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Other fans point to the growth in novel cryptocurrencies. Due to bitcoins maturity, and its focus on finance, if you want to buy some Ether, some Filecoins or any other cryptocurrency, its generally 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, individuals assert that the majority of the purchase price rise is due simply to people buying bitcoin in the expectation they can sell it later for a profit. A traditional speculative bubble, some people will create a lot of money while some are going to lose everything. .

Few would argue that there isnt a lot of speculation in the cryptocurrency market. There are adverts on the London underground, and around Instagram and Facebook, encouraging audiences 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 people will get flighty and attempt to cash their gains. If enough do at once, the price of bitcoin will take such a fall it is going to prompt a run and nicely observe the timeless crash.

But the actual question is not whether this will happen, but when and just how big the wreck is. Three days now, bitcoin has had boom-and-bust cycles that have seen vast amounts of value destroyed, but have left the currency valued higher than it was before the previous boom began.

Following the crash which followed, one coin was worth $120.) Its not a smooth ride 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 which flows through it these days, leaving huge delays in the amount of time that it takes for a transaction to be confirmed.

In a normal, centralised, business, which wouldnt be an issue: just update the software and continue on. However, a bitcoin upgrade requires convincing every single miner to accept the new applications differently, the miners who take on running the older version are efficiently running a completely different currency from people who have updated. .

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This is known as a hard fork, and for its first six years of bitcoins life, it had been the nightmare each developer tried to avoid. useful content But recently, divisions among the community have become so fractious that multiple hard forks have happened, all around the way 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 every fork, the playing field becomes more crowded.

Nothing is destroyed with every fork: if you had 100 bitcoin until Bitcoin Cash split , following the split you still had 100 bitcoin and you'd 100 Bitcoin Cash. But 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 greatly. Some, such as JP Morgan Chase head, Jamie Dimon, are extremely dismissive of the whole thing, arguing that the very properties of bitcoin which make it so appealing as a form of electronic gold will be why its doomed to remain a niche prospect. For Dimon and co, the volatility of its exchange rate, lack of any economic oversight to control monetary policy and absence of assistance from major nation states mean bitcoin cant truly replace pounds and dollars and is therefore 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 concentrate instead on the value of a distributed ledger. What if all the significant banks substituted their normal book-keeping with one shared, but still closed, database May that help cut down on fraud and ensure a more level playing field.

And then, obviously, you will find the advantages of bitcoin that conventional banking cant expect to compete - and doesnt want to. Can a shadow currency exist purely on the rear of drug dealing and cybercrime Quite possibly: both are large businesses, and neither shows any sign of going away. .

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

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Hes still a puzzle. The pseudonymous founder of bitcoin, Nakamoto appeared from 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 published less and less, making his final ever post on 12 December 2010. .

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