What is Bitcoin?
Bitcoin is the world's first decentralized digital monetary system, and "bitcoins" are the currency unit used by this system. The system has existed since January 3rd, 2009 and is used in every country in the world. Bitcoins are created and controlled by advanced mathematics and cryptography, instead of by governments or banks (no government, bank, or corporation owns or controls Bitcoin). Bitcoins as a currency unit are created over time at a diminishing rate, and there will never be more than 21 million of them in existence (though they are highly divisible).
Bitcoin is different from systems like Paypal because
- It is decentralized (no group has monopoly control over it)
- It is not tied to US dollars or other government fiat currencies
- It is impossible to suffer chargebacks or frozen accounts
- It is (relatively) anonymous
- Fees are optional (you may pay to make your transactions process slightly faster)
Thus, anyone in the world, of any age, in any country, for any purpose, may start accepting and spending Bitcoins immediately. It is a purely free-market currency which every human on the planet has the option of using. It returns the power of money to "the people" and away from "the banks" and "the government." The supply of bitcoins is mathematically controlled at a pre-determined rate, and cannot be inflated beyond this rate. There is no sign-up or approval process. If you wanted, you could have a Bitcoin account less than three seconds from now... Click here and you will have a Bitcoin account, instantly.
How do I get started with Bitcoin?
First, you need a Bitcoin wallet. This is where your bitcoins are stored.
To get a Bitcoin wallet, you can use an ewallet, a smartphone wallet, or a desktop client.
- Ewallets store your Bitcoins "in the cloud." If you use an ewallet, you must trust the ewallet provider. Ewallets enable maximum convenience. We recommend Blockchain.info or Instawallet or Paytunia
- Smartphone wallets store your Bitcoins on your smartphone. You must obviously be careful not to lose your phone or have it stolen. Smartphone wallets enable mobile usage of Bitcoin. Apple likes to block Bitcoin wallets from its App Store, but Android users have good options like BitcoinSpinner, Paytunia' s App, and Blockchain.info's App.
- Desktop clients store your bitcoins on your actual computer. A "wallet file" is created on your computer, and if you do not back this file up, and your computer crashes, then your bitcoins will be lost. ALWAYS HAVE MULTIPLE BACKUPS. Desktop clients enable maximum security if you use them correctly, because you do not have to trust any other party. The most popular desktop client is the original "Satoshi Client" (aka Bitcoin-Qt) found at Bitcoin.org.
Second, you need to actually get bitcoins, and this can be done in a variety of ways.
- You can buy bitcoins from BitInstant.com using a cash deposit.
- You can sell goods and services and have your customers pay you with Bitcoin. To accept Bitcoin on your website, we recommend Paysius
- You can get small amounts of "free" bitcoins from The Bitcoin Faucet (or other services on this list)
- You can "mine" bitcoins using your computer (this is for advanced users and requires special hardware)
Learn more about Bitcoin
Bitcoin can be simple or complicated, depending on how much you wish to learn about it. Here are some of the best resources for further education: