Cryptocurrency is a form of digital money.
More and more people and companies are starting to use it. Some of this money can be spent on the same goods and services we pay for with traditional “fiat” currencies – dollars, euros, yen, and so on. Some cryptocurrencies, though, are only for use in closed systems, to pay for a specific platform’s services.
The total value of all cryptocurrencies in use around the world reached nearly USD 600 billion by the end of December 2017, almost 40 times more than a year earlier. Some people buy cryptocurrency simply hoping its price will increase. But, setting speculation and investment aside, cryptocurrency is becoming increasing popular as a means of paying for goods and services. There are a number of reasons for that:
- It’s secure and impossible to counterfeit due to the complicated mathematics and military-grade cryptography that are involved.
- It’s decentralized and more efficient – you own your cryptocurrency and no bank or government is needed to issue the money, and no middleman is needed to transfer your funds. That can make your transactions cheaper and quicker (though not always).
- There are more and more opportunities to use cryptocurrencies to pay for goods and services all around the world.
- It helps people without access to traditional banking become part of the worldwide financial system.
- It’s programmable money which offers many more options for how it can be used and adapted to one’s needs.
- It offers new ways for businesses to reach new customers and raise capital.
A brief history:
The best-known cryptocurrency is Bitcoin, which came into existence in January 2009 and marks the beginning of the rise of cryptocurrencies. But there were many unsuccessful attempts to create such currencies earlier.
Bitcoin was created by Satoshi Nakamoto, though no one knows whether that is a he or a she or even a group of people.
There are now more than a thousand cryptocurrencies in use. They can be grouped into “coins” (Bitcoin plus other currencies collectively known as altcoins) and tokens, such as those used to pay for the services of a specific blockchain based platform. Altcoins offer varying levels of anonymity, transaction speed and other features. Also, the word “coin” is used as a metaphor, as there no coins on blockchain - it is only an entry in a ledger.
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