Bitcoin is a digital asset designed to work in peer-to-peer transactions as a currency.[5][129] Bitcoins have three qualities useful in a currency, according to The Economist in January 2015: they are "hard to earn, limited in supply and easy to verify".[130] Per some researchers, as of 2015 bitcoin functions more as a payment system than as a currency.[31]
Transactions are verified by network nodes through cryptography and recorded in a public distributed ledger called a blockchain. Bitcoin was invented by an unknown person or group of people using the name Satoshi Nakamoto[9] and released as open-source software in 2009.[10] Bitcoins are created as a reward for a process known as mining. They can be exchanged for other currencies,[11] products, and services. Research produced by the University of Cambridge estimates that in 2017, there were 2.9 to 5.8 million unique users using a cryptocurrency wallet, most of them using bitcoin.[12]