Bitcoin's Cryptocurrency: A Case Study

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It's not an actual coin, it's "cryptocurrency," a digital form of payment that is produced ("mined") by lots of people worldwide. It allows peer-to-peer transactions instantly, worldwide, for free or at very low cost.

Bitcoin was invented after decades of research into cryptography by software developer, Satoshi Nakamoto (believed to be a pseudonym), who designed the algorithm and introduced it in 2009. His true identity remains a mystery.

This currency is not backed by a tangible commodity (such as gold or silver); bitcoins are traded online which makes them a commodity in themselves.

Bitcoin is an open-source product, accessible by anyone who is a user. All you need is an email address, Internet access, and money to get started.

Where
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Its global currency values fluctuate according to supply and demand and market speculation; as more people create wallets and hold and spend bitcoins, and more businesses accept it, Bitcoin's value will rise. Banks are now trying to value Bitcoin and some investment websites predict the price of a bitcoin will be several thousand dollars in 2014.

What are its benefits?

There are benefits to consumers and merchants that want to use this payment option.

1. Fast transactions - Bitcoin is transferred instantly over the Internet.

2. No fees/low fees -- Unlike credit cards, Bitcoin can be used for free or very low fees. Without the centralized institution as middle man, there are no authorizations (and fees) required. This improves profit margins sales.

3. Eliminates fraud risk -Only the Bitcoin owner can send payment to the intended recipient, who is the only one who can receive it. The network knows the transfer has occurred and transactions are validated; they cannot be challenged or taken back. This is big for online merchants who are often subject to credit card processors' assessments of whether or not a transaction is fraudulent, or businesses that pay the high price of credit card
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• A relatively small number of ordinary consumers and merchants currently use or understand Bitcoin. However, adoption is increasing globally and tools and technologies are being developed to make participation easier.

• It's the Internet, so hackers are threats to the exchanges. The Economist reported that a Bitcoin exchange was hacked in September 2013 and $250,000 in bitcoins was stolen from users' online vaults. Bitcoins can be stolen like other currency, so vigilant network, server and database security is paramount.

• Users must carefully safeguard their bitcoin wallets which contain their private keys. Secure backups or printouts are crucial.

• Bitcoin is not regulated or insured by the US government so there is no insurance for your account if the exchange goes out of business or is robbed by hackers.

• Bitcoins are relatively expensive. Current rates and selling prices are available on the online exchanges.

The virtual currency is not yet universal but it is gaining market awareness and acceptance. A business may decide to try Bitcoin to save on credit card and bank fees, as a customer convenience, or to see if it helps or hinders sales and

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