Dollars. Pesos. Yen. Euros. Rupees. These currencies vary based on country of origin and value, but they have common factors: They are all centralized and exist in the physical world, in the forms of notes and coins. Fairly simple to understand.
Then there’s bitcoin: a cryptocurrency powered by blockchain technology that is far less easy to comprehend. Its claim to fame is that it is the world’s first decentralized digital currency—this means it functions without the oversight of a government, central bank, or administrator of any kind. Advocates believe it has the potential to revolutionize the financial industry and skeptics see it as nothing more than a fleeting fad.
Created in 2009, the currency received mainstream recognition in 2017 when the price of bitcoin skyrocketed. Since then, bitcoin earned itself notoriety for its volatile value—spikes and crashes in the world of cryptocurrency are the norm—and the fluctuating bitcoin valuation has had unique outcomes.
Rapper 50 Cent reportedly made $8 million in bitcoin after he let consumers purchase his album Animal Ambition back in 2014 using the currency, though he later denied the claims when filing for bankruptcy. Athletic wear, juice, and e-cigarette companies have rebranded themselves to cash in on the hype. In some cases, it’s worked: Long Island Iced Tea company’s stock rose 500 percent in a day after announcing they would be transitioning into a bitcoin company. Further legitimizing the currency is Forbes’ release of the first-ever “The Richest People In Cryptocurrency” list.
While anyone can purchase bitcoin, and there’s been a sharp spike in interest for investing in Bitcoin, there’s definitely a disproportionate breakdown in ownership. One report states that roughly 95 percent of bitcoin is owned by a little over four percent of people who own the cryptocurrency.
The temptation to dive into the Bitcoin market is real, but before you do, it’s important to know what it is and how it works. Here’s everything you need to know about bitcoin.