Bitcoin is a cryptocurrency and worldwide payment system. It is the first decentralized digital currency, as the system works without a central bank or single administrator. The network is peer-to-peer, and transactions take place between users directly, without an intermediary.
These transactions are verified by network nodes through cryptography and recorded in a dispersed public ledger called a blockchain. It was invented by an unknown person or group of people under Satoshi Nakamoto and released as open-source software in 2009.
Bitcoins are created as a reward for a process known as mining. They can be exchanged for other currencies, products, and services. As of February 2015, over 100,000 merchants and vendors accepted bitcoin as payment.
Bitcoin can also be held as an investment. According to research produced by Cambridge University in 2017, there are 2.9 to 5. Transactions are verified by network nodes through cryptography and recorded in a public dispersed ledger called a blockchain. Bitcoin is unique in that there are a finite number of them: 21 million.
It is transferred between users through bitcoin addresses, randomly generated strings of 27-34 characters. Bitcoin addresses are case-sensitive and must be copied correctly to receive payments. Users can create as many addresses as they want but must remember their passwords, or else they will lose access to their funds.
A global network of volunteers maintains the Bitcoin protocol. Anyone can propose changes to the protocol, and anyone can vote on them. The process is democratic, open, and transparent. This approach has resulted in a very fast development process. As a result, new features are added to Bitcoin all the time. And because anyone can participate, the best ideas rise to the top.