Bitcoin was created by Satoshi Nakamoto as the first successful form of “peer-to-peer electronic cash.”
While there were many precursors to the groundbreaking technology, Bitcoin was the first to solve the double-spend issue plaguing other unsuccessful attempts.
Bitcoin utilizes a process called proof-of-work that involves complex mathematical puzzles being solved by specially designed machines called miners.
Miners validate each block, then add its data to the blockchain permanently. The reward miners receive for securing the Bitcoin protocol is cut in half approximately every four years during an event called the halving. The block reward is currently 6.25 BTC.
Bitcoin was designed so that only 21 million BTC will ever exist. This digital scarcity, along with its decentralized, trustless design that operates without the need for a third party, is what gives the asset its value.
Bitcoin started its life virtually worthless in 2009, and reached an all-time high of $20,000 per BTC on December 17, 2017. The highly publicized peak put cryptocurrencies on the map, made the asset a serious contender in the financial world, and made Bitcoin a household name.
Today, Bitcoin has been featured on Jeopardy, in Coinstar machines, and is a valid answer in Scrabble according to the game’s official world list, powered by Merriam Webster – makers of the most well-known dictionary, which Bitcoin is also in.
Bitcoin is available as a trading pair against USD and other fiat currencies, and against several altcoins. Several platforms also allow for Bitcoin derivatives, futures, and other Bitcoin-based contracts or trading instruments.