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Cryptocurrencies: A Brief Review

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Cryptocurrencies are an area of heightened pecuniary, numismatic, technological, and investment interest, and yet a comprehensive understanding of their theories and foundations is still left wanting among many practitioners and stakeholders.

Crypto Definition

  • Below is a list of six things that every cryptocurrency must be in order for it to be called a cryptocurrency;

  • Digital: Cryptocurrency only exists on computers. There are no coins and no notes. There are no reserves for crypto in Fort Knox or the Bank of England!

  • Decentralized: Cryptocurrencies don’t have a central computer or server. They are distributed across a network of (typically) thousands of computers. Networks without a central server are called decentralized networks.

  • Peer-to-Peer: Cryptocurrencies are passed from person to person online. Users don’t deal with each other through banks, PayPal or Facebook. They deal with each other directly. Banks, PayPal and Facebook are all trusted third parties. There are no trusted third parties in cryptocurrency! Note: They are called trusted third parties because users have to trust them with their personal information in order to use their services. For example, we trust the bank with our money and we trust Facebook with our holiday photos!

  • Pseudonymous: This means that you don’t have to give any personal information to own and use cryptocurrency. There are no rules about who can own or use cryptocurrencies. It’s like posting on a website like 4chan.

  • Trustless: No trusted third parties means that users don’t have to trust the system for it to work. Users are in complete control of their money and information at all times.

  • Encrypted: Each user has special codes that stop their information from being accessed by other users. This is called cryptography and it’s nearly impossible to hack. It’s also where the crypto part of the crypto definition comes from. Crypto means hidden. When information is hidden with cryptography, it is encrypted.

  • Global: Countries have their own currencies called fiat currencies. Sending fiat currencies around the world is difficult. Cryptocurrencies can be sent all over the world easily. Cryptocurrencies are currencies without borders!

This crypto definition is a great start but you’re still a long way from understanding cryptocurrency.

The Origin of Cryptocurrency

In the early 1990s, most people were still struggling to understand the internet. However, there were some very clever folks who had already realized what a powerful tool it is.

Some of these clever folks, called cypherpunks, thought that governments and corporations had too much power over our lives. They wanted to use the internet to give the people of the world more freely. Using cryptography, cypherpunks wanted to allow users of the internet to have more control over their money and information. As you can tell, the cypherpunks didn’t like trusted third parties at all!

At the top of the cypherpunks, the to-do list was digital cash. DigiCash and Cybercash were both attempts to create a digital money system. They both had some of the six things needed to be cryptocurrencies but neither had all of them. By the end of the the nineties, both had failed.

The world would have to wait until 2009 before the first fully decentralized digital cash system was created. Its creator had seen the failure of the cypherpunks and thought that they could do better. Their name was Satoshi Nakamoto and their creation was called Bitcoin.

The Story of Bitcoin

No one knows who Satoshi Nakamoto is. It could be a man, a woman or even a group of people. Satoshi Nakamoto only ever spoke on crypto forums and through emails. In late 2008, Nakamoto published the Bitcoin whitepaper. This was a description of what Bitcoin is and how it works. It became the model for how other cryptocurrencies were designed in the future. On January 12, 2009, Satoshi Nakamoto made the first Bitcoin transaction. They sent 10 BTC to a coder named Hal Finney. By 2011, Satoshi Nakamoto was gone. What they left behind was the world’s first cryptocurrency.

Bitcoin became more popular amongst users who saw how important it could become. In April 2011, one Bitcoin was worth one US Dollar (USD).

Cryptocurrency Mining

Cryptocurrency mining might sound like something you do with a shovel and a hard hat but it’s actually more like accounting. Miners are nodes that perform a special task that makes transactions possible. I’ll use an example to show you how it works using the Bitcoin network.

Mining cryptocurrency uses a lot of computer power, so miners are rewarded for the work they do. On the Bitcoin network, miners who confirm new blocks of information are rewarded with 12.5 BTC of new Bitcoin. This is why it’s called mining. Instead of mining for gold or coal crypto, miners are digging for new Bitcoin!

*This interview is covered by Swiftnlift Business Magazine

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