What is bitcoin? 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 people, and increasingly businesses, 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. Some things you need to know before investing in Bitcoin If you are about to explore Bitcoin, there are a few things you should know. Bitcoin lets you exchange money in a different way than with usual banks. As such, you should take time to inform yourself before using Bitcoin for any serious transaction. Bitcoin should be treated with the same care as your regular wallet, or even more in some cases! Securing your wallet Like in real life, your wallet must be secured. Bitcoin makes it possible to transfer value anywhere in a very easy way and it allows you to be in control of your money. Such great features also come with great security concerns. At the same time, Bitcoin can provide very high levels of security if used correctly. Always remember that it is your responsibility to adopt good practices in order to protect your money. Read more about securing your wallet. Bitcoin price is volatile The price of a bitcoin can unpredictably increase or decrease over a short period of time due to its young economy, novel nature, and sometimes illiquid markets. Consequently, keeping your savings with Bitcoin is not recommended at this point. Bitcoin should be seen like a high risk asset, and you should never store money that you cannot afford to lose with Bitcoin. If you receive payments with Bitcoin, many service providers can convert them to your local currency. Bitcoin payments are irreversible Any transaction issued with Bitcoin cannot be reversed, they can only be refunded by the person receiving the funds. That means you should take care to do business with people and organizations you know and trust, or who have an established reputation. For their part, businesses need to keep control of the payment requests they are displaying to their customers. Bitcoin can detect typos and usually won't let you send money to an invalid address by mistake. Additional services might exist in the future to provide more choice and protection for the consumer. Bitcoin is not anonymous Some effort is required to protect your privacy with Bitcoin. All Bitcoin transactions are stored publicly and permanently on the network, which means anyone can see the balance and transactions of any Bitcoin address. However, the identity of the user behind an address remains unknown until information is revealed during a purchase or in other circumstances. This is one reason why Bitcoin addresses should only be used once. Always remember that it is your responsibility to adopt good practices in order to protect your privacy. Read more about protecting your privacy. Unconfirmed transactions aren't secure Transactions don't start out as irreversible. Instead, they get a confirmation score that indicates how hard it is to reverse them (see table). Each confirmation takes between a few seconds and 90 minutes, with 10 minutes being the average. If the transaction pays too low a fee or is otherwise atypical, getting the first confirmation can take much longer. Read also : Why is My Bitcoin Transaction Taking So Long? Here’s Why What makes it different from normal currencies? 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. Who created Bitcoin? 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. What is bitcoin based on? 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. What are characteristics of Bitcoin? Bitcoin has several important features that set it apart from government-backed 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. Read also: Bitcoin Sign Up, Login, Exchange, Uses and Value 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 blockchain. The blockchain 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. Where to Buy and Sell Bitcoin 1) Coinbase.com 2) remitano.com 3) Localbitcoins 4) Luno.com Is Bitcoin Legal? Bitcoin is of interest to law enforcement agencies, tax authorities, and legal regulators, all of which are trying to understand how the cryptocurrency fits into existing frameworks. The legality of your bitcoin activities will depend on who you are, where you live, and what you are doing with it. Read also : Can Ethereum reach the Bitcoin's price? Bitcoin has proven to be a contentious issue for regulators and law enforcers, both of which have targeted the digital currency in an attempt to control its use. We are still early on in the game, and many legal authorities are still struggling to understand the cryptocurrency, let alone make laws around it. Amid all this uncertainty, one question stands out: is bitcoin legal? The answer is, yes, depending on what you’re doing with it.