Let’s Talk Straight – What is Bitcoin? 1 1180

Unless you’ve been living in a cave lately, you’ve heard the B word uttered more than a few times. But what is all this talk of Bitcoin, and why is it causing so much hype? And while we’re on the subject… What is Bitcoin anyway?

Chances are, you’ve asked yourself or someone else that question on more than one occasion, but probably with unsatisfactory results. You know by now that it’s a currency, just like the dollar, except… nothing like the dollar.

You can’t physically hold Bitcoins, as they live only in cyberspace, and you probably wouldn’t be able to hold a handful of them anyway, since each Bitcoin is worth around $10,000.

If you keep hearing about people winning the cryptocurrency lottery and turning a few cents into millions of dollars, you might be tempted to take part.

Until you hear the other stories saying the Bitcoin bubble is about to burst and you decide to hold back.

So, let’s start at the very beginning.

What is Bitcoin?

Bitcoin is a digital currency, otherwise known as cryptocurrency. It was invented under the alias of Satoshi Nakamoto in 2009, with several goals. One, to cut out the middlemen (banks), as transactions can take place online from Bitcoin to Bitcoin with no fees and no delays. Small businesses don’t have to pay credit card transaction fees and we can do business internationally without converting currency.

Sounds pretty smart, right? Yes, but Bitcoin is not without its problems. Its decentralized nature means that no bank or institution controls the level of inflation, which means it’s highly volatile to peaks and troughs in value. What started out as a few cents on the dollar shot to a record high of almost $20,000 in December 2017 and then slumped back down to half of that within a few days.

Clearly, this makes stable business with Bitcoin currently impossible. And you may be asking, if one Bitcoin is so expensive, how are regular people getting involved?

Anyone can buy into Bitcoin because you don’t have to buy a whole Bitcoin; you can buy fractions of a Bitcoin, called Satoshi. Its skyrocketing value has led to many to call it “digital gold,” as most people treat Bitcoin as an investment and not a currency–at least, for now.

Types of Cryptocurrencies

Bitcoin isn’t the only cryptocurrency out there. You probably already know that. What you may not know is that there are now close to 5,000 different cryptocurrencies available! Why? Each cryptocurrency is created for a different purpose. For example, Agrecoin is for agricultural transactions, Audiocoin for buying music, and so on.

But instead of analyzing every coin on this growing list, let’s give you a general idea. Cryptocurrencies can be broken down into three different types:

1. Coins

“Coins,” make up the first group of cryptocurrencies, (albeit digital ones). Coins use encryption techniques to regulate the generation of units of currency and verify fund transfers. The original crypto coin? You guessed it, Bitcoin. Instead of using these as coins though, Bitcoin has become more of an investment vehicle, with people investing and holding, rather than buying and selling.

2. Utility Tokens

If you’re looking to get the real use out of crypto, make a transaction and daily purchases, utility tokens are the best option. Ethereum is the best example of a utility token that helps waiver transaction costs and move money without fees. It still has a volatile value, but markedly less so than Bitcoin.

3. Tokenized Securities

Call them tokenized securities, or security tokens. Basically, the idea is the same. They represent shares in a business. Like buying into a project (such as the two currencies mentioned above, agrecoin and audiocoin).

Coins, utility tokens and tokenized securities, when it comes to investing, are presented to the public as an ICO, or initial coin offering, to raise funds in the same way as an IPO, but with a crypto twist, and, of course, without the regulation.

The Takeaway

You’re probably realizing by now why you haven’t had a straight answer to your question about what is Bitcoin yet. That’s because it isn’t easy to explain! Here are the main things you should know:

  • Bitcoin is a digital currency with no regulatory body and no banks.
  • It’s good for making Bitcoin to Bitcoin transactions
  • Lack of regulation is getting continuingly banned in countries like China
  • It’s extremely volatile and subject to huge fluctuations

So, if you want to jump on the Bitcoin train, are you too late? Some people may think so, others remain quietly confident that it’s not over yet. But one thing you should keep in mind–never invest more than you can afford to lose.

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Christina is a technology and business communicator who has worked with high profile ICOs and blockchain influencers to break industry news.

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We’ve Taken Another Step Towards Blockchain Usability 3 3020

Widespread blockchain adoption. It didn’t happen in 2018, but it still feels like we’re right on the cusp.

