Bitcoin hit news headlines this week as the price of one unit of the cryptocurrency passed $11,500 for the first time.
Although it’s often referred to as new, Bitcoin has existed since 2009 and the technology it is built on has roots going back even further. In fact if you had invested just $1,000 in Bitcoin the year it was first publicly available, you would now be richer to the tune of £36.7 million.
What is 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.
Most Popular Cryptocurrency –
Bitcoin (BTC) – 2009
Litecoin (LTC) – 2011
Ethereum (ETH) – 2012
Ripple (XRP) – 2012
Zcash (ZCE) – 2016
Darkcoin (Dash) – 2014
Monero (XMR) – 2014
A brief history of Bitcoin and cryptocurrency.
1998 – 2009 The pre-Bitcoin years
Although Bitcoin was the first established cryptocurrency, there had been previous attempts at creating online currencies with ledgers secured by encryption. Two examples of these were B-Money and Bit Gold, which were formulated but never fully developed.
2008 – The Mysterious Mr Nakamoto
A paper called Bitcoin – A Peer to Peer Electronic Cash System was posted to a mailing list discussion on cryptography. It was posted by someone calling themselves Satoshi Nakamoto, whose real identity remains a mystery to this day.
2009 – Bitcoin begins
The Bitcoin software is made available to the public for the first time and mining – the process through which new Bitcoins are created and transactions are recorded and verified on the blockchain – begins.
2010 – Bitcoin is valued for the first time
As it had never been traded, only mined, it was impossible to assign a monetary value to the units of the emerging cryptocurrency. In 2010, someone decided to sell theirs for the first time – swapping 10,000 of them for two pizzas. If the buyer had hung onto those Bitcoins, at today’s prices they would be worth more than $100 million.
2011 – Rival cryptocurrencies emerge
As Bitcoin increases in popularity and the idea of decentralized and encrypted currencies catch on, the first alternative cryptocurrencies appear. These are sometimes known as altcoin and generally try to improve on the original Bitcoin design by offering greater speed, anonymity or some other advantage. Among the first to emerge were Namecoin and Litecoin. Currently there are over 1,000 cryptocurrencies in circulation with new ones frequently appearing.
2013 – Bitcoin price crashes.
Shortly after the price of one Bitcoin reaches $1,000 for the first time, the price quickly begins to decline. Many who invested money at this point will have suffered losses as the price plummeted to around $300 – it would be more than two years before it reached $1,000 again.
2014 – Scams and theft
Perhaps unsurprisingly for a currency designed with anonymity and lack of control in mind, Bitcoin has proven to be an attractive and lucrative target for criminals. In January 2014, the world’s largest Bitcoin exchange Mt.Gox went offline, and the owners of 850,000Bitcoins never saw them again. Investigations are still trying to get to the bottom of exactly what happened but whatever the story, someone dishonestly got their hands on a haul which at the time was valued at $450 million dollars. At today’s prices, those missing coins would be worth $4.4 billion.
2016 – Ethereum and ICOs.
One cryptocurrency came close to stealing Bitcoin’s thunder this year, as enthusiasm grew around the Ethereum platform. This platform uses cryptocurrency known as Ether to facilitate blockchain-based smart contracts and apps. Ethereum’s arrival was marked by the emergence of Initial Coin Offerings (ICOs). These are fundraising platforms which offer investors the chance to trade what are often essentially stocks or shares in startup ventures, in the same manner that they can invest and trade cryptocurrencies. In the US the SEC warned investors that due to the lack of oversight ICOs could easily be scams or ponzi schemes disguised as legitimate investments. The Chinese government went one further, by banning them outright.
2017 –Bitcoin reaches $10,000 and continues to grow
A gradual increase in the places where Bitcoin could be spent contributed to its continued growth in popularity, during a period where it’s value remained below previous peaks. Gradually as more and more uses emerged, it became clear that more money was flowing into the Bitcoin and cryptocoin ecosystem. During this period the market cap of all cryptocoins rose from $11bn to its current height of over $300bn. Banks including Barclays, Citi Bank, Deutsche Bankand BNP Paribas have said they are investigating ways they might be able to work with Bitcoin. Meanwhile the technology behind Bitcoin – blockchain – has sparked a revolution in the fintech industry (and beyond) which is only just getting started.
How Cryptocurrency Works? Source – Blockgeeks
Advantages of Cryptocurrency:
The advantages of digital currency is a plethora. Not only is it good for the business or the business owner but the buyer themselves. Of course if you purchased a specific crypto and it has shot up in price, you’re buying using pennies on the dollar. In the long term, it definitely pays off. That is definitely one of the benefits of bitcoin.
