What Is Bitcoin?

Bitcoin is a decentralized digital currency that you can buy, sell and exchange directly, without an intermediary like a bank. Bitcoin’s creator, Satoshi Nakamoto, originally described the need for “an electronic payment system based on cryptographic proof instead of trust.”

Each and every Bitcoin transaction that’s ever been made exists on a public ledger accessible to everyone, making transactions hard to reverse and difficult to fake. That’s by design: Core to their decentralized nature, Bitcoins aren’t backed by the government or any issuing institution, and there’s nothing to guarantee their value besides the proof baked in the heart of the system.

“The reason why it’s worth money is simply that we, as people, decided it has value—same as gold,” says Anton Mozgovoy, co-founder & CEO of digital financial service company Holyheld.

Since its public launch in 2009, Bitcoin has risen dramatically in value. Although it once sold for under $150 per coin, as of March 1, 2021, one Bitcoin now sells for almost $50,000. Because its supply is limited to 21 million coins, many expect its price to only keep rising as time goes on, especially as more large, institutional investors begin treating it as a sort of digital gold to hedge against market volatility and inflation.

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