One of the biggest obstacles blockchain is still trying to overcome is accessibility. For all its great potential, we won’t see far reaching implementation until people can use it easily. How can blockchain take a form that’s approachable to the general, non-coding public?

For now, much of the world, including small business leaders who form the backbone of many nations’ economies, still doesn’t know what they’re missing.

Who Needs Blockchain?

Let’s say you own a small to midsize enterprise with a strong digital presence, but you’re tired of the problems associated with traditional internet. You can’t reach potential clients in China, content regulations are different in Europe, and payment across borders is cumbersome.

You’d prefer to have your data management distributed and open source instead of locked up in some centralized server that hopefully won’t crash. Switching to a blockchain system would solve all these problems, but you don’t have the revenues to hire a team of blockchain devs who can transfer your digital presence to dApps.

You’re not alone. World Bank estimates over 90 percent of the world’s private companies are not large enterprises, but SMEs like yours. These modest enterprises are responsible for over half of the world’s GDP and employment, and they’re particularly important in emerging markets where they create 4 out of 5 new jobs.

Making blockchain technology accessible for global SMEs is a necessary push in achieving widespread adoption. To do this, setting up on blockchain needs to be as easy as using Squarespace, WordPress, or GoDaddy.

Ethereum Provides a Platform, but User-Friendly Implementation Has Remained Elusive

For all the ICOs launched in the past couple of years, only a handful have devoted themselves to this particular problem. After an encounter with Vitalik Buterin five years ago, retired fintech engineer Joe Lubin realized that blockchain “has the potential to shatter the silos of power and re-balance the information asymmetries that disadvantage so many.” He developed ConsenSys, a support system for devs and entrepreneurs to build on Buterin’s Ethereum platform.

Ethereum is perhaps the first and certainly the biggest platform for such developments. But ConseSys isn’t quite aimed at the everyday user. While it pushes blockchain’s potential forward, it will take more to bridge the gap for the general populous.

Bringing Blockchain’s Potential to the Everyday User

Eric Tippetts takes things a step further with NASGO. Aiming to be the ‘GoDaddy of blockchain,’ NASGO offers toolkits geared towards artists, influencers, humanitarian organizations, independent businesspeople and SMEs. It’s a “decentralized hosting environment”, according to Tippetts.

It gets around regional internet censorship and “allows content to be seen in every part of the world, opening up blocked boundaries for communication and collaboration.” And it makes things intentionally user-friendly so clients don’t need to show up with previous skills in tech, finance or coding.

Putting Down Roots in Asia’s Emerging Markets

Just last month, NASGO took a step forward into the spotlight by partnering with BitForex, one of the top ten digital asset trading platforms in the world. The partnership went live after a signing ceremony in Nha Trang, Vietnam on January 11th, and Singapore-based BitForex began offering NASGO tokens (NSG) for exchange a week later.

Tippetts is ambitious, calling this only the first among many indexes that will begin listing NASGO over the course of 2019. NASGO already has more partnerships in China, Vietnam, Cambodia and Palau. These countries are looking at ways to expand their revenue base while embracing blockchain’s increased transparency and the protection it provides against fraud. As emerging economies, these countries also stand to gain by enriching their private sectors, which are made up primarily of SMEs, with empowering blockchain knowledge.

“Of all we are accomplishing, our most important mission for 2019 is to drive complete utilization of blockchain,” says Tippetts. “We are creating the infrastructure and widespread adoption that will allow the blockchain to achieve its highest potential in driving revenue for organizations all over the world.”

Usability is the Key to Blockchain’s Future, and the Reclamation of Our Data

With ConsenSys, NASGO and BitForex pushing the agenda of blockchain usability into 2019, the ‘new internet’ could be right around the corner. If history is any indicator, it’s only a matter of the 100th monkey catching on before we finally see the blockchain blow up that was prophesied throughout last year.

When we eventually cross that cusp, we can finally hope to have control of our data and transactions. We’ll be able to conduct small scale business and creative work more freely. And the world of banks and governments will have some adapting to do.

Happy 10th Birthday, Bitcoin!! 7 160

On January 3rd, 2009, block number zero produced the first 50 bitcoins. They were mined by none other than the mysterious Satoshi Nakamoto. Thus was born the phenomenon of the decade. And on January 8th, ten years ago today, bitcoin became a public network when Nakamoto released bitcoin version 0.1.

