Bitcoin is a type of digital currency which operates outside the mandate of a central authority. There are several variants of the cryptocurrency which have resulted from forks. These include bitcoin cash, bitcoin gold and bitcoin diamond. This article focuses predominantly on bitcoin.
Bitcoin was created by a person or group of people under the name Satoshi Nakamoto in 2009. It was intended to be used as a method of payment free from government supervision, transfer delays or transactions fees. However, most businesses and consumers are yet to adopt bitcoin as a form of payment, and it’s currently far too volatile to provide a legitimate alternative to traditional currencies.
Primarily, bitcoin is now used as a form of investment. Its characteristics more closely resemble commodities rather than conventional currencies. This is because it’s beyond the direct influence of a single economy and is largely unaffected by monetary policy changes. Nonetheless, there are several other factors which can influence bitcoin prices, and these should be kept in mind by traders.
Bitcoin relies on two underlying mechanisms in order to function – the blockchain and the mining process.
What is the blockchain?
The blockchain is a shared digital ledger which holds a record of all bitcoin transactions. Recent cryptocurrency transactions are grouped together into ‘blocks’ by miners. The blocks are then cryptographically secured before they get linked to the existing blockchain. The blockchain is accessible to everybody at any time, but can only be changed with the computing power of the majority of the network.
What is mining?
Mining is the process of securing each block to the existing blockchain. Once a block is secured, new units of cryptocurrency known as ‘block rewards’ get released. Miners can inject these units directly back into the market. Due to their crucial role in the process, miners can exert significant control over bitcoin.
When you buy bitcoin on an exchange, the price of one bitcoin is usually quoted against the US dollar (USD). In other words, you are selling USD in order to buy bitcoin. If the price of bitcoin rises you will be able to sell for a profit, because bitcoin is now worth more USD than when you bought it. If the price falls and you decide to sell, then you would make a loss.
With CMC Markets, you trade bitcoin via a spread bet or CFD account. This allows you to speculate on bitcoin price movements without owning the actual cryptocurrency. You aren’t taking ownership of bitcoin. Instead, you’re opening a position which will increase or decrease in value depending on bitcoin’s price movement against the dollar.