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A cryptocurrency (like bitcoin) is a digital asset used for investment or payments, which typically is not backed by any government or central bank and is usually based on a blockchain.
Cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin and Ether are in the world of alternative finance. They offer users the ability to conduct decentralized peer-to-peer transactions, i.e., without relying on payment processing companies or banks. This is possible because cryptocurrencies typically operate on blockchains, digital ledgers managed by global computer networks.
Bitcoin is often referred to as “digital gold” and is the original cryptocurrency. It was – and is – the first digital payment system based on a blockchain. The idea for bitcoin was first voiced on a crypto mailing list on October 31, 2008 by Satoshi Nakamoto, the mysterious person (or group) behind the cryptocurrency. However, the actual Bitcoin network went live later, in January 2009.
For most of its existence, bitcoin traded for less than $1,000. In 2014, there was a brief spike to over $1,000, but it wasn’t until 2017 that it really went mainstream. That year, between November and December 2017, the bitcoin price more than doubled, despite economists and observers worrying that it was a bubble. Just a few months later, the bitcoin price crashed.
Cryptocurrencies aim for financial independence…
In a world where many financial institutions charge exorbitant fees to their customers, cryptocurrencies are quite revolutionary. They provide a digital means to store assets and conduct transactions, in some cases independently of a company. Regardless of whether you buy cryptocurrencies in this sense (or choose to forgo them altogether), these digital assets are based on an ethos of decentralization. They strive to put financial power back into the hands of the people.