Cryptocurrency stands poised to take over the world, yet so few truly understand what it is and how it functions. With some experts claiming that crypto possesses the power to become bigger than the internet, it's time for everyone to pay serious attention. The future is here—and it's crypto.
While the internet disrupted several industries, cryptocurrency by its very nature could transform even more important sectors. Cryptocurrency, in fact, aims to supplant perhaps the most entrenched institution of all time—the central bank. By definition, crypto operates outside of the central banking system, which makes it the ultimate game-changer. Those who are new to crypto may hear people referring to fiat currency; this is the phrase that crypto enthusiasts use when talking about currency that is backed by a government.
Even some news organisation will get it wrong from time to time, referring to cryptocurrency as digital currency or using the terms interchangeably. This is misleading, as cryptocurrency is specifically defined as digital currency that is generated, verified and sent through encryption methods. Therefore, all cryptocurrencies would be considered digital currencies. However, not all digital currencies are crypto. Bitcoin, which is the cryptocurrency with which most are probably familiar, uses SHA-256 hashing to mine coins and generate Bitcoin addresses. Its cryptographic features make it a cryptocurrency as opposed to just a digital currency.
Crypto: Everything You Don't Understand about Money, Combined with Everything You Don't Understand about Computers
Although this process may sound complicated at first glance, it is actually masterful in its simplicity. Using a network of computers known as nodes, mathematical problems are solved. The node that solves a given mathematical problem first is then rewarded with Bitcoin. This is what we call mining. Again, hashing is the cryptographic process by which information can be obscured, making the peer-to-peer system function in a way that allows outputs to be generated without having their inputs revealed to the public. Because Bitcoin operates through a public ledger system, transactions are seen. However, people are not able to see who originated a transaction or from whence it was sent.
Like any good superhero, cryptocurrency boasts an epic origin story, as well as a mysterious behind-the-scenes founder. Way back before the days of Bitcoin, a digital currency known as Bit Gold was proposed by an eccentric American computer scientist named Nick Szabo. However, Bit Gold possessed a fatal flaw. Unlike Bitcoin, Bit Gold did not rely upon the power of hashing. Instead, it was based upon the concept of a group of computers networked together. Technically, one or more of these computers could have become compromised and then taken down the entire system. For these reasons, among others, Bit Gold never made it to the masses.
But in the community of computer scientists, there was a burgeoning sense that a reliable digital currency was necessary. People enthused about the idea of an open-source currency with little to no fees involved. This currency would allow peers to trade funds back and forth—without the oversight of traditional banking systems. Eventually, it was the addition of cryptography to the mix that created the cryptocurrency we know today. Suddenly, there was a relatively safe and secure way to exchange money without the proverbial Big Brother looking over one's shoulder—and the world has never been the same since. When the Bitcoin white paper was released back in 2008, something monumental shifted within the universe.
To understand cryptocurrency, it's helpful to possess an understanding of Byzantine fault tolerance. But what is this abstract idea, and how does it apply to digital currency? The concept is actually pretty simple. Let's say you have a group of generals that are all in charge of the Byzantine army. They've reached the gates of a city that they believe they should attack, but problems arise. One or more of the generals may be colluding with the enemy, and messengers traveling between the generals are not necessarily reliable. Byzantine fault tolerance alludes to a system that will work regardless of whether or not a general goes rogue or a messenger is caught. It recognises that certain parts of a strategy may fall apart, but the strategy as a whole must survive intact in order to meet certain goals. It demands that the majority of generals are in agreement regarding the tactics that will be used. It's a system that acknowledges the presence of risk and demands a solution before engagement—and it's easy to see how it can be applied to the world of cryptography.
Although it may be difficult to believe, the white paper for Bitcoin emerged just over a decade ago.
A mysterious figure named Satoshi Nakamoto sent out an email in which he discussed his new project. "I've been working on a new electronic cash system that's fully peer-to-peer, with no third party..." started the legendary email.
