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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 trade bitcoin to your cryptocurrency of your selection.

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Then theres the bubble argument. There, people argue that the vast majority of the price rise is due simply to people buying bitcoin in the hope that they can sell it later for a profit. A traditional speculative bubble, some individuals will create a great deal 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 commercials on the London underground, and around Instagram and Facebook, encouraging audiences to invest in cryptocurrencies and, judging from the amount of money flowing in to the ecosystem, a lot of individuals are taking up the deal. .

At some point, those people will get flighty and attempt to cash their gains. If enough do at once, the purchase price of bitcoin will require this kind of fall that it is going to prompt a run and nicely see the classic crash.

But the actual question is not if this will happen, but when and how large 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 was before the prior boom began.

After the crash which followed, one coin was worth $120.) Its not a smooth ride but that doesnt mean its a entire bubble. .

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As the bitcoin network has grown, its reach problems. For dull, technical reasons, the network as it had been initially designed fights to deal with the amount of traffic which flows through it these days, leaving substantial delays in the amount of time that it takes for a transaction to be confirmed.

In a normal, centralised, business, that wouldnt be an issue: simply update the applications and move on. However, a bitcoin upgrade requires convincing every single miner to accept the new software differently, the miners who carry on running the older version are efficiently running a completely different currency from those who have upgraded. .

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This can be known as a challenging fork, and for the first six decades of bitcoins lifetime, it had been the nightmare each 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 deal with this traffic slowdown.

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With names such as 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 ruined with each branch: if you had 100 bitcoin before Bitcoin Cash split off, following the split you still had 100 bitcoin and you'd 100 Bitcoin Cash. But with every fork, the playing field gets more crowded, more confusing for newcomers, and the click for more overall reputation for (relative) stability becomes eroded.

It varies greatly. Some, like JP Morgan Chase mind, Jamie Dimon, are extremely dismissive of the whole thing, arguing that the most 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, absence 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, however, some bankers point to other advantages of this technology. The blockchain concept, they say, might be useful in conventional banking too. Forget bitcoin itself and concentrate instead on the value of a dispersed ledger. What if all the major banks substituted with their normal book-keeping with one shared, but still shut, database May that help cut down on fraud and ensure a higher playing field.

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

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

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Hes still a mystery. 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 busy in the online community around bitcoin for the first two or three years of their currencies life, he posted less and less, making his last ever post on 12 December 2010. .

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