Cryptocurrency is a form of digital money that is secure and anonymous.
Cryptocurrencies use decentralised technology to let users make secure payments and store money without the need to use their name or go through a bank. They run on a distributed public ledger called blockchain, which is a record of all transactions updated and held by currency holders.
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Bitcoins is the first cryptocurrency. A 2008 whitepaper written by the pseudonymous Satoshi Nakamoto introduced the concept of bitcoin, and the design principle behind bitcoin is: A purely peer-to-peer version of electronic cash [which] would allow online payments to be sent directly from one party to another without going through a financial institution
An altcoin is any digital cryptocurrency similar to Bitcoin. The term is said to stand for “alternative to Bitcoin” and is used describe any cryptocurrency that is not a Bitcoin. Altcoins are created by diverging from Bitcoin consensus rules (the fundamental rules of the cryptocurrency’s network) or by developing a new cryptocurrency from scratch.
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Bitcoin is the most popular cryptocurrency. It is a payment system introduced as open-source software in 2009 by developer Satoshi Nakamoto. The payments in the system are recorded in a public ledger using its own unit of account, which is also called bitcoin. Payments work peer-to-peer without a central repository or single administrator, which has led the US Treasury to call bitcoin a decentralized virtual currency. Although its status as a currency is disputed, media reports often refer to bitcoin as a cryptocurrency or digital currency.
Bitcoin as a form of payment for products and services has seen growth,and merchants have an incentive to accept the digital currency because fees are lower than the 2-3% typically imposed by credit card processors. The European Banking Authority has warned that bitcoin lacks consumer protections. Unlike credit cards, any fees are paid by the purchaser not the vendor. Bitcoins can be stolen and chargebacks are impossible. Commercial use of bitcoin is currently small compared to its use by speculators, which has fueled price volatility.
Bitcoin has been a subject of scrutiny amid concerns that it can be used for illegal activities. In October 2013 the US FBI shut down the Silk Road online black market and seized 144,000 bitcoins worth US$28.5 million at the time. The US is considered bitcoin-friendly compared to other governments. In China, buying bitcoins with yuan is subject to restrictions, and bitcoin exchanges are not allowed to hold bank accounts.