What is Bitcoin?
The Concept. The technology. The unit of exchange. The protocol. It is all about the Bitcoin.
Everyone can speak obscurely, only the few can speak clearly.
The same goes for Bitcoin explanation. Most definitions are obscure rather than understandable. We will do our best to be among the few who speak clearly.
Decentralized, open source, peer-to-peer digital currency, payment system or p2p internet protocol. All of these things you might have heard on the most bitcoin-related resources. We want to provide a deeper insight in the term Bitcoin.
Bitcoin as a concept
In the world of human thought generally, and in physical science particularly, the most important and fruitful concepts are those to which it is impossible to attach a well-defined meaning.
Overwhelmed with different definitions, people quite frequently think that Bitcoin is a tricky term with no well-defined meaning. In the majority they are right. Do not try to refer Bitcoin to something exact - it would make no sense. Try to embrace every piece of the information.
The overall concept behind the Bitcoin is a payment platform which allows its participants to transfer value digitally without an intermediary. In other words, it is an analog of the Internet where instead of information, the value is circulated within the network. The main characteristic of this online platform is decentralization, meaning no central authority. Thus, nobody can lose control of the Bitcoin system as nobody owes it. (As you know, you cannot lose the thing that you don’t owe.)
Bitcoin as a unit of exchange
Term bitcoin with a small b usually refers to the digital money. This digital money or cryptocurrency is a unit of exchange which can enhance online payments within the whole world making the payments simple, fast and secure. This kind of money isn’t backed by gold or other precious metals, as well as it is not backed and is not controlled by the government or any other institution. The supply of bitcoins is fixed at 21 million bitcoins.
Note: You need to differentiate the Bitcoin and the bitcoin terms. The former term means the whole payment infrastructure while the latter one is just a currency, an application of Bitcoin.
Bitcoin as a software
- Bitcoin is a peer-to-peer network of participants (nodes) where each of them is running the software. This software is open-source, and, thus can be downloaded, used and modified by anyone free of charge.
- Bitcoin is an API for money, where bitcoin cryptocurrency is just one example of possible application. Instead of it there can be smart contracts.
- Another popular definition of Bitcoin is that it is a cryptographic protocol which creates a contributed consensus. To understand the protocol term it is enough to compare it with API.
Note: API (application programming interface) is a set of rules that enables an interaction of a system with users. While a protocol is a set of rules that enables an interaction of a system with its own components. E.g. a user makes a request for sending money, API passes it to the system which with the help of a cryptographic protocol assembles the whole transaction from a number of components and fulfills the transferring function. Voi La, the funds are sent.
Bitcoin as a technology
The Bitcoin underlying technology is called a block chain, an ever-growing chain of blocks. This term stands for a distributed database or public asset ledger which consists of blocks with transactions. Each node of the network has a copy of this database.
To transfer funds the sender needs to sign a message with 1. The transaction amount 2. Receiver info via his / her cryptographic private key. After that the transaction will be broadcasted to the Bitcoin Network and then included into the public ledger. Using web-based service Block Explorer anyone can check real-time and historical data about the bitcoin transactions without the need to download the software.
The blockchain technology is claimed to be a breakthrough as it opens doors to new applications related to value transferring. Smart Contracts is just one example of such application.
There are “full” and lightweight clients in the Bitcoin network. A Bitcoin Node is a full client, which means that it holds a blockchain and processes blocks and transactions in the system. Any computer, either mining or just running a Bitcoin client supports the chosen node and the system in general. The stakeholders can support the preferred node by running the corresponding software.
Bitcoin Core is a BTC client formerly known as Bitcoin-Qt. Its developer Wladimir J. van der Laan used the initial reference code introduced by Satoshi Nakamoto, the creator of the first cryptocurrency. Bitcoin Core became the third BTC client and merged with the version 0.5 of the bitcoind. Name change followed in the version 0.9.0. According to the main goals of stable Bitcoin network, the client validates transactions in the blockchain, prevents double spending and contributes to the secure decentralized ecosystem.
Bitcoin Classic is a fork of Bitcoin Core with a larger BTC block size. It contributes to a healthier and more capable network. The block size limit is increased to 2 MB and the developers claim that they are up for an update if the Bitcoin community wishes for more. The software is adoptable to their needs. Larger blocks make the network more stable and serve as a stronger protection against double spending of the digital currency. Miners and businesses who adopt Bitcoin are welcome to switch to Bitcoin Classic.
Bitcoin XT is the first fork of Bitcoin to support bigger block size. Its developers Mike Hearn and Gavin Andresen decided upon it to comply with the main principles of the major cryptocurrency. Bitcoin XT node supports more transactions, although the blockchain size is larger, it can be increased up to 8 MB. BTC transactions are assembled into blocks every 10 minutes and the reason for this is the continuous development of the currency.
The distinctive feature of Bitcoin Unlimited client is freedom for all members of the Bitcoin system to have a say about the block size. It tracks and selects the most used blockchain ignoring the block size. At the same time, the adopters have a possibility to choose a cap for the blocks they consider redundantly large.
Where Bitcoins generate from?
While coins are minted, paper money are printed, digital money are mined.
The rules of how Bitcoin mining works are defined by the Bitcoin protocol and implemented in its software. Bitcoin cryptocurrency uses POW (proof-of-work) algorithm to create supply of bitcoins and verify transactions. Also it is claimed to be the one of possible defenses against DoS attack. To prevent it the network demands from miners to prove that some work has been done by them (hence, the name, proof-of-work).
The network gives to miners a mathematical puzzle that is difficult to solve but easy to verify computationally. The miner uses computational power to solve the stated math problem in order to produce the valid block. After the challenge is completed, miner submits his work to other nodes’ for validation. In return the miner who found a block first gets a block reward and transaction fees included to this block.
