Researchers have pointed out at a "trend towards centralization". Although bitcoin can be sent directly from user to user, in practice intermediaries are widely used.:220–222 Bitcoin miners join large mining pools to minimize the variance of their income.:215, 219–222:3 Because transactions on the network are confirmed by miners, decentralization of the network requires that no single miner or mining pool obtains 51% of the hashing power, which would allow them to double-spend coins, prevent certain transactions from being verified and prevent other miners from earning income. As of 2013 just six mining pools controlled 75% of overall bitcoin hashing power. In 2014 mining pool Ghash.io obtained 51% hashing power which raised significant controversies about the safety of the network. The pool has voluntarily capped their hashing power at 39.99% and requested other pools to act responsibly for the benefit of the whole network.
Once you have a Bitcoin wallet, you use a traditional payment method such as credit card, bank transfer (ACH), or debit card to buy Bitcoins on a Bitcoin exchange (example: Coinbase). The Bitcoins are then transferred to your wallet. The availability of the above payment methods is subject to the area of jurisdiction and exchange chosen. Here is a screenshot of the Bitcoin interface showing how to buy and sell not just Bitcoin but also Bitcoin Cash, Ethereum and Litecoin, which are other popular virtual currencies. As you see, it's as straightforward as clicking on the "Buy" tab if you want to buy, and "Sell" tab if you want to sell. You select which currency you are buying/selling and which payment method (your bank account or credit card) you want to use.
The blockchain protocol discourages the existence of multiple blockchains through a process called “consensus.” In the presence of multiple, differing copies of the blockchain, the consensus protocol will adopt the longest chain available. More users on a blockchain means that blocks can be added to the end of the chain quicker. By that logic, the blockchain of record will always be the one that the most users trust. The consensus protocol is one of blockchain technology’s greatest strengths, but also allows for one of its greatest weaknesses.
When mining began, regular off-the-shelf PCs were fast enough to generate bitcoins. That's the way the system was set up—easier to mine in the beginning, harder to mine as more bitcoins are generated. Over the last few years, miners have had to move on to faster hardware in order to keep generating new bitcoins. Today, application-specific integrated circuits (ASIC) are being used. Programmer language aside, all this means is that the hardware is designed for one specific task—in this case mining.
Each computer in the blockchain network has its own copy of the blockchain, which means that there are thousands, or in the case of Bitcoin, millions of copies of the same blockchain. Although each copy of the blockchain is identical, spreading that information across a network of computers makes the information more difficult to manipulate. With blockchain, there isn’t a single, definitive account of events that can be manipulated. Instead, a hacker would need to manipulate every copy of the blockchain on the network.
The Bitcoin world, in my opinion offers such arbitrage opportunities. But they are not as simple to execute as it might seem at first sight. Price differences between exchanges often come for certain reasons. The speed of fiat money transfers and access restrictions are just the most striking ones. You have to find out the concrete opportunities yourself. One place to start is this thread on Bitcoin StackExchange. Also, not every opportunity is available to everyone. Go and have a look at the price differences between exchanges and check out if you can find opportunities.
Whenever referring to the price of Bitcoin as it relates to fiat currency, the price being discussed is almost certainly an aggregate average of the price across various exchanges’ order books. Because bids and asks are instructions executed at a certain price, a large market buy would fill through several orders at incremental price levels and subsequently move the price of bitcoin up or down.
Bitcoin, along with other cryptocurrencies, has been identified as an economic bubble by at least eight Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences laureates, including Robert Shiller, Joseph Stiglitz, and Richard Thaler. Noted Keyensian economist Paul Krugman wrote in his New York Times column criticizing bitcoin, calling it a bubble and a fraud; and professor Nouriel Roubini of New York University called bitcoin the "mother of all bubbles." Central bankers, including former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan, investors such as Warren Buffett, and George Soros have stated similar views, as have business executives such as Jamie Dimon and Jack Ma.
User fear of 51% attacks can actually limit monopolies from forming on the blockchain. In “Digital Gold: Bitcoin and the Inside Story of the Misfits and Millionaires Trying to Reinvent Money,” New York Times journalist Nathaniel Popper writes of how a group of users, called “Bitfury,” pooled thousands of high-powered computers together to gain a competitive edge on the blockchain. Their goal was to mine as many blocks as possible and earn bitcoin, which at the time were valued at approximately $700 each.
The first wallet program, simply named Bitcoin, and sometimes referred to as the Satoshi client, was released in 2009 by Satoshi Nakamoto as open-source software. In version 0.5 the client moved from the wxWidgets user interface toolkit to Qt, and the whole bundle was referred to as Bitcoin-Qt. After the release of version 0.9, the software bundle was renamed Bitcoin Core to distinguish itself from the underlying network.
Network nodes can validate transactions, add them to their copy of the ledger, and then broadcast these ledger additions to other nodes. To achieve independent verification of the chain of ownership each network node stores its own copy of the blockchain. About every 10 minutes, a new group of accepted transactions, called a block, is created, added to the blockchain, and quickly published to all nodes, without requiring central oversight. This allows bitcoin software to determine when a particular bitcoin was spent, which is needed to prevent double-spending. A conventional ledger records the transfers of actual bills or promissory notes that exist apart from it, but the blockchain is the only place that bitcoins can be said to exist in the form of unspent outputs of transactions.:ch. 5