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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 buy some Ether, some Filecoins or any other cryptocurrency, its usually easiest to purchase bitcoin together with your conventional currency and then trade bitcoin for the cryptocurrency of your choice.

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Then theres the bubble argument. There, people argue that the vast 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 classic speculative bubble, a few people will make a lot of money while some will eliminate 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 viewers to invest in cryptocurrencies and, judging from the amount of money flowing in to the ecosystem, so a great deal of people are taking up the deal. .

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

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

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

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

In a normal, centralised, business, that wouldnt be a problem: simply update the applications and continue on. However, a bitcoin update requires convincing every single miner to accept the new software otherwise, the miners who take on running the old version are effectively running a completely different currency from people who have upgraded. .

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This can be known as a challenging fork, and for the first six decades of bitcoins life, it was the nightmare each developer tried to avoid. But recently, divisions among the community have come to be so fractious that multiple hard forks have occurred, all around the way to address this traffic slowdown.

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

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

It varies considerably. Some, like JP Morgan Chase mind, Jamie Dimon, are extremely dismissive of the whole 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, the volatility of its exchange rate, lack of any economic oversight to control monetary policy and absence of support from leading nation states mean bitcoin cant truly replace pounds and dollars and is consequently a failure. .

Few disagree with this conclusion, but some bankers point to other advantages of the technology. The blockchain concept, they say, could be useful in conventional banking too. Forget bitcoin itself and concentrate instead on the How To Make Money In Stocks value of a dispersed ledger. What if all the significant 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, of course, you will find the advantages of bitcoin that conventional banking cant hope to compete with - and doesnt want to. Can a shadow currency exist only on the rear of drug dealing and cybercrime Quite possibly: both are big businesses, and neither shows any sign of going away. .

Craig Wright, who promised to become Satoshi Nakamoto, the evasive 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 get the job done. While he was busy in the online community around bitcoin for the first two or three years of their currencies lifetime, he posted less and less, making his last ever post on 12 December 2010. .

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