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Bitcoin is an open source peer-to-peer electronic cash system that's completely decentralised, with no central server, trusted authorities or middle men. The availability of bitcoins can't be manipulated by governments or financial institutions.

Bitcoin is the first truly decentralised currency and has paved the way for hundreds more to compete together in Cipherspace over the coming years. This is one of the key factors in the transition of global society into the post-nation-state economy talked about in books like The Sovereign Individual and which is coming to be known by agorists as The Second Realm.

The value of the bitcoin approximately depends on the size of the network, and essentially gives you a 1 / 21000000 share in the value that can come out of this network and its ability to facilitate trade. When gold was the dominant currency, it seemed that it represented physical value while bitcoin is a looking glass that shows us what money really is: social value.

Bitcoin is the first online currency to solve the so-called “double spending” problem without resorting to a third-party intermediary. The key is distributing the database of transactions across a peer-to-peer network. This allows a record to be kept of all transfers, so the same cash can’t be spent twice–because it’s distributed (a lot like BitTorrent), there’s no central authority. This makes digital bitcoins like cash dollars or euros: Hand them over directly to a payee, and you don’t have them any more, all without the help of a third party.

You can find a couple of good introductions to bitcoin are here and here.

How it works

In a p2p computer network there are no servers, the entire network is composed of users running instances of the application on their computers. Each running instance offers a small amount of processing and storage resource to the network so that it can deliver the services it was designed for such as redundant storage, anonymity or voice-over-IP applications.

In the case of a p2p currency system, some of the services the network is designed to offer are privacy, verification, authentication, currency creation and transfer of ownership. To ensure a reliable and tamper-proof system requires a lot of resource, and that amount is proportional to the amount of coins in the network. The network is able to pay the users for the resource they offer by making the coin-creation process part of the network protocol itself instead of being handled by a central trusted authority. This creates a natural and incorruptible link between the supply of currency in the network and the demand for it.

Even aside from the ability to exchange bitcoins for other currencies, it still makes a very useful tool for independent organisations and groups because it allows them to trade and settle accounts amongst themselves independently and privately. It effectively gives them a "bank" that has a trustworthy system of accounts that can't be tampered with and requires no corruptible central authority to operate. See the following links for more detailed information about how it works.

Bitcoin was born on January 3rd, 2009, at 6:15PM Greenwich Mean Time, which is when Satoshi Nakamoto mined the first 50 coins, known as the "genesis block."

The Bitcoin Wallet

The term "wallet" is actually a little bit misleading because a wallet doesn't actually contain any coins in it, all you need in order to have control over the balances your addresses hold are the private keys for those addresses (or a seed phrase that can generate key-pairs for all you addresses in the case of the popular hierarchical deterministic wallets). All the coins that have ever been created (through mining) and all the transactions that have ever happened are stored throughout the entire network (in the blockchain), not in the wallets. The wallets job is to scan all those transactions to figure out the balance of any addresses you have control over.

the wallet also gives you the ability to create new transactions to send any portion of balance you control to other public bitcoin addresses. A public bitcoin address is the address you show to other people in order for them to send you money is the public half of one of the private keys in your wallet. Once a new transaction is created, our wallet signs it with your private keys and then it's broadcast around the network to eventually be validated (to ensure that the signor really does have control of enough balance to do the transaction) and included in a block in the chain.

I think what makes this a concept that's really hard for people to really "get" is that the bitcoin addresses (and their associated private keys) don't have a solid existence anywhere in the block chain. The blockchain only consists of transactions that refer to addresses by specifying how the mined coins are distributed among them all. There are no checks done to see whether those addresses have actually been created though. You can create a new address completely off-line and write it down so it exists nowhere except on a piece of paper, and transactions can direct bitcoin to that address just fine. As long as you have the private key for that address, you can choose to access it and spend the money one day - this is how a paper wallet works.

The job of the wallets is to scan the blockchain to find the balances that exist in the addresses you've assigned to the wallet, but every wallet is just figuring out this information for themselves and forming their own local opinion of the state of balances. When you create a transaction, it is added to a block only if the miner also agrees with your wallet's "opinion" that the transaction can work.

Bitcoin stats, charts & tools

Bitcoins working/funding

Other projects on the blockchain

It has been a hot debate for years amongst the bitcoin developers as to whether or not the blockchain should allow the storage of data not related specifically to bitcoins. Even Satoshi himself weighed in on this debate saying that,

Quote.pngPiling every proof-of-work quorum system in the world into one dataset doesn't scale. Bitcoin and BitDNS can be used separately. Users shouldn't have to download all of both to use one or the other. BitDNS users may not want to download everything the next several unrelated networks decide to pile in either.
— Satoshi Nakamoto

Eventually projects started to store custom data in the blockchain in exotic ways which began to bloat the blockchain, so the developers in mid 2014 added the OP_RETURN opcode to the official set of executable codes which allows 40 bytes of custom data to be added to transactions. With OP_RETURN, Bitcoin's long-running debate over acceptable uses of the block chain has received some much needed clarity. Applications can now inexpensively add a 40 byte data payload to transactions using the OP_RETURN script function. On a technical level, OP_RETURN doesn't enable anything that wasn't previously possible. Instead, OP_RETURN provides a standard interface through which new services can potentially be layered onto the block chain, and a central point of focus for future work on integration tools.

Here's a list of various projects and ideas that extend the functionality available in the blockchain.

Further reading and viewing on bitcoin

Economics & Liberty articles

Other sites about Bitcoin

How bitcoin can help the world

Interesting articles about Bitcoin

Related news

Segwit2X and BCash

Craig Wright throws in the towel (but not really, unfortunately he came back)


I’m Sorry

I believed that I could do this. I believed that I could put the years of anonymity and hiding behind me. But, as the events of this week unfolded and I prepared to publish the proof of access to the earliest keys, I broke. I do not have the courage. I cannot.

When the rumors began, my qualifications and character were attacked. When those allegations were proven false, new allegations have already begun. I know now that I am not strong enough for this.

I know that this weakness will cause great damage to those that have supported me, and particularly to Jon Matonis and Gavin Andresen. I can only hope that their honour and credibility is not irreparably tainted by my actions. They were not deceived, but I know that the world will never believe that now. I can only say I’m sorry.

And goodbye.
Dr. Craig Wright

See also