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

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Then theres the bubble argument. There, people argue that the vast majority of the purchase price increase is due only to people buying bitcoin in the hope that they can sell it later for a profit. A traditional speculative bubble, some people will make a great deal of money while some will lose everything. .

Few could argue that there isnt a lot of speculation in the cryptocurrency market. There are commercials on the London underground, and all over Instagram and Facebook, encouraging audiences to invest in cryptocurrencies and, judging by the amount of money flowing in to the ecosystem, so a lot of individuals 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 purchase price of bitcoin will take this kind of tumble that it is going to prompt a run and well observe the classic crash.

But the real question is not if this will happen, however, when and just how large the crash is. Three days now, bitcoin has had boom-and-bust cycles that have seen vast amounts of value ruined, but have left the currency valued greater 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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Since the bitcoin network has grown, its hit issues. For dull, technical reasons, the network as it had been initially designed struggles to deal with the amount of traffic that flows through it these days, leaving substantial flaws in the amount of time it takes for a transaction to be confirmed.

In a normal, centralised, business, which wouldnt be an issue: simply update the applications and continue on. But a bitcoin upgrade requires convincing every single miner to accept the new applications differently, the miners who carry on running the old version are effectively running a completely different currency from those who have upgraded. .

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This can be known as a challenging fork, and for its first six decades of bitcoins lifetime, it had been the nightmare each programmer tried to prevent. But recently, divisions among the community have become so fractious that multiple hard forks have occurred, all around how to deal with this traffic slowdown.

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With names like Bitcoin Classic, Bitcoin Unlimited, and Bitcoin Gold, each claims that it's the true heir to the original vision but using each fork, the playing field becomes more crowded.

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

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

Few disagree with that conclusion, however, some bankers point to additional advantages of the technology. The blockchain concept, they say, could be helpful in conventional banking too. Forget bitcoin itself and concentrate instead on the value of a distributed ledger. Imagine if all the major banks substituted their normal book-keeping with one shared, but still shut, 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 hope to compete - and doesnt want to. Can a shadow currency exist purely on the back of drug dealing and cybercrime Quite possibly: Both are large businesses, and neither shows any sign of going away. .

Craig Wright, who claimed to be Satoshi Nakamoto, the evasive bitcoin inventor. Photograph: Mark Harrison/PA

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

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