What is bitcoin?

Bitcoin is a collection of concepts and technologies that form the basis of a digital money ecosystem. Units of currency called bitcoin are used to store and transmit value among participants in the bitcoin network. Bitcoin users communicate with each other using the bitcoin protocol primarily via the internet, although other transport networks can also be used. The bitcoin protocol stack, available as open source software, can be run on a wide range of computing devices, including laptops and smartphones, making the technology easily accessible.

Users can transfer bitcoin over the network to do just about anything that can be done with conventional currencies, including buy and sell goods, send money to people or organizations, or extend credit. Bitcoin can be purchased, sold, and exchanged for other currencies at specialized currency exchanges.

Bitcoin in a sense is the perfect form of money for the internet because it is fast, secure, and borderless. Unlike traditional currencies, bitcoin are entirely virtual. There are no physical coins or even digital coins per se. The coins are implied in transactions that transfer value from sender to recipient. Users of bitcoin own keys that allow them to prove ownership
of bitcoin in the bitcoin network. With these keys they can sign transactions to unlock the value and spend it by transferring it to a new owner. Keys are often stored in a digital wallet on each user’s computer or smartphone. Possession of the key that can sign a transaction is the only prerequisite to spending bitcoin, putting the control entirely in the hands of each user.

Bitcoin is a distributed, peer-to-peer system. As such there is no “central” server or point of control. Bitcoin are created through a process called “mining,” which involves competing to find solutions to a mathematical problem while processing bitcoin transactions.