Bitcoin Brief


Bitcoin

Bitcoin is explained in Wikipedia as,a cryptocurrency and worldwide payment system. It is the first decentralized digital currency – the system works without a central repository or single administrator.Bitcoin is digital money used for secure and instant transfer of value anywhere in the world. It is not controlled or issued by any bank or government – instead it is an open network which is managed by its users. Much in the way email improved communication by making it fast and cheap, bitcoin is an improvement on existing payment methods which were not designed for the internet era.

History of Bitcoin

Bitcoin first came into existence in 2009 through a person names as Satoshi Nakamoto who is also referrred to as the “inventor” of Bitcoin.In 2009 it was valued at $0.00.This was preceded by a white paper written by Satoshi Nakamoto. The Premise was a peer-to-peer network version of electronic cash that would allow online payments to be sent directly from one party to another without going through a financial institution like a bank or credit union.

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.

 

How it works

Bitcoin 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.

 

Risks

According to Investopdia,the concept of a virtual currency is still novel and, compared to traditional investments, Bitcoin doesn’t have much of a longterm 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.

Not for the risk-adverse, in other words. If you are considering investing in bitcoin, understand these unique investment risks:

Regulatory Risk: 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: 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.

Insurance Risk: 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.

Fraud Risk: 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.

Market Risk: 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.

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.

 

Sources: Investopia,Wikipedia,the Guardian

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