A lot of people have made fortunes by mining Bitcoins. Back in the days, you could make substantial profits from mining using just your computer, or even a powerful enough laptop. These days, Bitcoin mining can only become profitable if you’re willing to invest in an industrial-grade mining hardware. This, of course, incurs huge electricity bills on top of the price of all the necessary equipment.
What’s so special about Bitcoin? There are many arguments on whether the new virtual currency will succeed or fail. We will not get into this nor discuss the politics behind the project. Our concern is strictly with the profit opportunities provided by this new payment phenomenon. In the next few pages on the new digital currency we will outline our thoughts from the perspective of a trader and a potential investor in this upcoming market.
Isn’t there something out there in place to protect my potentially fake investment? Truth be told, you are sort of out of luck. You see, most of these ICO coin tokens are designed in a way that marks them as ‘software presale tokens.’ So essentially, your ICO coins are no different than a video game token that you bought before it launched. The main reason many developers choose to address their new currency in such a way is to avoid paying all the expenses that come alongside legal sales. In a similar matter, a developer of a newfound cryptocurrency might choose to say that his or her investors are ‘donating’ coins to their cause and what not. So while this is completely acceptable and falls under the same reasoning for why Bitcoin was invented in the first place, to decentralize and stop all the crazy fees that go into making these investments happen, it’s still relatively questionable.
Mine It: The easiest—but slowest—way into Bitcoin is to mine it. Set up a dedicated computer to do nothing but decrypt Bitcoin blocks, install some Bitcoin-mining software and let it do its thing. Again, doing so on a mid-range desktop could take upwards of a year or more to fully decrypt a single block. That's not going to be worth the time or effort.
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Historically, bitcoin prices have exhibited high volatility. In absence of regulations, volatility can be used by the unregulated brokers to their advantage and to a trader’s disadvantage. For example, assume the intraday bitcoin rate fluctuates from $500 to $530 U.S. dollars per bitcoin. For an incoming deposit of 2 bitcoins, the unregulated broker may apply lowest rates to credit the trader $1,000 (2 bitcoins * $500 = $1000). However, once the trader is ready to make a withdrawal, the broker may use the lowest exchange rate and instead of the original 2 bitcoins deposited, the trader only receives 1.88679 bitcoins ($1,000/$530 = 1.88679 bitcoins). In reality, the unregulated broker may be exchanging bitcoins and dollars at say $515, and pocketing the difference at the expense of the client. (For more see Why Is Bitcoin's Value So Volatile?)
Cryptocurrency is also used in controversial settings in the form of online black markets, such as Silk Road. The original Silk Road was shut down in October 2013 and there have been two more versions in use since then. In the year following the initial shutdown of Silk Road, the number of prominent dark markets increased from four to twelve, while the amount of drug listings increased from 18,000 to 32,000.
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Transaction fees for cryptocurrency depend mainly on the supply of network capacity at the time, versus the demand from the currency holder for a faster transaction. The currency holder can choose a specific transaction fee, while network entities process transactions in order of highest offered fee to lowest. Cryptocurrency exchanges can simplify the process for currency holders by offering priority alternatives and thereby determine which fee will likely cause the transaction to be processed in the requested time.
Though each bitcoin transaction is recorded in a public log, names of buyers and sellers are never revealed – only their wallet IDs. While that keeps bitcoin users’ transactions private, it also lets them buy or sell anything without easily tracing it back to them. That’s why it has become the currency of choice for people online buying drugs or other illicit activities.
Transactions are defined using a Forth-like scripting language.:ch. 5 Transactions consist of one or more inputs and one or more outputs. When a user sends bitcoins, the user designates each address and the amount of bitcoin being sent to that address in an output. To prevent double spending, each input must refer to a previous unspent output in the blockchain. The use of multiple inputs corresponds to the use of multiple coins in a cash transaction. Since transactions can have multiple outputs, users can send bitcoins to multiple recipients in one transaction. As in a cash transaction, the sum of inputs (coins used to pay) can exceed the intended sum of payments. In such a case, an additional output is used, returning the change back to the payer. Any input satoshis not accounted for in the transaction outputs become the transaction fee.