The world’s most popular form of cryptocurrency – bitcoin – has an enigmatic beginning. Its mysterious founder, Satoshi Nakamoto, bears a fictitious name that has kept the curious guessing as to his/her (or their) identity since bitcoin was created in 2009. In the 2016 movie, “Banking on Bitcoin,” no less than four men are identified as the mystic namesake. Three deny the nomenclature, although the last man, Australian computer scientist Craig Steven Wright, claims to be the elusive founder of bitcoin (http://dtn.fm/Jn6ZB).
Nakamoto’s idea – to develop a digital encrypted currency that can be exchanged for any other traditional currency used throughout the world – has both fascinated and confused the public. Virtual money inherently means there’s no physical currency to have and to hold. That idea made a lot of people nervous and many others interested in it.
After all, if you could purchase your favorite brew, spend a night in America’s iconic Sin City (Las Vegas, of course), or hop on a plane simply by paying with digital currency backed up by no one, would you do it? You can do all these things and more (including ordering a $35,000 Tesla 3) with bitcoin (http://dtn.fm/5nlR3).
Bitcoin’s ballistic rise to prominence in the financial world and virtual pocketbooks of average folks deserves some explanation. This monetary revolution found its niche following the September 2008 financial crisis, when the stock market dived, plunging investors into losses that some are still in the process of recovering from today.
Bitcoin is defined by bitcoin.org as “an innovative payment network and a new kind of money.” It is a peer-to-peer payment network with no middleman. Users send and receive bitcoin within the network of those honoring the system.
The unique thing about bitcoin is that it is transparent. Your personal data can’t be shared, just your transactions and the amounts spent. Everything is tracked and followed on a blockchain, and that’s what instills trust and security among those using bitcoin. To enable this process, bitcoin uses software that anonymously logs and validates the activities of bitcoin users around the globe (http://dtn.fm/UE4kz).
There’s no physical money, but there are a finite number of bitcoin that can be created – 21 million, to be exact. A digital wallet holds your bitcoin, and there are usually few or no associated fees. While you are free to spend your bitcoin as you see fit, refunds are not possible, and, if you lose your digital wallet, well, let’s just say you are going to have a very bad, no-good day. James Howell can attest to that. He lost 7,500 bitcoin worth £4 million by throwing his hard drive away (http://dtn.fm/FB4Hg).
Once bitcoin took off as a legitimate digital currency, its rise in value jumped. From the first exchange of a single bitcoin in 2009 to its current value of over $4,000 today, the cryptocurrency continues to rise. For context, on May 22, 2010, two pizzas were purchased with 10,000 bitcoin worth about $25. In December 2013, those same bitcoin were worth about $7 million, and, by May 2017, the value had jumped to $20 million, making that first bitcoin purchase likely the most expensive lunch in history (http://dtn.fm/tEaR7).
In 2013, Overstock.com became the first major U.S. retailer to accept the digital currency. “We think there’s going to be a market in Bitcoin and we want to get in front of it,” Overstock’s CEO at the time, Patrick Byrne, said in an interview with bitcoin blog newsBTC. “It will put [Overstock] at a competitive edge if, and only if, the general population starts thinking and using bitcoin,” he said (http://dtn.fm/mw6Dh). “We’re willing to take the first step and see.”
Other popular online companies like Newegg, Microsoft and Expedia are also accepting bitcoin. In fact, the number of merchants accepting bitcoin has grown to over 82,000, and there are more than 1,350 bitcoin ATMs worldwide in 55 countries. However, there are still some countries where buying or using bitcoin is either illegal or banned; among them are Vietnam, Iceland, Bolivia, Ecuador, Kyrgyzstan and Bangladesh (http://dtn.fm/5uDNS).
This article wouldn’t be complete without asking, “What’s some of the weirdest things you can buy with Bitcoin?” Among the real-life purchases possible with the cybercurrency are a $1,795 motorized unicycle, two adult Canadian woolly mammoth tusks for $175,000 and a $29 bright yellow, cozy handmade bitcoin plush pillow. Who knows… 10 years from now that pillow could be a highly valued collector’s item (http://dtn.fm/4oKZE).