Well, you can check detailed definition of "what is bitcoin" in fancy words on plenty of internet sites. Bitcoin is a decentralised cryptocurrency etc etc.
It is quite easy to understand this: bitcoin is „internet cash“.
Currency which you can use for paying for all kind of stuff online, send any amount to your friends or family member via internet the fastest way possible. And as you probably noticed in last few months you can actually play a stock-market gambling game with it as well. People which bought it few years ago for a dollar a piece suddenly realized that each Bitcoin is worth hundreds of dollars. Lucky $*^%! For us beginners the most important thing is that we can use it for free, without any “middle man” (think of credit card/bank charges and control of your cash flow or maybe you don't like Mr. Paypal knowing what you are buying).
You can use it on your home PC, laptop or even mobile phone. Fast. Reliable. Incognito.
You can learn much more about what is Bitcoin here:
You did not visit that link above, right? Understood, the best way to start swimming is being thrown right into deep waters. But dont be so sure you really
know what is bitcoin then...
First thing you need (oh, obviously first you really need to read that fancy stuff from link provided above... but... whatever) is your personal wallet. Obvious isn't it? If you want to keep some cash on you - you need a wallet. OK, pocket will do. Same thing. This wallet is a bit special. It will sit on your PC (or mobile phone) for you, anytime ready to work. You can use plenty of wallet providers, some offers “web wallets” which are easy to use and accessible from any location. Some of you would prefer to have your wallet right on your PC so some providers offer software wallets to download. And don't panic it is really easy to instal and use them ever for us bitcoin dummies. Excuse my French. Or you are a crazy teenager which won't leave his/hers mobile away for a second, then there are some wallets just for mobile phones as well. It's up to you to pick the one which suits you most.
Here you can open as many wallets as you want (one for family, one for yourself, one for....)
Software Wallets for your PC:
BitcoinQt (the original one, takes a bit of time to start up - day maybe?)
Mobile phone Wallets: don't be lazy and check your Google/Apple app store!! Like little kids...
Bitcoin is a form of digital currency, created and held electronically. No one controls it. Bitcoins aren’t printed, like dollars or euros - they’re
produced by lots of people running computers all around the world, using software that solves mathematical problems. It’s the first example of a growing
category of money known as cryptocurrency.
Bitcoin can be used to buy things electronically. In that sense, it’s like conventional dollars, euros, or yen, which are also traded digitally.
However, bitcoin’s most important characteristic, and the thing that makes it different to conventional money, is that it is decentralized. No single institution controls the bitcoin network. This puts some people at ease, because it means that a large bank can’t control their money.
Once upon a time a software developer called Satoshi Nakamoto proposed bitcoin, which was an electronic payment system based on mathematical proof. The idea was to produce a currency independent of any central authority, transferable electronically, more or less instantly, with very low transaction fees.
So who prints it? Dollars, euros, yens all can be printed, right? Who prints bitcoins then? No one. This currency isn’t physically printed in the shadows by a central bank, unaccountable to the population, and making its own rules. Those banks can simply produce more money to cover the national debt, thus devaluing their currency.
Instead, bitcoin is created digitally, by a community of people that anyone can join. Bitcoins are ‘mined’, using computing power in a distributed network. This network also processes transactions made with the virtual currency, effectively making bitcoin its own payment network.
And another thing. The Bitcoin protocol - the rules that make bitcoin work - says that only 21 million bitcoins can ever be created by miners. Total. Banks can print more money, right? You probably heard about inflation...Because of limited total amount of bitcoin which can be produced ("mined") bitcoins can be divided into smaller parts (the smallest divisible amount is one hundred millionth of a bitcoin and is called a ‘Satoshi’, after the founder of bitcoin). Think cents here.
Conventional currency has been based on gold or silver. Theoretically, you knew that if you handed over a dollar at the bank, you could get some gold back (although this didn’t actually work in practice). But bitcoin isn’t based on gold; it’s based on mathematics.
Around the world, people are using software programs that follow a mathematical formula to produce bitcoins. The mathematical formula is freely available, so that anyone can check it. The software is also open source, meaning that anyone can look at it to make sure that it does what it is supposed to.
Any other advantages comparing to "normal" currencies?
Bitcoin has several important features that set it apart from normal fiat currencies.
1. It’s decentralized
The bitcoin network isn’t controlled by one central authority. Every machine that mines bitcoin and processes transactions makes up a part of the network, and the machines work together. That means that, in theory, one central authority can’t tinker with monetary policy and cause a meltdown - or simply decide to take people’s bitcoins away from them, as the Central European Bank decided to do in Cyprus in early 2013. And if some part of the network goes offline for some reason, the money keeps on flowing.
2. It’s easy to set up
Conventional banks make you jump through hoops simply to open a bank account. Setting up merchant accounts for payment is another Kafkaesque task, beset by bureaucracy. However, you can set up a bitcoin address in seconds, no questions asked, and with no fees payable.