Within a few short months, Bitcoin was launched, the genesis block was forged into creation—and the world was never the same. Of course, it took a bit of time for the coin to catch fire. In 2010, it was rumored that one early adopter sold a couple of pizzas to another crypto head—for a whopping 10,000 BTC.
These days, of course, this amount of BTC could purchase a lot more than just some pizza pies. It's difficult, if not impossible, to come up with a company that has generated as much growth as Bitcoin has within the past 10 years. Of course, it goes without saying, however, that Satoshi Nakamoto would insist that Bitcoin should not be compared to a company. As a currency and a store of value, it's unlike anything the world has ever seen before.
At the beginning of their interest in Bitcoin and altcoins, every crypto newbie goes through a phase of exploring the possible identities of Bitcoin maestro Satoshi Nakamoto. It's almost a necessary rite of passage, and this journey's overwhelming ability to frustrate can ruffle the feathers of the most levelheaded people out there. Perhaps it would be easier to start with who is not likely Satoshi Nakamoto, and that is Satoshi Nakamoto himself. That's right; although the name sounds as though it were ripped from a novel, it is the actual birth name of a Japanese gentleman who currently lives in California. Furthermore, this Satoshi Nakamoto is a scientist who once worked as a military contractor. However, there aren't many other links to suggest that the libertarian, whose views would seem like the type to support the need for a decentralized, peer-to-peer system, is the same Satoshi Nakamoto who coded the currency and then mined the genesis block back in 2009.
Nick Szabo: After a careful analysis of the Bitcoin white paper's language, some stylistic experts have linked the language to Nick Szabo. Not only does the white paper sound like other missives he has published, but he was also in the right place at the right time. And, let's not forget, his name is on Bit Gold, which many consider to be the preeminent precursor to Bitcoin. However, Szabo has publicly stated that he is not the mysterious Nakamoto.
Hal Finney: Although he passed away back in 2014, Finney still holds a special place in the imaginations of Bitcoin fans. Interestingly enough, he was a neighbor of the aforementioned actual man named Satoshi Nakamoto, and he has widely been described as a cryptographic genius. He was also one of the first people who was definitively around during the early days of Bitcoin. Not only did he sign off on bug reports, but he also reportedly received the first BTC transfer and actively corresponded with fellow Satoshi suspect Nick Szabo. Whatever his involvement was with Bitcoin, he has taken his secrets to the grave with him.
Craig Wright: Wright is unusual in that he has embraced the idea of being Nakamoto, as opposed to running away from it like other Satoshi suspects. A few years ago, the computer engineer claimed that he possessed irrefutable evidence that he was indeed Nakamoto. For a short time, some people believed him—until he refused to pony up said evidence and his claims began to fall apart.
A Consortium of Companies or Individuals: Some conspiracy theorists posit that Satoshi Nakamoto is not one person as most people assume. Instead, they argue that Nakamoto is a group of entities operating together to achieve a common goal. In the same way that some academics believe William Shakespeare's work was crafted by a group of individuals, these folks have put forward the belief that the work of Bitcoin is far too complex for just person to have completed.
These days, it's common to hear the words Bitcoin and blockchain tossed around at the same time. However, just as cryptocurrency and digital currency are not interchangeable, neither are blockchain and Bitcoin. Although Bitcoin is built on the blockchain, not all blockchains are created for currency. As soon as people started to see what Bitcoin was capable of, they realized that blockchain technology could be applied to a variety of different sectors. There is inherent value in the idea of having a decentralized ledger. Not only is it a deterrent against DDoS (Direct Denial of Service) attacks, but it also provides a safer way for information to be stored. If a company is concerned about having its records hacked and/or destroyed, then it is a worthwhile endeavor to look into the implications of blockchain technology. Because the information will exist on multiple nodes (computers), one machine's faults will not destroy the entire system. Again, we go back to Byzantine fault tolerance. These days, blockchain technology is used for everything from music production to social networking and content creation.
