What is bitcoin?
Bitcoin is a digital currency created in 2009 that uses decentralised technology for secure payments and storing money that doesn’t require banks or people’s names. It was announced on an email circular as a way to liberate money in a similar way to how the internet made information free.
How does it work?
Bitcoin works on a public ledger called blockchain, which holds a decentralised record of all transactions that is updated and held by all users of the network.
To create bitcoins, users must generate blocks on the network. Each block is created cryptographically by harnessing users’ computer power and is then added to the blockchain, letting users earn by keeping the network running.
A limit for how many bitcoins can be created is built into the system so the value can’t be diluted. The maximum amount is just under 21 million bitcoin. There are currently 15 million in circulation, each of which was worth more than $4,000 ($3,080) at the time of writing.
What affects its price?
The price of a bitcoin has jumped up and down since it first entered the mainstream consciousness in 2013. That year prices rose by almost 10,000 per cent before the collapse of Mt Gox, the biggest online bitcoin exchange, sent it crashing.