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Bitcoin is a decentralized digital currency operating on a peer-to-peer network, allowing users to send and receive payments without needing an intermediary like a bank. It was introduced in a 2008 whitepaper titled “Bitcoin: A Peer-to-Peer Electronic Cash System” by an individual or group using the pseudonym Satoshi Nakamoto. Bitcoin’s key innovation is the use of blockchain technology, a distributed ledger that records all transactions across a network of computers.
At its core, Bitcoin relies on a process called mining, where individuals or groups of miners use powerful computers to solve complex mathematical puzzles. These puzzles validate and secure transactions, adding them to the blockchain. Miners are rewarded with newly created bitcoins for their efforts, which helps maintain the network’s security and integrity.
The total supply of Bitcoin is capped at 21 million, a design choice aimed at preventing inflation and mimicking the scarcity of precious metals like gold. This limited supply has led to Bitcoin being often referred to as “digital gold” and has contributed to its appeal as a store of value.
Transactions on the Bitcoin network are pseudo-anonymous. While each transaction is recorded on the blockchain, users are represented by alphanumeric addresses rather than personal information. However, it’s crucial to note that Bitcoin transactions are not entirely private, as blockchain analysis can sometimes link addresses to real-world identities.
Bitcoin has gained popularity as an alternative investment and a hedge against inflation and economic uncertainty. Its decentralized nature and limited supply contribute to its appeal as a form of “sound money.” Despite its increasing acceptance, Bitcoin has faced criticism for its energy consumption, price volatility, and potential use in illicit activities.
The development of the Bitcoin network is guided by a community of developers who propose and implement changes through a process known as BIPs (Bitcoin Improvement Proposals). Over the years, various forks and alternative cryptocurrencies (altcoins) have been created, but Bitcoin remains the dominant and most well-known cryptocurrency in the global market. The ongoing evolution of Bitcoin and its ecosystem continues to shape the broader landscape of digital currencies and blockchain technology.