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WHAT IS a bitcoin and how it works

Bitcoin is the first decentralized peer-to-peer payment network that is powered by its users with no central authority or middlemen. Bitcoin was the first practical implementation and is currently the most prominent triple entry bookkeeping system in existence. Bitcoin is a digital currency that is not tied to a bank or government and allows users to spend money anonymously. The coins are created by users who 'mine' them by lending computing power to verify other users' transactions. They receive bitcoins in exchange. The coins also can be bought and sold on exchanges with U.S. dollars and other currencies.

How much is it worth?

One bitcoin recently traded for $1,734.65, according to Coinbase, a company that helps users exchange bitcoins. That makes it more valuable than an ounce of gold, which trades at less than $1,230. The value of bitcoins can swing sharply, though. A year ago, one was worth $457.04, which means that it's nearly quadrupled in the last 12 months. But its price doesn't always go up. A bitcoin's value plunged by 23 percentage. Who's using bitcoin? Some businesses have jumped on the bitcoin bandwagon amid a flurry of media coverage. Overstock.com accepts payments in bitcoin, for example. The currency has become popular enough that more than 300,000 daily transactions have been occurring recently, according to bitcoin wallet site blockchain.info. A year ago, activity was closer to 230,000 transactions per day. In order to know how the system works read the entire process and the flow as below:

Balances - block chain The block chain is a shared public ledger on which the entire Bitcoin network relies. All confirmed transactions are included in the block chain. This way, Bitcoin wallets can calculate their spendable balance and new transactions can be verified to be spending bitcoins that are actually owned by the spender. The integrity and the chronological order of the block chain are enforced with cryptography.

Transactions - private keys A transaction is a transfer of value between Bitcoin wallets that gets included in the block chain. Bitcoin wallets keep a secret piece of data called a private key or seed, which is used to sign transactions, providing a mathematical proof that they have come from the owner of the wallet. The signature also prevents the transaction from being altered by anybody once it has been issued. All transactions are broadcast between users and usually begin to be confirmed by the network in the following 10 minutes, through a process called mining.

Processing - mining Mining is a distributed consensus system that is used to confirm waiting transactions by including them in the block chain. It enforces a chronological order in the block chain, protects the neutrality of the network, and allows different computers to agree on the state of the system. To be confirmed, transactions must be packed in a block that fits very strict cryptographic rules that will be verified by the network. These rules prevent previous blocks from being modified because doing so would invalidate all following blocks. Mining also creates the equivalent of a competitive lottery that prevents any individual from easily adding new blocks consecutively in the block chain. This way, no individuals can control what is included in the block chain or replace parts of the block chain to roll back their own spends.

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