What is Cryptocurrency?
The first cryptocurrency (bitcoin) was established in 2008 when the pseudonymous Satoshi Nakamoto invented a decentralised electronic cash system which uses a peer-to-peer distributed timestamp server to prevent double-spending. This distributed server generates computational proof of the chronological sequence of transactions.
In the process of inventing this payment system, Satoshi also pioneered the first blockchain database, an essential component of this system. Since then, many other cryptocurrencies have emerged of which most use more or less the same type of blockchain technology as bitcoin.
What’s so amazing about blockchain technology, is that it can be used to improve many different processes in different industries. For example, certain role players in the financial services sector have started using blockchain technology to implement systems which are much more transparent, effective, and cheaper. The blockchain automatically executes certain functions when certain conditions are met. These smart contracts are also self-maintained. A cryptocurrency is a digital or virtual currency which is usually created by computers performing painstaking mathematical computations and thereby converting electricity into long strings of code that have monetary value. This computing is done in a distributed network and is called cryptocurrency mining.
Although not all cryptocurrencies are created in this way, most of the prominent ones are. The algorithm which is normally used to mine cryptocurrencies is a decreasing-supply algorithm which limits the supply of these cryptocurrencies using encryption techniques.
To put it in simple terms, this type of algorithm ensures that, as more and more of the cryptocurrency is mined, it becomes progressively more difficult and resource-intensive to mine. When the supply of a currency is limited, it can help to secure its value. The encryption techniques used to mine cryptocurrencies, coupled with blockchain technology, are also used to facilitate the verification of fund transfers between users of the specific cryptocurrency.
The blockchain is a public ledger that records cryptocurrency transactions.
A novel solution accomplishes this without any trusted central authority: a network of communicating nodes running cryptocurrency software performs maintenance of the blockchain. The blockchain is seen as the main technological innovation of Bitcoin,and all cryptocurency since it stands as proof of all the transactions on the network. A block is the ‘current’ part of a blockchain, which records some or all of the recent transactions, and once completed goes into the blockchain as permanent database. Each time a block gets completed, a new block is generated. There is a countless number of such blocks in the blockchain. So are the blocks randomly placed in a blockchain? No, they are linked to each other (like a chain) in proper linear, chronological order with every block containing a hash of the previous block.
Based on the Bitcoin protocol, the blockchain database is shared by all nodes participating in a system. The full copy of the blockchain has records of every Bitcoin transaction ever executed. It can thus provide insight about facts like how much value belonged a particular address at any point in the past.
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