It can be very easy to get bogged down in the technical aspects of blockchain technology. However, the core principle is easy to understand. Since almost the beginning of time, people have used ledgers to keep track of animals, their land and city censuses. However, there has always been an inherent flaw in this system; most ledgers could be altered with ease to suit nefarious purposes. Blockchain technology solves this problem in that it uses algorithms to verify and approve any and all changes. One can't alter a single block without changing the others around it, and nodes must record the alterations. This is a trustless system that doesn't demand putting faith in other people or machines.
After Bitcoin, Ethereum is one of the most popular cryptocurrencies. And Ethereum is known for its smart contracts. Put simply, smart contracts are computerized protocols that follow the terms of a specific contract that has been set forth. As a result, layers of information are tagged onto transactions. Although Bitcoin is not necessarily optimized for smart contracts, it is capable of enabling them. Many projects choose to use smart contracts these days. Additionally, some employ tokens in order to transfer value from one person to another. Although Satoshi Nakamoto set out with the goal to create a system in which digital currency could be traded, he or she also inadvertently jumpstarted an entire cottage industry of blockchain projects. Smart contracts are definitely the next step in the evolution of blockchain.
For anyone who's been keeping an eye on the price of Bitcoin and altcoins, it's not uncommon to see pretty wild swings in valuations. A lot of this has to do with regulation—or the lack thereof. When regulators in the United States, for instance, make a big statement about changing the way crypto is handled, investors tend to react pretty quickly. Also, it's important to keep in mind that other countries have banned cryptocurrency entirely. China's 2013 ban of Bitcoin led to a huge drop in the price. It is this kind of unpredictability that can upset the applecart and lead people to believe that investing in crypto isn't worth it. However, many of the crypto naysayers have chosen to become involved with crypto during the worst possible times—when the mainstream media is reporting stories of skyrocketing prices. These reports inevitably seem to lead to a run-up in price, which is then followed by a crash. The most recent drop-off occurred in early 2018, after many had lost a great deal of money investing in Bitcoin at the top of the bubble. As Bitcoin veterans know by know, buying "the dip" is a key element if one wants to make money in crypto.
Although it seems counterintuitive, many experts believe that regulation may be very good for crypto.
First, it will help people to become better adopters of the technology. If crypto is as easily accessible as a debit card, there's no reason that individuals won't use it to buy their groceries and fuel up their cars. However, this can't happen without some form of regulation. As we all know by now, governments like to keep tabs on how their citizens are spending money. And along with this new technology can arise some questions. For instance, is buying into a token the same as purchasing securities? Some government regulators seem to think that it is.
People may become upset when they feel that the government is stepping in where it doesn't belong. However, it's crucial to remember that most governments are only trying to protect their citizens when they declare that an ICO (Initial Coin Offering) is selling off securities and must be treated as such. It's also important to recall that most ICOs fail. For most of these projects, there's nothing nefarious about it. Most small businesses also fail; it's not a surprise that some projects perform differently in the real world than they do on the white paper when they're still in concept mode. There's nothing wrong with failure as a concept here; the problem is when bad actors mislead investors and give off a flattering impression that doesn't reflect the actual project.
Some new coins—even those with celebrity backers giving shout-outs on social media—fail spectacularly. Just because a coin has a well-know name attached to it, this doesn't mean that it's slated for success. It's key for new crypto investors to remember that celebrities are people too. A famous face can be hoodwinked as well! Regardless, the bottom line is that governments sometimes see a need to look out for their own. When billions of dollars are being tied up in ICOs, it seems reasonable that the government wants to ensure that people are getting a fair break.
It does seem somewhat unfortunate that every time cryptocurrency seems to hit the news, it's because of a salacious story or association.
In 2011, a notorious marketplace called Silk Road was launched. Those who accessed the dark web and went on the marketplace could trade their crypto for any number of illegal products and services—and they did.
From money laundering to drug sales, there was little that one could not do on Silk Road. Like all fledgling, popular new marketplaces, it wasn't long before Silk Road started building up quite a buzz online. In the end, it was this buzz that became its undoing.
