A cryptocurrency is a digital or virtual currency that uses cryptography for security. A cryptocurrency is difficult to counterfeit because of this security feature. A defining feature of a cryptocurrency, and arguably its most endearing allure, is its organic nature; it is not issued by any central authority, rendering it theoretically immune to government interference or manipulation.
The first cryptocurrency to capture the public imagination was Bitcoin, which was launched in 2009 by an individual or group known under the pseudonym Satoshi Nakamoto. As of May 2018, there were over 17 million bitcoins in circulation with a total market value of over $140 billion. Bitcoin’s success has spawned a number of competing cryptocurrencies, such as Litecoin, Namecoin and PPCoin.
Central to the appeal and function of Bitcoin is the blockchain technology it uses to store an online ledger of all the transactions that have ever been conducted using bitcoins, providing a data structure for this ledger that is exposed to a limited threat from hackers and can be copied across all computers running Bitcoin software. Every new block generated must be verified by the ledgers of each user on the market, making it almost impossible to forge transaction histories. Many experts see this blockchain as having important uses in technologies, such as online voting and crowdfunding, and major financial institutions such as JP Morgan Chase see potential in cryptocurrencies to lower transaction costs by making payment processing more efficient.
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