Nakamoto announced the release via the Metzdowd cryptography mailing list, calling bitcoin “a new electronic cash system that uses a peer-to-peer network to prevent double-spending.”

Nakamoto’s description of the software that would revolutionize technology is sparing and to the point. “It’s completely decentralized with no server or central authority,” the succinct announcement goes on. “Windows only for now.  Open source C++ code is included.” It describes the proof of work as “ridiculously easy”.

It follows with a brief description of how transactions work, how many coins will be released and how they can expect to split every 4 years, along with the caveats that the software was still “alpha and experimental,” offering “no guarantees”. It’s signed with no letter closing, simply:

“Satoshi Nakamoto”

Bitcoin, This Is Your Life

My what a ten years it has been. Just to recap:

On January 12th, 2009, programmer Hal Finney, who had downloaded the new bitcoin software immediately, received ten bitcoins from Nakamoto. This was the first ever bitcoin transaction. Over a year later in May 2010, programmer Laszlo Hanyecz received 10,000 bitcoins in exchange for two Papa John’s pizzas, initiating the first real-world bitcoin purchase and thereby creating the pizza index.

Bitcoin simmered until 2017, when it’s value jolted from $900 to over $19,000, and bitcoin became a household name. Over the past year, the original crypto has settled to a more modest $4,000 valuation, and stirred up a lot of public din in its wake.

Where Were You on January 9th, 2009?

So where were you on the day of Nakamoto’s announcement? Probably on your couch watching DVDs of Pineapple Express and It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia seasons 1 through 3, or laughing at Dr. Horrible’s Singalong Blog on your iPhone 2.

It was a simpler time. Wired was calling Google Earth the number one app on the fancy new iPhone app store. Competition was fierce with Windows 7 in beta. Facebook had recently dropped the “is” from status updates, and a fun app called Twitter (formerly “Twttr”) had just introduced a feature called Trending Topics.

Trending Topics

David Bowie was celebrating one of his eight final birthdays, while Michael Jackson and Patrick Swayze were enjoying their last few months among us mortals. Only days later, pilots Chesley Sullenberger and Jeffrey Skiles made aviation history by skillfully crash landing US Airways Flight 1549 in the Hudson River, saving everyone on board.

A burgeoning class of ennui soaked fashionistas, deemed “hipsters,” were described in Time Magazine as “smug, full of contradictions and, ultimately, the dead end of Western civilization,” a vermin who “manage to attract a loathing unique in its intensity.” They went on with this colorful character sketch:

“Hipsters are the friends who sneer when you cop to liking Coldplay. They’re the people who wear t-shirts silk-screened with quotes from movies you’ve never heard of and the only ones in America who still think Pabst Blue Ribbon is a good beer. They sport cowboy hats and berets and think Kanye West stole their sunglasses. Everything about them is exactingly constructed to give off the vibe that they just don’t care.”

Time Magazine, 2009

Is it time for any of that to come back into style yet? Maybe give it a few more years. We need a break.

Williamsburg was gentrifying and Portland was still America’s best kept secret. The streets were flooded with fixed gear bikes and the sounds of Grizzly Bear, Real Estate, Kings of Convenience, and TV on the Radio.

Animal Collective’s Merriweather Post Pavilion was just a few days old, and Fever Ray’s self titled was about to drop. The world was listening to Lady Gaga, whose single “Just Dance” hit number one on Billboard’s top 100, and Taylor Swift’s Fearless, which was the top selling album.

That same month, box offices favored the cuddly Marley & Me, while The Dark Knight swept the people’s choice awards. Audiences were still getting wowed by Avatar, paying a lot to be disappointed by Mall Cop, and getting hyped about the upcoming Watchmen movie.

Meanwhile in Washington DC, a president with a multisyllabic vocabulary was about to be inaugurated (a rarity in the 21st century, we would find out), and his kids were playing with a Wii they got for Christmas.

Here’s To Another Decade Ahead

What a time it was, the dawn of 2009. And most of us, at least for a few more years, had never heard about blockchain, cryptocurrencies, or bitcoin.

And now here we are.

So, dear reader, here’s to ten more years of crashes, booms, bubble scares, hype, derision, libertarian fanboys, pizza and moon lambos. Happy tenth birthday, bitcoin!!1

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