Central to the appeal and function of Bitcoin is the blockchain technology it uses to store an online ledger of all the transactions that have ever been conducted using bitcoins, providing a data structure for this ledger that is exposed to a limited threat from hackers and can be copied across all computers running Bitcoin software. Every new block generated must be verified by the ledgers of each user on the market, making it almost impossible to forge transaction histories. Many experts see this blockchain as having important uses in technologies such as online voting and crowdfunding, and major financial institutions such as JPMorgan Chase see potential in cryptocurrencies to lower transaction costs by making payment processing more efficient. However, because cryptocurrencies are virtual and do not have a central repository, a digital cryptocurrency balance can be wiped out by a computer crash if a backup copy of the holdings does not exist, or if somebody simply loses their private keys. At the same time, there is no central authority, government, or corporation that has access to your funds or your personal information.
Although cryptocurrencies, like bitcoin, are gaining popularity, there are still many associated risks. In forex trading, dealing in a decentralized currency that offers global transactions with no fees is an advantage. But the tradeoff is essentially adding a third currency to what was a trading pair. Traders who want to take on that risk should use only locally regulated forex brokerages.
I’d say Coinbase is the easiest way for newbies to buy Bitcoin because the site specifically caters to those who may not be all that familiar with cryptocurrencies. Admittedly, the fees are a little on the steep side compared to, say, LocalBitcoins and Kraken, but the good thing about using Coinbase is that you don’t have to worry too much about security.
Conversely, if one were to take the super-long view and, say, bought a few shares in 2012 at a sub-$100 price point, even with Bitcoin dropping half its peak value, that investor would still theoretically make over a 600 percent return on his investment just by waiting. Granted, the sub $100 days are likely now over, what with the currency's new-found stardom so we'll have to wait and see how the market plays out.
The picture above shows some of the recent large transactions recorded in the block chain. The first transaction is for 205 BTC, the equivalent of $187,165 at today’s prices. The long lines of letters and numbers you see in the pic are bitcoin addresses. A bitcoin address consists of 27-34 alphanumeric characters, beginning with the number 1 or 3. You can have as many addresses as you want, they’re free and easy to generate.
The beautiful part of a blockchain is that you aren’t limited to just using it with Bitcoin. In fact, many other online currencies and representations of digital value have started using blockchain as a method to prevent unfair transactions. The best part is that you don’t need to know anything about the way it works, simply plug it in and watch it do its magic. However, having a general understanding of the blockchain gives you the ability to fully comprehend the security and stability that blockchains bring to the table.
In March 2013 the blockchain temporarily split into two independent chains with different rules. The two blockchains operated simultaneously for six hours, each with its own version of the transaction history. Normal operation was restored when the majority of the network downgraded to version 0.7 of the bitcoin software. The Mt. Gox exchange briefly halted bitcoin deposits and the price dropped by 23% to $37 before recovering to previous level of approximately $48 in the following hours. The US Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) established regulatory guidelines for "decentralized virtual currencies" such as bitcoin, classifying American bitcoin miners who sell their generated bitcoins as Money Service Businesses (MSBs), that are subject to registration or other legal obligations. In April, exchanges BitInstant and Mt. Gox experienced processing delays due to insufficient capacity resulting in the bitcoin price dropping from $266 to $76 before returning to $160 within six hours. The bitcoin price rose to $259 on 10 April, but then crashed by 83% to $45 over the next three days. On 15 May 2013, US authorities seized accounts associated with Mt. Gox after discovering it had not registered as a money transmitter with FinCEN in the US. On 23 June 2013, the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) listed 11.02 bitcoins as a seized asset in a United States Department of Justice seizure notice pursuant to 21 U.S.C. § 881. This marked the first time a government agency had seized bitcoin. The FBI seized about 26,000 bitcoins in October 2013 from the dark web website Silk Road during the arrest of Ross William Ulbricht. Bitcoin's price rose to $755 on 19 November and crashed by 50% to $378 the same day. On 30 November 2013 the price reached $1,163 before starting a long-term crash, declining by 87% to $152 in January 2015. On 5 December 2013, the People's Bank of China prohibited Chinese financial institutions from using bitcoins. After the announcement, the value of bitcoins dropped, and Baidu no longer accepted bitcoins for certain services. Buying real-world goods with any virtual currency had been illegal in China since at least 2009.