3. It’s anonymous
Well, kind of. Users can hold multiple bitcoin addresses, and they aren’t linked to names, addresses, or other personally identifying information. However…
4. It’s completely transparent
…bitcoin stores details of every single transaction that ever happened in the network in a huge version of a general ledger, called the block chain. The block chain tells all. If you have a publicly used bitcoin address, anyone can tell how many bitcoins are stored at that address. They just don’t know that it’s yours. There are measures that people can take to make their activities more opaque on the bitcoin network, though, such as not using the same bitcoin addresses consistently, and not transferring lots of bitcoin to a single address.
5. Transaction fees are miniscule
Your bank may charge you a £10 fee for international transfers. Bitcoin doesn’t.
6. It’s fast
You can send money anywhere and it will arrive minutes later, as soon as the bitcoin network processes the payment.
7. It’s non-repudiable
When your bitcoins are sent, there’s no getting them back, unless the recipient returns them to you. They’re gone forever.
So, bitcoin has a lot going for it, in theory. But how does it work, in practice? Read more to find out how bitcoins are mined, what happens when a bitcoin transaction occurs, and how the network keeps track of everything.
A bit of MINING never killed anyone..
In traditional fiat money systems, governments simply print more money when they need to. But in bitcoin, money isn’t printed at all - it is discovered. Computers around the world ‘mine’ for coins by competing with each other.
So, how does mining happen?
People are sending bitcoins to each other over the bitcoin network all the time, but unless someone keeps a record of all these transactions, no-one would be able to keep track of who had paid what. The bitcoin network deals with this by collecting all of the transactions made during a set period into a list, called a block. It’s the miners’ job to confirm those transactions, and write them into a general ledger.
Making a hash of it
This general ledger is a long list of blocks, known as the block chain. It can be used to explore any transaction made between any bitcoin addresses, at any point on the network. Whenever a new block of transactions is created, it is added to the block chain, creating an increasingly lengthy list of all the transactions that ever took place on the bitcoin network. A constantly updated copy of the block is given to everyone who participates, so that they know what is going on.
But a general ledger has to be trusted, and all of this is held digitally. How can we be sure that the block chain stays intact, and is never tampered with? This is where the miners come in.
When a block of transactions is created, miners put it through a process. They take the information in the block, and apply a mathematical formula to it, turning it into something else. That something else is a far shorter, seemingly random sequence of letters and numbers known as a hash. This hash is stored along with the block, at the end of the block chain.
Hashes have some interesting properties. It’s easy to produce a hash from a collection of data like a bitcoin block, but it’s practically impossible to work out what the data was just by looking at the hash. And while it is very easy to produce a hash from a large amount of data, each hash is unique. If you change just one character in a bitcoin block, its hash will change completely.
Miners don’t just use the transactions in a block to generate a hash. Some other pieces of data are used too. One of these pieces of data is the hash of the last block stored in the block chain.
Because each block’s hash is produced using the hash of the block before it, it becomes a digital version of a wax seal. It confirms that this block - and every block after it - is legitimate, because if you tampered with it, everyone would know.
If you tried to fake a transaction by changing a block that had already been stored in the block chain, this would change that block’s hash. If someone checked the block’s authenticity by running the hashing function on it, they’d find that the hash was different from the one already stored along with that block in the block chain. The block would be instantly spotted as a fake.
Because each block’s hash is used to help produce the hash of the next block in the chain, tampering with a block would also change the next block’s hash. So tampering with a block would make the subsequent block’s hash wrong, too. That would continue all the way down the chain, throwing everything out of whack.
Competing for coins
So, that’s how miners ‘seal off’ a block. They all compete with each other to do this, using software written specifically to mine blocks. Every time someone successfully creates a hash, they get a reward of 25 bitcoins, the block chain is updated, and everyone on the network hears about it. That’s the incentive to keep mining, and keep the transactions working.
The problem is that it’s very easy to produce a hash from a collection of data. Computers are really good at this. The bitcoin network has to make it more difficult, otherwise everyone would be hashing hundreds of transaction blocks each second, and all of the bitcoins would be mined in minutes. The Bitcoin protocol deliberately makes it more difficult, by introducing something called a ‘proof of work’.
The Bitcoin protocol won’t just accept any old hash. It demands that a block’s hash has to look a certain way; it must have a certain number of zeroes at the start. There’s no way of telling what a hash is going to look like before you produce it, and as soon as you include a new piece of data in the mix, the hash will be totally different.
Miners aren’t supposed to meddle with the transaction data in a block, but they must change the data they’re using to create a different hash. They do this using another, random piece of data called a ‘nonce’. This is used with the transaction data to create a hash. If the hash doesn’t fit the required format, the nonce is changed, and the whole thing is hashed again. It can take many attempts to find a nonce that works, and all the miners in the network are trying to do it at the same time. That’s how miners earn their bitcoins.