In 2013, its chief Ross Ulbricht, known better by the nom de plume "Dread Pirate Roberts," was taken into custody.
For many members of the public, this was their first experience hearing about Bitcoin. It's not difficult to see why people have had an inaccurate idea of what crypto actually does!
Thus far, banks have had a very complicated relationship with crypto. At first, many big bankers and financiers went as far as to disparage Bitcoin and its brethren. Charlie Munger of Berkshire Hathaway, for instance, went on a bit of a rampage, referring to crypto as "worthless, artificial gold."
Indeed, it's not difficult to see why those from older generations may have a difficult time embracing crypto at first. Unlike Coca-Cola, it's not a tangible object that someone can hold in their hands.
However, all signs are indicating that it is indeed the future—and those who ignore it risk being left behind in the dust. At Goldman Sachs, executives finally heard from enough clients that they started to make plans to open a crypto trading desk.
When clients begin to indicate that they'll consider leaving their normal investment partners in order to pursue the world of crypto, their banks tend to listen. Now, with such big institutions making public their interest in crypto, it seems as if the coins have become entrenched in our culture. At this point, there's no turning back.
For those who fill out their KYC (Know Your Customer) sections on an exchange and start a crypto trading account, it's usually a very exciting time. However, some have not been so thrilled to find out that they are not able to buy crypto on their credit cards. Wells Fargo, for instance, is one of the institutions that bans this.
Although the banks just seem to be concerned that their debtors won't be able to pay them off if crypto takes another big dive, many customers don't like it. The big banks, however, argue that these investments should be made with funds that are easy for the fledgling investor to access.
People accrue crypto in a multitude of ways. Some receive their first crypto as payments from clients, while others go on exchanges to purchase some Bitcoin. These days, if you're buying online, you'll want to exercise extreme caution at first. Many beginners start out with one of the most trustworthy exchanges, such as Coinbase.
On Coinbase, people can purchase crypto with USD (United States Dollars), which isn't possible on all exchanges. However, some people are not comfortable with some of the more "centralized" aspects of Coinbase. For those who are starting off, though, Coinbase offers a no-nonsense approach to purchasing crypto for the first time. There are even some tutorials on the website. You won't even need to set up your own wallet, which is a necessity for those purchasing from most other exchanges.
The following exchanges have demonstrated that they are at least somewhat trustworthy and are capable of handling a decent amount of traffic.
Cryptocurrency wallets store the crypto that you've acquired. There are a number of great wallets out there, and many of them happen to be free. <a href="https://www.exodus.io">Exodus</a> is a streamlined wallet with a bold aesthetic sensibility. For those who are seeking out a simple way to collect that crypto, Exodus is a great way to go. However, those who are more concerned with security will want to look at paper wallets.
Another term you may hear a lot is cold storage.
This refers to the manner in which your wallet operates. If your wallet is on a device that is connected to the internet, then it is considered to be in hot storage. If your crypto is in cold storage, then it is not located on a device that is connected to the internet. Paper wallets are considered a safe form of cold storage, as owners will print out their private keys—which newbies might refer to as passwords—and then leave their paper wallets in a safe space. The truth is that there are advantages and disadvantages to each way of storing your crypto. Each person will want to ask themselves if they're more likely to lose a private key or to be hacked by a sophisticated black hatter digging around in their computer to steal some crypto.
Although hot wallets may be more easily accessible and practical for those who are just starting, they were partially responsible for one of the most shocking crypto episodes of all time. Some might even say that the crypto world is still reeling from what happened to an exchange called Mt. Gox. At one point in time, Mt. Gox was handling more than half of the Bitcoin transactions in the world. Many of the people who used Mt. Gox trusted it implicitly, as it seemed to be one of the more reputable exchanges at the time. Some referred to it as their Bitcoin bank. However, a disastrous hacking incident in 2014 led to its complete destruction—and the loss of around 850,000 bitcoins. Although some of these funds have been recovered, most Mt. Gox users never saw their crypto again. This reinforces the idea that one cannot be too careful when it comes to storing and/or purchasing crypto. Diversifying is never a bad idea when one begins to accrue a high value of crypto. Whether you decide to store some coins in cold storage or you switch up the exchanges you purchase from, there truly is no such thing as being too careful.
