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The most famous cryptocurrency - Bitcoin was developed in 2009 by developer Satoshi Nakamoto.
The payments in the system are recorded in a public ledger using its own unit of account, which is also called Bitcoin. Payments work peer-to-peer without a central repository or single administrator, which has led the US Treasury to call cryptocurrency a decentralized virtual currency. Although its status as a currency is disputed, media reports often refer as a Bitcoin or digital currency.
Bitcoin are created as a reward for payment processing work in which users offer their computing power to verify and record payments into the public ledger. Called mining, individuals or companies engage in this activity in exchange for transaction fees and newly created cryptocurrencies. Besides mining, cryptocurrencies can be obtained in exchange for fiat money, products, and services. Users can send and receive cryptocurrencies electronically for an optional transaction fee using wallet software on a personal computer, mobile device, or a web application.
Bitcoin as a form of payment for products and services has seen growth,and merchants have an incentive to accept the digital currency because fees are lower than the 2-3% typically imposed by credit card processors. The European Banking Authority has warned that cryptocurrency lacks consumer protections. Unlike credit cards, any fees are paid by the purchaser not the vendor. Cryptocurrencies can be stolen and chargebacks are impossible. Commercial use of cryptocurrency is currently small compared to its use by speculators, which has fueled price volatility.
Bitcoin has been a subject of scrutiny amid concerns that it can be used for illegal activities. In October 2013 the US FBI shut down the Silk Road online black market and seized 144,000 cryptocurrencies worth US$28.5 million at the time. The US is considered cryptocurrency-friendly compared to other governments. In China, buying Bitcoin with yuan is subject to restrictions, and cryptocurrency exchanges are not allowed to hold bank accounts.
Yes. There is a growing number of businesses and individuals using Bitcoin. This includes brick and mortar businesses like restaurants, apartments, law firms, and popular online services such as Namecheap, WordPress, and Reddit. While Bitcoin remains a relatively new phenomenon, it is growing fast. At the end of August 2013, the value of all bitcoins in circulation exceeded US$ 1.5 billion with millions of dollars worth of bitcoins exchanged daily.