoin isn’t based on gold; it’s based on mathematics.

Around the world, people are using software programs that follow a mathematical formula to produce bitcoins. The mathematical formula is freely available, so that anyone can check it. The software is also open source, meaning that anyone can look at it to make sure that it does what it is supposed to.

What are the features of bitcoin?

Bitcoin has several important features that set it apart from normal fiat currencies.

  1. Bitcoin is decentralized
  2. Bitcoin is really easy to set up
  3. Bitcoin is virtually anonymous, often called ‘pseudonymous’ or ‘pseudo-anonymous’
  4. Bitcoin transactions are completely transparent
  5. Transaction fees are optional and miniscule
  6. Bitcoin transactions are fast
  7. With bitcoin there are no ‘charge backs’