As you can probably glean by now, there are a multitude of ways in which people access and use crypto. Although you can purchase and transfer crypto through online exchanges with institutions, you can also trade with peers through peer-to-peer networks. Again, caution must always be urged. But after you've done your due diligence, chances are that you'll be able to find several P2P networks that suit your specific needs.
For those who wish to access their crypto the same way they can pull cash out of a machine, crypto ATMs are becoming a more readily accessible option. Available around the planet already, these machines stand poised to take off even more.
However, as with any normal ATM, it's important for users to look out for fees. Also, the daily exchange rate will play into your transaction, obviously. Although the crypto ATMs are not necessarily catching on like fire just yet, it seems as if they will grow with the times. Although there may not be one in your city, you can always find one in Las Vegas!
Mining can be a fairly complicated process that relies upon the use of massive computing power, which requires electricity.
Before you start a mining operation, you will want to ask yourself a few important questions. First, will you be able to recoup your investment? There's no shame in starting to mine during a bear market—in fact, some actually prefer it—but you need to ensure that you'll actually be able to make a profit as a result of your mining. You'll need specific equipment, a decent amount of space that won't be disturbed if the nodes heat up—and you'll also need a healthy attitude regarding a much higher electricity bill. For some people, the high cost of the equipment, in addition to the large electric charges, make mining crypto a losing proposition. For others, it's a fun hobby that nets them a few bucks a day. And for still others, it can take the place of a part-time job. Mining will always be an individualised decision based upon someone's particular set-up.
Again, some people are fans of Ethereum but aren't so much into Bitcoin. Whatever your particular predilection is, it's important that you research the ins and outs of it before investing and committing to the idea. Exploring the mining communities on Reddit is a great way to discover which coins are hot—and whether or not this is something that might be for you. Pick up a Reddit tip or two, and see if it might appeal to you.
Cryptocurrency can and should be used for any number of things. These days, you might be surprised by how many professionals accept crypto for services rendered. You may want to check in with your dentist or hairstylist; it has been remarkable to see all of the industries from which early adopters hail. However, it's important to realize that you don't have to spend all of your crypto as soon as you get it. Many people choose to hold onto their crypto as an investment. In the vernacular of the crypto world, this is known as HODLing. Those who like the fun and excitement of day trading may choose to "short" their crypto, but HODLing is the gold standard when it comes to crypto. When you look at early crypto musings on Twitter, it's easy to see why so many advocate HODLing instead of offloading.
On Twitter, you can see many of these traders discussing their various moves throughout the day. Always use your own judgment, though. You may find that even your favorite traders can make a few mistakes here and there. Either way, you'll be pleasantly surprised by the breadth and depth of information you can absorb by getting involved in what's known as Crypto Twitter. Although it can be a hostile environment at times—no newbie will want to weigh in with a strong opinion on anything!—some of these crypto enthusiasts have been amassing crypto for almost a decade now. Familiarize yourself with reliable experts such as Anthony Pompliano—and check out who they're following. In a short period of time, you will probably find that you're following a healthy list of savvy crypto enthusiasts.
Crypto heads tend to congregate on Telegram and Discord, two free apps that you can download. Join groups for projects that interest you, then sit back and learn. Steemit is the closest thing that the crypto world has to Facebook, but it is like comparing apples to oranges. First, Steemit members actually get paid—in crypto, of course—for popular posts. Second, Steemit is built on the blockchain, so users tend to be more cautions and polite about what they post—which isn't a bad thing!
