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What Is Bitcoin?

Bitcoin is a decentralized digital currency created in January 2009. It follows the ideas set out in a white paper by the mysterious and pseudonymous Satoshi Nakamoto.12

The identity of the person or persons who created the technology is still a mystery. Bitcoin offers the promise of lower transaction fees than traditional online payment mechanisms do, and unlike government-issued currencies, it is operated by a decentralized authority.

Bitcoin is known as a type of cryptocurrency because it uses cryptography to keep it secure. There are no physical bitcoins, only balances kept on a public ledger that everyone has transparent access to (although each record is encrypted). All Bitcoin transactions are verified by a massive amount of computing power via a process known as “mining.” Bitcoin is not issued or backed by any banks or governments, nor is an individual bitcoin valuable as a commodity. Despite it not being legal tender in most parts of the world, Bitcoin is very popular and has triggered the launch of hundreds of other cryptocurrencies, collectively referred to as altcoins. Bitcoin is commonly abbreviated as BTC when traded.

Jan. 3, 2009

The first Bitcoin block is mined—Block 0. This is also known as the “genesis block” and contains the text: “The Times 03/Jan/2009 Chancellor on brink of second bailout for banks,” perhaps as proof that the block was mined on or after that date, and perhaps also as relevant political commentary.8

Jan. 8, 2009

The first version of the Bitcoin software is announced to the Cryptography Mailing List.

Jan. 9, 2009

Block 1 is mined, and Bitcoin mining commences in earnest.

Who Is Satoshi Nakamoto?

No one knows who invented Bitcoin, or at least not conclusively. Satoshi Nakamoto is the name associated with the person or group of people who released the original Bitcoin white paper in 2008 and worked on the original Bitcoin software that was released in 2009.1 In the years since then, many individuals have either claimed to be or been rumored to be the real-life people behind the pseudonym, but as of November 2021, the true identity (or identities) of Satoshi Nakamoto remains obscure