A cryptocurrency is a digital currency that uses a blockchain and relies on cryptography for security.
The first blockchain-based cryptocurrency was Bitcoin, which still remains the most popular and most valuable. Today, there are thousands of alternate cryptocurrencies with various functions and specifications. Some of these are clones or forks of Bitcoin, while others are new currencies that were built from scratch.
Bitcoin was launched in 2009 by an individual or group known by the pseudonym “Satoshi Nakamoto.” As of Nov. 2019, there were over 18 million bitcoins in circulation with a total market value of around $146 billion.
Many are based on public blockchain technology, a distributed ledger of all transactions that are decentralized and can’t be changed under most circumstances.
The nature of the blockchain means that individuals can transact directly with each other, even if they don’t trust each other.
Unlike traditional currencies, such as the U.S. dollar, they are not controlled by any central government or authority.
Cryptocurrencies don’t need a centralized party like a bank to carry out transactions between individuals.
Cryptography is used to keep transactions secure and to control the creation of additional units of a currency.
Bitcoin is considered the first cryptocurrency and is currently, the largest and most famous, out of the more than 1,600 cryptocurrencies now available on the interwebz.