Did you know that you can now receive a postgraduate degree in digital currency? It's true! And your first online class at the University of Nicosia will be completely free of charge; there are no fees and there is no pressure to continue on after taking the introductory course. Not only will you have access to an excellent range of materials, but you'll also be able to communicate with teachers (and Bitcoin impresarios) Antonis Polemitis and Andreas Antonopoulos. For those just starting out, this is a rare opportunity to interact with crypto veterans who have been in the trenches for a long time now. Each week, there is a live broadcast that allows students to ask questions. They'll also be tested on their knowledge from time to time, with quizzes popping up throughout the course. For those who are dipping a toe into the crypto world, this is a wonderful opportunity to learn for free.
Although Bitcoin was the first cryptocurrency, many still consider it the best. Boasting the most name recognition and incorporation into people's daily lives, Bitcoin has transformed the landscape of the world as we know it. Unfortunately, many crypto beginners are dissuaded from buying Bitcoin because they believe that it has already seen its best days. With crypto, FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) can run high. And in the quest to find the latest and greatest new ICO, many newbies ignore that most marvelously performing crypto asset out there—Bitcoin.
From time to time, you may hear crypto communities talking about "alt season"; for a lot of people, this just meant that it's a good time to invest in cryptocurrencies besides Bitcoin. In fact, Bitcoin is so dominant that it is interesting to note that all other coins are referred to as "alts". However, this doesn't make them any less popular or interesting. There are a number of alts that have made a great deal of money for people—and some of them were highly unexpected. Take the example of Dogecoin, for instance. What started out as a joke has now become the preferred altcoin for some investors! Featuring s Shiba Inu as its mascot, this coin has never tried to become something that it isn't—and it's been profitable for those who invested at the beginning. Although it's certainly not as high-performing as Bitcoin or revolutionary alts such as Ethereum, it is still allowed to have a place in the crypto community because it performs in a reliable way.
The short answer to this question is an emphatic...YES! Because cryptocurrency is so new, the government hasn't always been clear about how taxpayers should proceed. However, now that crypto has become more entrenched in society, they are laying down the law. And those who don't want to get in trouble will heed their warnings. Treated like any other kind of property, crypto will be taxed after a sale. Because the laws and regulations are so fluid and always seem to be changing at this juncture, your best bet will be to procure the services of a tax professional who specializes in crypto. This, of course, is assuming that you have invested a great deal of resources in it. Those who are more like hobbyists may get by just as fine just dealing with a regular tax professional. The government is cracking down these days, though, and those who do not follow the laws may find themselves facing increased penalties.
What makes cryptocurrency valuable is that there is a maximum supply of each coin. With Bitcoin, for instance, there are only 21,000,000 BTC that will ever be created. Keep in mind that this includes the BTC lost in the Mt. Gox incident, as well as the lost BTC that hovers in sad hard drives located in random landfills around the world. It's part of the beauty and the charm of crypto, as well as the tragedy. Those who lose their private keys tend to pay the price, so the best advice is to hang onto your private keys for dear life. Whether you need to laminate them or put them in a safe, you won't want to fall prey to so many of the hardships that have affected other crypto collectors.
As previously stated, there is only a fixed amount of Bitcoin available in the world. Once it's gone, it's gone. And the same goes for other types of crypto. So if you've done your research and you see a lot of potential in a coin, there is no time like the present to snap it up. However, one would be wise to avoid falling into the same trap that plagued those who become a little too excited about the potential of crypto at the end of 2017. If you're playing the long game with crypto, then you're bound to triumph in the end. In a world that seems to become increasingly unstable, it's never a bad idea to invest in something that is not tied to government currency.
There's nothing like seeing the stock market take a big dive—and then checking your local crypto exchange to see that prices just keep skyrocketing. And there's nothing as inspiring, maddening and fun as the world of cryptocurrency.
One of its best features is that it demands enthusiasts stay on their toes. It's impossible to become a lazy investor, not that anyone would want to be. With the whole world being whipped up into a frenzy over crypto, there can be true delight in reading about all of the recent developments. Perhaps this, indeed, is crypto's best trait. It forces its followers to become eternal students, helping them to constantly reshape their understanding of currency and its place on our planet. Any crypto fan has to admit that there's never been a better time to be alive.