With the Bitcoin price so volatile everyone is curious. Bitcoin, the category creator of blockchain technology, is the World Wide Ledger yet extremely complicated and no one definition fully encapsulates it. By analogy it is like being able to send a gold coin via email. It is a consensus network that enables a new payment system and a completely digital money.
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Blocks on the blockchain store data about monetary transactions — we’ve got that out of the way. But it turns out that blockchain is actually a pretty reliable way of storing data about other types of transactions, as well. In fact, blockchain technology can be used to store data about property exchanges, stops in a supply chain, and even votes for a candidate.
Now imagine that I pose the "guess what number I'm thinking of" question, but I'm not asking just three friends, and I'm not thinking of a number between 1 and 100. Rather, I'm asking millions of would-be miners and I'm thinking of a 64-digit hexadecimal number. Now you see that it's going to be extremely hard to guess the right answer. (See also: What is Bitcoin Mining?)
Real money is gold, silver, precious metals and gemstones, natural resources. Paper currency and coins use to be backed by gold or one of these other material commodities and was payable upon demand to any the person who had the dollar bill or coin currency, it was once written right on the Dollar bills and it was legal tender backed by the governments’ gold reserve! But corruption on an unprecedented scale took over and the general public was tricked into accepting a false standard of the economy where people blindly trusted another system which really didn’t benefit them. Just look at all the financial and economic chaos around you that has effective your lives over many decades and the political instability growing every day!
Blockchain is the underlying technology behind cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin. Unlike physical currency, digital cash and cryptocurrencies come with a very real problem called Double-Spending. Let me explain what that is. When I email you a picture of my cat, I’m sending you a copy and not my original picture. However, when I need to send you money online, as much as I would love to send you a copy of it, it’s a bad idea if I really do that! With Bitcoin, there was a risk that the holder could just send copies of the same bitcoin token in different transactions, leading to “Double-Spending”.
Regarding more practical concerns, hacking and scams are the norms. They happen at least once a week and are getting more sophisticated. Bitcoin’s software complexity and the volatility of its currency dissuade many people from using it, while its transactions are frustratingly slow. You’ll have to wait at least ten minutes for your network to approve the transaction. Recently, some Reddit users reported waiting more than one hour for their transactions to be confirmed.
In Bitcoin, it’s like every organic food store has someone out front, offering free samples. Also, there’s a library everywhere you look, but only a few of those libraries have any good information. The largest traders would benefit a great deal if everyone just jumped blindly into Bitcoin, investing large chunks of their life savings in the process. That would be just fine by them, but it’s unlikely to happen. More likely, people are going to get involved with Bitcoin either by necessity, by chance or because someone was willing to give them a few bitcoins to get started with.
Nigel Dodd argues in The Social Life of Bitcoin that the essence of the bitcoin ideology is to remove money from social, as well as governmental, control. Dodd quotes a YouTube video, with Roger Ver, Jeff Berwick, Charlie Shrem, Andreas Antonopoulos, Gavin Wood, Trace Meyer and other proponents of bitcoin reading The Declaration of Bitcoin's Independence. The declaration includes a message of crypto-anarchism with the words: "Bitcoin is inherently anti-establishment, anti-system, and anti-state. Bitcoin undermines governments and disrupts institutions because bitcoin is fundamentally humanitarian."
Bitcoin faucets have been around since at least 2011. It is believed that Gavin Andresen owned the first one. They come and go and often enough are just advertising scams – the owners want users on their site so they tempt them with free Bitcoin that never actually materializes because before the users have made enough to “cash out” the site has disappeared.
The second piece of software needed is the mining software itself—the most popular is called GUIMiner. When launched, the program begins to mine on its own—looking for the magic combination that will open that padlock to the block of transactions. The program keeps running and the faster and more powerful a miner's PC is, the faster the miner will start generating bitcoins.
Proof of work does not make attacks by hackers impossible, but it does make them somewhat useless. If a hacker wanted to coordinate an attack on the blockchain, they would need to solve complex computational math problems at 1 in 5.8 trillion odds just like everyone else. The cost of organizing such an attack would almost certainly outweigh the benefits.
Several news outlets have asserted that the popularity of bitcoins hinges on the ability to use them to purchase illegal goods. Nobel-prize winning economist Joseph Stiglitz says that bitcoin's anonymity encourages money laundering and other crimes, "If you open up a hole like bitcoin, then all the nefarious activity will go through that hole, and no government can allow that." He's also said that if "you regulate it so you couldn't engage in money laundering and all these other [crimes], there will be no demand for Bitcoin. By regulating the abuses, you are going to regulate it out of existence. It exists because of the abuses."
Double spending means, as the name suggests, that a Bitcoin user is illicitly spending the same money twice. With physical currency, this isn't an issue: Once you hand someone a greenback $20 bill to buy a bottle of vodka, you no longer have it, so there's no danger you could use that same $20 to buy lotto tickets next door. With digital currency, however, as the Investopedia dictionary explains, "there is a risk that the holder could make a copy of the digital token and send it to a merchant or another party while retaining the original."
While the promises of blockchain are great, its algorithms can require significant amounts of compute performance and power from both central processing units (CPUs) and graphics processing units (GPUs)—both in terms of processing bandwidth and the energy consumed to perform operations. Therefore, implementing blockchain applications on a mass scale using current technologies is challenging.
Earning bitcoin in this manner has some variables associated with it, like whether the business is accepting bitcoin directly or through Lightning micropayments. Options like this are important to consider for a business owner for reasons surrounding ease of use and level of privacy (Lightning micropayments are much more private and cheaper than transactions settled directly on the Bitcoin blockchain).
If you have been following banking, investing, or cryptocurrency over the last ten years, you may be familiar with “blockchain,” the record-keeping technology behind bitcoin. And there’s a good chance that it only makes so much sense. In trying to learn more about blockchain, you've probably encountered a definition like this: “blockchain is a distributed, decentralized, public ledger." The good news is, blockchain is actually easier to understand than that definition sounds.