A lot of people think Bitcoin is a bubble or a scam, or that there is no such thing as virtual currencies. They are wrong. Bitcoin and other virtual currencies are real, and they are here to stay.
Bitcoin was the first, but it’s not the only one. If you Google “virtual currency” you will find plenty of others: DNotes, LiteCoin, Ripple and many others. In fact this guide covers some other virtual currencies too.
Virtual currencies have been around for a long time in the form of digital goods sold on websites, such as music or books. The website often takes a cut of each sale. Now virtual currencies are becoming more mainstream with sites like Coinbase accepting them as payment for goods and services, and more mainstream companies like Overstock.com accepting them as payment for goods and services too.
In recent years, the phrase “virtual currency” has been heard with increasing frequency. But what does it mean?
There is a long history behind virtual currencies — and even before them, in the form of “paper money.” A virtual currency is not, strictly speaking, any currency at all: it’s just a record that represents something else.
In today’s world of e-commerce, virtual currencies are used for large purchases. Suppose you want to buy a new apartment. Instead of paying $400,000 for your place in cash, you could pay with a set of digital keys that represent $400,000 worth of apartments. Or suppose you want to invest $1 million in mining stocks. You might issue those stocks as virtual currency and trade them online to buy stock in the mining company you have chosen.
Virtual currencies can be highly liquid — they have a nice dollar value and you can buy or sell them immediately — which makes them very good for trading large sums of money. In fact, they have become popular as an easy way to send money around the world.
But they are not just useful as a medium of exchange: they also serve as means to store wealth. If you’re paid in virtual currency rather than dollars or euros or pounds sterling,
You may have heard of Bitcoin. It’s a digital currency that is beginning to attract attention as it gets closer to being taken seriously.
There are other virtual currencies, such as Second Life’s Linden dollars and Facebook Credits, but Bitcoin is the one that has attracted the most attention because it’s the one with the longest track record.
Bitcoin was announced in 2008 by someone using the pseudonym Satoshi Nakamoto, who later identified himself as a 35-year-old Japanese man living in California. In his paper announcing Bitcoin, he explained how it worked and how you could use it to make transactions on a peer-to-peer network; he also described its security features, which made it difficult for anyone to cheat.
Watching people play the stock market is like watching a video of a game of chess played in outer space. We know what they are doing, and we can see everything they do. It’s only when you watch them play for a long time that you start to understand how they manage to do it. The secret is that they’re not just playing chess; they’re also playing a game of virtual currency.
That’s what this book is about: the third-person games played by people who use virtual currencies. These are games played by software programs, in which players get points for winning and lose those points if their opponent wins. This kind of game has been around for a long time, but it’s only recently that computer programmers created games in which there really was something to win or lose.
This book is about those new kinds of games, and about how people now play them.
A virtual currency is one that you can use without having to exchange it for something in the real world. That allows people to run a riskier kind of business, which is a way of saying that it often trades at a discount. It also means that if it fails, you can still get paid.
On the other hand, if people think your business is a scam, they won’t pay you. And if they think it’s too risky, they won’t be motivated to buy your stuff. So you have to be prepared for those reactions too.
Virtual currencies are most common in places where the government has made the local currency so expensive that people don’t think they can win by making it themselves. There are now over twenty such countries, almost all of them in Asia and Africa. That’s why we’re seeing so much interest in Bitcoin.
In the beginning there was only raw code. Then came the concept of “smart contracts” and the “block chain” (a special kind of database that’s guaranteed by mathematics to remain unchanged even when updated). The blockchain is a form of virtual currency, or a kind of contract between two people or groups.
Bitcoin is a kind of digital money that exists only in cyberspace. It’s not really money. Nor is it just a way to buy things online. Bitcoins exist only as computer codes: numbers that are stored on a computer somewhere, just like the numbers that make up your account balance at Amazon or iTunes. But unlike your Amazon or iTunes balances, bitcoin balances are not tied to any one person or place, and can be moved from account to account. For example, you can create an Amazon account on one computer and then use it as your bitcoin account on another machine – without losing any money.
The advantages to using bitcoin are straightforward: no bank fees, no credit card fees; instant payments anywhere in the world (or at least anywhere with an Internet connection); no chargebacks; low transaction costs; no chargebacks; no chargebacks; and so on…
Bitcoin is a new kind of currency. Although it is called “virtual,” it exists only in the computer. It is also a kind of money, just as real money is. Bitcoin is also a form of electronic payment, although you can’t spend it anywhere physical. It’s not possible to use Bitcoin to buy stuff, because there’s no company that accepts it. (Although there are thousands of vendors that accept PayPal payments.)
Bitcoin has created some excitement in the media and among investors, but no one has yet explained how it works or how real money can be replaced by something that looks like money but doesn’t work like money.