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Other fans point to this expansion in novel cryptocurrencies. Because of bitcoins maturity, and its focus on finance, if you want to buy some Ether, a few Filecoins or any other cryptocurrency, its generally easiest to purchase bitcoin with your conventional currency and then exchange bitcoin for the cryptocurrency of your choice.

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Then theres the bubble argument. There, people argue that the majority of the price rise is due only to individuals buying bitcoin in the expectation they can sell it later for a profit. A classic speculative bubble, some people will create a lot of money while others will eliminate everything. .

Few could argue that there isnt a good deal of speculation in the cryptocurrency market. There are adverts on the London underground, and all over Instagram and Facebook, encouraging viewers to invest in cryptocurrencies and, judging by the amount of money flowing in to the ecosystem, a great deal of people are taking up the offer. .

At some point, those individuals will get flighty and try to cash their gains. If enough do at once, the price of bitcoin will require this kind of fall it is going to prompt a run and well observe the classic crash.

But the actual question is not whether this will happen, but when and how big the crash is. Three times now, bitcoin has had boom-and-bust cycles which have seen vast amounts of value ruined, but have still left the currency valued higher than it had been before the prior boom began.

Following the crash that followed, one coin has been worth $120.) Its not only a smooth ride up, but that doesnt mean its a total bubble. .

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As the bitcoin network has grown, its reach issues. For dull, technical reasons, the network as it was initially designed struggles to manage the amount of traffic that flows through these days, leaving substantial flaws in the amount of time it takes for a transaction to be confirmed.

In a normal, centralised, business, that wouldnt be an issue: just update the applications and move on. But a bitcoin update requires convincing every single miner to take the new software otherwise, the miners who take on running the old version are efficiently running a completely different currency from people who have updated. .

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This can be known as a challenging fork, and for the first six years of bitcoins lifetime, it had been the nightmare every programmer tried to prevent. But recently, divisions among the community have come to be so fractious that numerous hard forks have happened, all around how to address this traffic slowdown.

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With names such as Bitcoin Classic, Bitcoin Unlimited, and Bitcoin Gold, each claims that it's the genuine heir to the original vision but with every fork, the playing field becomes more crowded.

Nothing is ruined with every fork: if you had 100 bitcoin before Bitcoin Cash split off, following the split you still had 100 bitcoin and you had 100 Bitcoin Cash. But with each branch, the playing field gets more crowded, more confusing for newcomers, and the total reputation for (relative) stability becomes more eroded.

It varies greatly. Some, like JP Morgan Chase head, Jamie Dimon, are really dismissive of the entire thing, arguing that the most properties of bitcoin that make it so appealing as a kind of electronic gold are why its doomed to remain a niche prospect. For Dimon and co workers, the volatility of its exchange rate, absence of any economic oversight to control monetary policy and absence of support in leading nation states mean bitcoin cant truly replace pounds and dollars and is consequently a failure. .

Few disagree with that conclusion, but a few bankers point to other advantages of this technology. The blockchain concept, they say, might be helpful in conventional banking too. Forget bitcoin itself and focus instead on the value of a dispersed ledger. What if each of the major banks substituted their normal book-keeping with one mutual, but still closed, database May that help cut down on fraud and ensure a more level playing field.

And then, obviously, there are the advantages of bitcoin that conventional banking cant expect to compete with - and doesnt want to. Can a shadow currency exist only on the back of drug dealing and cybercrime Quite possibly: Both are big businesses, and neither shows any sign of going away. Web Site .

Craig Wright, who claimed to become Satoshi Nakamoto, the elusive content bitcoin inventor. Photograph: Mark Harrison/PA

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Hes still a puzzle. The pseudonymous founder of bitcoin, Nakamoto looked out of nowhere in 2008 when he published the white paper that described how his planned digital currency would work. While he had been active in the online community around bitcoin for its first couple of years of their currencies life, he posted less and less, making his last ever post on 12 December 2010. .

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