What is bitcoin and why is it important?
Bitcoin is a cryptocurrency. As such, it can be used like any currency (e.g. U.S. dollars or gold) as an investment, as a store of value, to make payments, and to send or receive money.
Because it is a digital currency, bitcoin is pretty much like email for money. The same way anyone can create an email address to send and receive messages, anyone can create a bitcoin wallet to hold, send and receive money with just a smartphone and a data or internet connection.
Where financial systems were previously clunky, slow, and expensive to use, bitcoin provides a common language that computers can use to transfer money quickly and securely, and at a potentially much lower cost because it is a system with no intermediaries or banks.
What can I do with bitcoin?
When bitcoin was first invented, its creator Satoshi Nakamoto envisioned one use for the technology: electronic payments. Since then, people have figured out how to use bitcoin’s technology for a variety of uses. Here are some ways that you can use bitcoin today:
As a purely digital currency, bitcoin is borderless. Because it’s available nearly everywhere, you can send money halfway around the world just as easily as you send it across the country.
Similar to buying gold or stocks, some people like to buy bitcoin as an investment in hopes that its value will go up. Historically, the price of bitcoin has been very volatile but overall, as mining has become more difficult and buying has become easier and more popular, the price has gone up over time.
Over 100,000 online merchants accept bitcoin payments today! Here are some of the most popular companies in the world accept bitcoin:
An increasing number of local businesses also accept bitcoin. Use coinmap.org to find a business in your area.
In addition to the many online merchants who accept bitcoin for e-commerce payments, there are also many nonprofits that accept bitcoin donations including:
- The Internet Archive
- The Mozilla Foundation
- The Wikimedia Foundation
Tipping is a way to send (usually) small amounts of money as appreciation for someone else’s work. Some online content creators for example, will leave their bitcoin address or QR code at the end of their articles and can send bitcoin directly to their wallet.
Travel the World
Because bitcoin is everywhere, there are people using it in nearly every country in the world. For the intrepid traveler, using bitcoin as a means of payment while traveling abroad is a great way to connect with local bitcoin communities and also potentially save on transaction fees. Check out this article from Forbes for tips.