Bitcoin, cryptocurrency, buzz words completely overexposed in the media, but they are still a mysterious presence in our life, and we all look at it with suspicion.
Here, the a crash course to know the basic concepts behind cryptocurrency.
SEE ALSO : Thinking about investing in Bitcoin?
1. What is a cryptocurrency, and what are the different types?
A cryptocurrency is exchanged in the digital world using cryptography, which is essentially a system of secret messages. In other words: There’s no physical coin or bill to put in your wallet—it is all virtual. But cryptocurrencies do have a dollar value (and they can fluctuate wildly on a day-to-day basis).
The cryptography is how the creation and transactions of units is controlled and kept secure, and all the transactions are public. There’s no central banking system, like the Federal Reserve, managing it—nobody’s in charge, and everybody is in charge.
Bitcoin was the first cryptocurrency to be fully implemented and has the most name recognition, but there are more than 1,000 different ones out there. Other popular types include Ripple, Ethereum, Bitcoin Cash, Cardano and Litecoin.
2. What is mining?
As with gold or diamonds, if you want to discover new units of cryptocurrency, you have to roll up your sleeves and dig — albeit through virtual terrain. (Mining also refers to the process of verifying cryptocurrency transactions and adding them to the public ledger.) And instead of pickaxes, pans and shovels, the tools required for cryptocurrency mining include the appropriate computer setup, software and high-level math.
Different currencies call for different approaches, which can change over time. For example, as bitcoin gained in popularity and value, mining it has required an increasing amount of computational and electrical power. While you once could have used a personal computer, now entire mining operations with networks of specialized hardware are on the job. Other currencies can still be mined on a smaller scale.
3. What is a blockchain?
A blockchain is the automatically and constantly updated public ledger of all cryptocurrency transactions. The blockchain can be shared with anyone in the network, but cannot be altered—making it the key to operating without a Fed-like centralized system at the helm.
Many people think that blockchain technology is the core of the cryptocurrency craze and perhaps the real thing worth investing in. Companies like Microsoft, MSFT, -0.79% IBM IBM, -0.79% and JPMorgan JPM, +1.04% are developing and integrating blockchain systems into their businesses.
4. How is the value determined?
The price of bitcoin, like stocks, is largely speculative. Unlike gold, it does not have intrinsic value, and unlike U.S. dollars, no government grants it legal tender status. So it’s really only worth anything because someone’s willing to pay that price for it (with the belief that someone else is willing to pay more). And many other cryptocurrencies are priced in part based on bitcoin’s value.
5. What are the risks of investing?
Just like when investing in individual stocks, you risk losing your money if your cryptocurrency of choice tanks. Unlike with individual stocks, you have no real way of evaluating the odds of your investment doing well, and we have little historical data to analyze broader trends — making it tough to determine a fair price to pay or when it is time to sell.
Plus, with such minimal regulatory oversight (which is the appeal for some), cryptocurrency accounts are not protected by the FDIC. So this area is rife with swindlers looking to sell you a crypto-scam.
6. How much should you invest?
Only what you can afford to lose. The potential rewards of cryptocurrency investing are inarguably high. For example, bitcoin went from about $800 in January 2017 to $19,000 within a year, according to crypto-news site CoinDesk.
But the risks are just as steep. Consider bitcoin’s drop the week before Christmas, from around $19,000 on December 18 to under $14,000 on the 22nd. Though it recovered to more than $17,000 on January 6, it’d fallen again to about $13,000 by January 11. That kind of volatility should be limited to a small portion of your portfolio — the part you’d be OK never seeing again.
7. How do you invest in cryptocurrency?
You can directly purchase digital currencies via exchanges like Coinbase and Bitstamp. You can also try connecting directly with individual sellers through LocalBitcoins.com.
Or you can go the fund route with Bitwise HOLD 10 Private Index Fund if your income and net worth qualify you as an “accredited investor.” Soon, you may be able to invest in a cryptocurrency through an exchange-traded fund (ETF). Both Cboe Global Market and the New York Stock Exchange have filed to list cryptocurrency-related ETFs.
Another option: initial coin offerings, which are like initial public offerings for debuting cryptocurrencies—but with more risk.
8. How do you store bitcoin or other cryptocurrencies?
In your digital wallet. Many cryptocurrency exchanges offer a wallet you can connect to your regular bank account. You can also find other apps, like Bither, ArcBit and Green Address, that focus on bitcoin storage.
For added security, you can consider a hardware wallet like the bitcoin options from Trezor, Digital Bitbox and KeepKey. These flashdrive-looking devices allow you to take your cryptocurrency offline and protect it from vulnerabilities inherent with the web.
9. Where can you spend cryptocurrencies?
The list of businesses that accept such payments is limited, but growing. It includes Overstock.com OSTK, -2.98% Subway, Microsoft and Bloomberg.com, among others. (See an extensive list on 99bitcoins.com).
You can also be creative and barter to put your cryptocurrency to practical use. For example, the first real-world bitcoin transaction, according to popular internet lore, was in 2010, when programmer Laszlo Hanyecz posted in a forum that he would give 10,000 bitcoins (now worth well over $100 million) to anyone who brought him pizza.
Someone took the offer and paid $25 for two Papa John’s pizzas to be delivered to Hanyecz.
10. Is all this for real?
Yes, cryptocurrency is going through the same process of acceptance that other innovative technology did. Remember that once not too long ago, people were balking at the idea of email, e-commerce and social media.
The bottom line is: bitcoin and its ilk are increasingly popular investments, as well as forms of payment—and in some way, cryptocurrency is here to stay. Whether you literally buy into it or not is up to you and your risk tolerance.
(Source: Market Watch )