Note: The difficulty of such mathematical puzzle increases with the growing number of miners. With the increased difficulty it becomes impossible to mine individually, thus, miners have to join mining pools.
About the puzzle that miners need to solve
The Bitcoin cryptocurrency has a cryptographic proof-of-work hash function - SHA 256d. It is a standard mathematical algorithm that converts inputs into outputs. Usually, it is really computationally-easy to get the output by putting the input into the function. E.g. from 1+2+3+4 we get 10. But if we set the challenge vice versa knowing only the output we will have a number of different variants of inputs: 9+1, 8+2, 7+3, 6+4, 5+5, etc. The challenge in a mathematical puzzle is that miner needs to find such input that will satisfy the specific output.
Note: The specific output is a digital value of a block header’s hash - an identifier of a block that has to start with a certain number of zeros.
For solving the puzzle, a miner searches a block nonce. The one who finds it first is a winner. The efficiency of miner depends on its speed in searching the right nonce.
What factors influence the Bitcoin Price?
1. Government Statements
The main drivers that make Bitcoin price go up and down are the official government statements regarding the Bitcoin adoption and regulation. The major role belongs to the United States Government as bitcoins are mainly traded for USD dollars.
- United States position about first regulated exchange. After the statement from San-Francisco-based exchange Coinbase about opening a new bitcoin exchange offering storage services which will be approved by a number of US States, including New York and California, Bitcoin value raised significantly. Such step of the government meant a lot for Bitcoin users, as it turned Bitcoin to the next level where there is a place for trustworthiness and insurance of the investments.
- Cyprus Banking Crisis. The bitcoin increase in trading value was noted both in 2013 when the Cyprus went through the economic problems and this 2015 year with the news about Cyprus Economic default named ‘Grexit’. Bitcoin, being the digital currency which can function as a currency-fluctuation protector gained popularity due to the region’s economic climate which changed the influx of investments. After the government spread the news that insured deposits can be jeopardized, bitcoin immediately jumped in price. However, some specialists consider that trading volumes of Cyprus constitute just a small part of whole trades, thereby it cannot significantly influences the market price. Others suppose the Bitcoin price movement to be speculative and think that there is no real interest in digital currency among Cyprus citizens.
2. Mass Media
Mass media provides the essential link between the individual and the demands of the technological society.
From this quotation it is easy to guess that Bitcoin price movements can coincide with the events covered by the mass media. News that are published by famous FinTech editions or some statements posted on Twitter by opinion leaders influence the Bitcoin price trends as most people are used to reckon upon the influential people’s and companies’ state of view.
- The Mt.Gox liquidity problems. When the biggest exchange Mt.Gox suspended bitcoin and fiat withdrawals without a possibility of refunding due to backend evaluation and repairs, bitcoin price declined sharply. The bitcoin value cratered following the mass media announcements. What is more, such event made a knock-on effect on the whole bitcoin industry including other exchanges, thus influenced the bitcoin price in a long-term.
- Apple got rid of Bitcoin app. The bitcoin experienced price movements when Apple removed the Bitcoin Application from the App Store - Coinbase Bitcoin wallet “due to unresolved issue’ that allowed for buying, sending and receiving bitcoins. To feel the difference: when the iOS was launched, the Bitcoin buy price was about $200, whereas after the news from mass media about bumping the application, the price was about $420 and still was growing.
The more we use it in everyday life - the broader adoption is going to be. While such merchants as Amazon, Ebay, Google are adopting bitcoins, bitcoin demand is growing, influencing the price growth as a result.
Another influential factors are the selling / buying orders put on the marketplace. Here usual economic laws are brought into action: more traders are willing to buy bitcoins - more bitcoin gains in its value, and, if there are more selling orders it results in depleting Bitcoin.
The mining difficulty as well as a network hash rate indirectly impacts on the Bitcoin Price. Mining is an investment in the hardware which allows for obtaining Bitcoins. Increasing hash rate with the resulted increased network difficulty influence the number of miners: less and less miners are eager to make investments into the hardware as they are not so lucrative as they were used to be. Thereby, they can change the course of their investments from mining to making purchases. Hence, the growing demand can evolve into the price increase.
The Altcoins Market also effects a bitcoin price. The emergence of serious altcoins can distract the attention of Bitcoin audience. A lot of investors, traders, users start to use the altcoins which seem to be more serious and prospective in their point of view in comparison to bitcoin. Hereby, we will observe the bitcoin price drop due to the decreasing demand.
The top concerns for most countries pertaining the Bitcoin legislation are the possibility of using it in criminal ways, its influence on the national currency and taxation issue.
There are three destinations where the most venture capital flow is registered: US, Canada and China.
The steps taken towards the Bitcoin legalization in each country are presented in the bullets.
- positive approach towards Bitcoin cryptocurrency
- Bitcoin is not recognized as a currency but a money service business (MSB)
- Digital Currency money service business are obliged to reporting, registration, and record keeping
- The first country to set the regulated Bitcoin exchange, Coinable
- ItBit, Bitcoin exchange has received first banking license from New York State’s Department of Financial Services
- positive approach towards Bitcoin cryptocurrency
- Bitcoin is recognized as a commodity
- Bitcoin exchanges are MSB which are going under AML laws
- Bitcoin exchanges have to register with FINTRAC
- the biggest scale of Bitcoin market
- only individuals are obliged to make bitcoin transactions
- bitcoin transactions are barred for every financial institute and payment company
- have an advanced Bitcoin regulation framework
- Bitcoin is not recognized as an official currency but a form of private money