- Easy access – Cryptocurrency is readily available to the general public. Almost anyone can make use of it. It is a decentralized operation and investors from all over the world have easy access to them. You can find various projects trying to raise funds through cryptocurrency. Almost anyone that can make online fund transfers can become part of such projects.
- Quick and easy payments – Making payments using cryptocurrency is very easy. You can do it in just a matter of a few seconds. It is very fast because you don’t require to feed many details, you don’t even need to enter your credit/debit card details. All you need is the address of the wallet of the person or enterprise to whom you wish to make the payment too. The amount shall credit to the receiver within few seconds to a few minutes depending on the crypto. The ease of transfer and the low transaction fees makes it very desirable.
- Costs less – Transferring money by using any other online forum or bank gateway is expensive as they levy considerable fees for the transaction. Credit card processing companies charge hefty fees. But it is not the case with cryptocurrency as the costs are nil or negligible. With credit cards or debit cards, the seller is the one paying a fee but for crypto’s, it is the buyer paying the small fee.
- Private – You don’t need to share your identity or whereabouts or the details of the transactions made between you and the beneficiary. No information required to share with the government and the bank regarding the deal. It is truly decentralized.
- Highly secured – All your transactions will be secure as it is using NSA created cryptography. It is next to impossible for any person other than the owner of the wallet to make any payment from the wallet, unless they were hacked which there are many ways to protect yourself from.
- Remain anonymous – Some coins can help you stay anonymous but contrary to popular belief, not all of them can. Bitcoin is pseudonymous which means people won’t know exactly who you are on the blockchain but they can get some information from it.
- Your details are safe – Nobody can steal your personal information from merchants, which ensures the privacy of your sensitive data. By creating a proxy ID, you can make sure that no one knows anything about you.
- No chargebacks – Once you made the payment, you cannot chargeback. This considerably depletes the chances of a fraud. Once the transfer has completed, it cannot reverse. Nobody can file chargeback like you can on credit cards. It has it’s cons but can be an advantage also.
- No third party – You are the master of your money. You can keep it in your wallet and use it as per your wishes. There is no third party involved like a bank on whom you need to trust.
- No boundaries – When you talk about transactions using cryptocurrencies then there are no limits. You may be in a different part of the world and the receiver might be some other hemisphere, you can still transfer the amount without any hassle. The inter-country transaction is extremely easy with cryptocurrency because its function is not under the control of any central bank.
Disadvantages of Cryptocurrency
All the advantages do not mean that there are no risks involved in investing in cryptocurrencies. Just like anything else financially, they are not perfect and there are drawbacks of Bitcoin. Here we will discuss the disadvantages of cryptocurrencies:
- Difficult to understand – Cryptocurrencies are relatively new and come with a learning curve. People end up investing without proper knowledge and lose money to something they did not learn about.
- Lack of knowledge – People are not aware of how to use cryptocurrency and hence open themselves to hacker. The technology is somewhat complex and therefore one needs to be mindful of it before investing.
- Not accepted widely – Not many websites and companies accept digital currencies yet. Very few countries have legalized the use of cryptocurrencies. It makes it impractical for everyday use. Due to lack of acceptance, before buying or investing online or offline, you need to make sure that it’s accepted at that place where you want to use it. Although it is slowly getting the acceptance around the world, it will take time to take the idea entirely out of the shadows.
- Can lose your wallet – There is a possibility of losing your wallet. If you have stored the money in the form of digital currency on your phone or computer, you better remember your password and not lose those devices. Losing your coins means you won’t be able to retrieve it, even with the help of legal assistance so that is just one of Bitcoins flaws.
- No way to reverse the payment – If you mistakenly pay someone by using cryptocurrency, then there is no way to get a refund of the amount paid. All you can do is to ask the person for a refund and if your request is turned down, then just forget about the money.
- Uncertainty – Since cryptocurrencies are so new, they are also very volatile. This is one of the main reasons mass adoption is taking longer than it should. Many corporations don’t want to deal with a form of money that is going to go through huge swings in volatility.
In conclusion, we can say that investing in altcoins at different levels (held, promising, uncertain, etc.) can potentially be much more profitable than investing in bitcoin, but the price of a higher risk of losing money because of subsidence or gradual “sliding” prices.
Singapore and Switzerland are the most advanced countries in the use of cryptocurrency as of now. Clearly, the advantages do overcome the disadvantages and this is the reason why the base of cryptocurrency is increasing. After seeing the benefits, people are more than willing to accept the risks involved. This article will help you to form a better perspective on its use. Like anything else, there are few shortcomings but the positive aspects outshine the drawbacks.