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Other fans point to this expansion in novel cryptocurrencies. Due to bitcoins maturity, and its focus on finance, if you want to get some Ether, some Filecoins or any other cryptocurrency, its usually easiest to buy bitcoin together with your conventional currency and then exchange bitcoin for the cryptocurrency of your selection.

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Then theres the bubble argument. There, individuals assert that the vast majority of the purchase price increase is due simply to people buying bitcoin in the hope they can sell it later for a profit. A classic speculative bubble, a few individuals will create a great deal of money while some are going to eliminate everything. .

Few would argue that there isnt a lot of speculation in the cryptocurrency market. There are commercials on the London underground, and around Instagram and Facebook, encouraging viewers to invest in cryptocurrencies and, judging by the amount of money flowing in to the ecosystem, so a lot of people are taking up the deal. .

At some point, those people will get flighty and try to cash out their gains. If enough do at once, the purchase price of bitcoin will take this kind of tumble it will prompt a run and well see the timeless crash.

But the real question is not if that will happen, however, when and just how big the crash is. Three days now, bitcoin has had boom-and-bust cycles which have seen enormous amounts of worth destroyed, but have left the currency valued greater than it was before the prior boom began.

After the crash that followed, one coin has been worth $120.) Its not only a smooth ride but that doesnt mean its a total bubble. .

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Since the bitcoin network has grown, its hit problems. For dull, technical reasons, the network as it was initially designed fights to deal with the amount of traffic that flows through these days, leaving huge delays in the amount of time that it takes for a transaction to be confirmed.

In a normal, centralised, business, that get more wouldnt be a problem: just update the applications and move on. But a bitcoin upgrade requires convincing every single miner to accept the new software differently, the miners who carry on running the old version are efficiently running a completely different currency from people who have upgraded. .

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This is known as a hard fork, and for the first six decades of bitcoins life, it had been the nightmare each programmer tried to avoid. But recently, divisions among the community have come to be so fractious that multiple hard forks have happened, all around how to deal with this traffic slowdown.

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With names like Bitcoin Classic, Bitcoin Unlimited, and Bitcoin Gold, every claims that it is the genuine heir to the original vision but with every fork, the playing field becomes more crowded.

Nothing is destroyed with every fork: if you had 100 bitcoin before Bitcoin Cash split , after the split you had 100 bitcoin and you'd 100 Bitcoin Cash. However, with every branch, the playing field becomes more crowded, more confusing for newcomers, and the total reputation for (relative) stability becomes more eroded.

It varies considerably. Some, like JP Morgan Chase head, Jamie Dimon, are really dismissive of the whole thing, arguing that the very properties of bitcoin which make it so appealing as a form of electronic gold will be why its doomed to remain a niche prospect. For Dimon and co, the volatility of its exchange rate, absence of any economic oversight to control monetary policy and absence of assistance in major nation states mean bitcoin cant truly replace pounds and dollars and is consequently a failure. .

Few disagree with that conclusion, however, some bankers point to additional advantages of this technology. The blockchain concept, they say, might be useful in conventional banking also. Forget bitcoin itself and concentrate instead on the value of a distributed ledger. What if each of the significant banks replaced their normal book-keeping with one shared, but still shut, database May that help cut down on fraud and ensure a more level playing field.

And then, obviously, there are the advantages of bitcoin that conventional banking cant hope to compete - and doesnt want to. Can a shadow currency exist purely on the rear of drug dealing and cybercrime Quite possibly: Both are large businesses, and neither shows any sign of going away. .

Craig Wright, who claimed to be Satoshi Nakamoto, the elusive bitcoin inventor. Photograph: Mark Harrison/PA

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Hes still a puzzle. The pseudonymous founder of bitcoin, Nakamoto appeared out of nowhere in 2008 when he published the white paper that described how his planned digital currency would work. While he had been active in the online community around bitcoin for the first couple of years of the currencies life, he published less and less, making his final ever post on 12 December 2010. .

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