BITCOIN’S value has plummeted in recent months as it fell to a record high for 2019 – but will it die out?
Here we explain what the future holds for cryptocurrencies, how they work, and what they are.
AP:Associated Press A new report warns central banks should carefully weigh the risks before introducing virtual currencies using the technology that enables bitcoin
What is Bitcoin and how did it start?
Bitcoin became the world’s first entirely virtual currency when it was introduced in January 2009.
Users cannot carry coins or notes and its value appears only as a number on a screen.
It was created by a shadowy online account which went by the name Satoshi Nakamoto.
New currency is created via a complex online process called mining which uses supercomputers to create new Bitcoins using complex computer code.
In its early days, Bitcoin proved relatively worthless – with one notorious example seeing an early pioneer paying for a pizza using two bitcoins.
Getty Images – Getty The currency proved useful to Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, who claims it helped him bankroll his whistleblowing site
At 7pm on May 13 2019, one bitcoin was trading for around 6,178 Pound sterling and 7,871 USD.
The coin has lost more than a sixth of its value since last year, and was a shade of the £14,500 value at its height in December 2017.
Teenage investor Erik Finman, 19, said: “Bitcoin is dead, it’s too fragmented, there’s tons of infighting I just don’t think it will last.
“It may have a bull market or two left in it, but long-term, it’s dead.”
What is Bitcoin?
Bitcoin is a virtual currency that was created in 2009 by an unknown computer whizz using the alias Satoshi Nakamoto.
Individual Bitcoins are created by computer code.
The total value of all Bitcoin in existence is now more than £112billion.
Transactions are made without middlemen, so there are no transaction fees and no need to give your real name.
More businesses are beginning to accept them and in some parts of the world, you can even buy pizza with Bitcoins.
You can set up a virtual wallet website like Blockchain to store, keep track and spend your digital money.
You are also able to purchase Bitcoin through an online exchange or Bitcoin ATM.
To find merchants that accept Bitcoin in the UK click here.
Bitcoins aren’t printed, like pounds, dollars or euros – they’re produced by people, and increasingly businesses, running computers all around the world.
It’s the first example of a growing category of money known as cryptocurrency.
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How do Bitcoins work?
The value of Bitcoin, like all currencies, is determined by how much people are willing to exchange it for.
To process Bitcoin transactions, a procedure called “mining” must take place, which involves a computer solving a difficult mathematical problem with a 64-digit solution.
For each problem solved, one block of Bitcoin is processed.
In addition, the miner is rewarded with new Bitcoin.
To compensate for the growing power of computer chips, the difficulty of the puzzles is adjusted to ensure a steady stream of new Bitcoins are produced each day.
There are currently about 16 million in existence.
The Bitcoin protocol – the rules that make Bitcoin work – say that only 21 million Bitcoins can ever be created by miners.
But these coins can be divided into smaller parts with the smallest divisible amount one hundred millionth of a Bitcoin.
This is called a “Satoshi”, after the founder.
To receive a Bitcoin, a user must have a Bitcoin address – a string of 27-34 letters and numbers – which acts as a kind of virtual postbox.
Since there is no register of these addresses, people can use them to protect their anonymity when making a transaction.
These addresses are in turn stored in Bitcoin wallets, which are used to manage savings.
Man named Satoshi Nakamoto denies he is the creator of Bitcoin