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What is Cryptocurrency?

What is Cryptocurrency?

Cryptocurrency definition

It is a virtual currency that uses cryptography for security. Its security is unique and highly competent in that it is not possible to tamper with it. The most defining attribute of a cryptocurrency is that it is completely decentralized because it is based on Blockchain technology. No government or body is able to manipulate the value of such a digital asset.

Check this video on Blockchain by Intellipaat:

navak ravikanth

“Cryptocurrency currencies take the concept of money, and they take it native into computers, where everything is settled with computers and doesn’t require external institutions or trusted third parties to validate things.”– Naval Ravikant, CEO of AngelList

Understanding cryptocurrency

Satoshi Nakamoto didn’t intend to invent a currency when he/they created Bitcoin. In his/their own words Bitcoin is a ‘peer-to-peer electronic cash system’ and his/their motive in creating such a system was to avoid double-spending. There have been many attempts made in the past to create such digital money but they all failed.

Because those systems were trust-based but cryptocurrency is not based on trust. In cryptocurrency, you trust the process and not the organization or the individual. Double spending is supposed to be avoided by a central server that keeps a record of the databases. Sometimes crooks manage to outsmart this system by manipulating the server.

In a system like that of cryptocurrencies, there is no server at all as the network is decentralized. Every peer in the network is involved in checking whether the transactions are valid or are a potential double spend. Cryptocurrencies have a unique feature that they are able to have consensus without a central authority.

This was the first of a kind innovation in the world and that is the reason why it has become so popular and widely used when all other centralized digital systems of currency have failed.

Fiat currencies are backed by their respective governments which are involved in issuing them. For example, the Indian rupee is backed by the Republic of India. The US dollar is backed by the USA. This system is partly flawed in itself in that the central bank of a nation can print as much currency as they desire.

Normally that wouldn’t happen but it shouldn’t be a surprise if it does. This causes the inflation and deflation of the respective monetary assets of a particular nation.

In cryptocurrency systems, however, no single entity is responsible for creating new denominations of any particular cryptocurrency. Everyone knows exactly how much is the supply and how much it will be in the future. In fact, the last of the Bitcoin will be mined by 2140 and after that, no new Bitcoin can be produced.

Check out the Blockchain Interview Questions list to crack your upcoming interview.

Various cryptocurrencies

Bitcoin – As AWS is for cloud similarly Bitcoin is for cryptocurrency. There is no stock or commodity that has grown so tremendously as Bitcoin did. The mammoth jewelry chain REEDS Jewelers in the USA accepts Bitcoin. PayPal, Dell, and even Microsoft accept it now.

Typical problems using cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin are that hackers may steal it, there may be transaction delays and usually, it is highly volatile. The threat from hackers is that they might steal the credentials of those who have cryptocurrency wallets and not the Bitcoin Blockchain cryptocurrency system network as the system is foolproof.

But in spite of this, it has shown tremendous growth. Worsening economic situations in Greece and increasing interest from the Chinese boosted the price of a Bitcoin to about $1,200. The price of Bitcoin is over $15,000 as of now.

There have always been naysayers who speculated that Bitcoin prices would come crashing down and the Bitcoin bubble would burst. Bitcoin prices did suffer when a rumor spread that the Chinese government is planning to shut down the Bitcoin exchanges. But they have recovered gracefully after that.

Goldman Sachs is betting big on Bitcoin. That is why it has used its strategic investment group and currency trading group to further its bet on Bitcoin. You might want to know that NASDAQ is planning to include Bitcoin Futures in its contracts.

It is planning to base the Bitcoin price on 50 Bitcoin exchanges. Did you know that the FBI owns 1.5% of the world’s Bitcoins? In 2015, 800 citizens in the USA filed taxes on Bitcoin income. 81% of the Bitcoin network’s collective hash rate is controlled by Chinese mining pools. It is strongly speculated that Bitcoin will soon reach the $100,000 mark.

Richard branson

“Well, I think it is working. There may be other currencies like it that may be even better. But in the meantime, there’s a big industry around Bitcoin. — People have made fortunes off Bitcoin, and some have lost money. It is volatile, but people make money off of volatility too.” – Richard Branson, Founder of Virgin Galactic

 Let’s look into how bitcoin and Ethereum differ

Bitcoin Ethereum
10 minutes is the average block time 12 seconds is the average block time
More than 66.67% of the bitcoins have already been mined Not even half of Ethereum’s coins have been mined
The mining reward for a block is 12.5 bitcoins The mining reward for a block is 5 ether
Centralized ASICs ensure the proof-of-work Memory hard hashing algorithm called Ethash is used for proof-of-work
Centralized mining is predominant in bitcoin where Chinese mining pools own up the majority of the bitcoin mining. Through ghost protocol, Ethereum shuns the practice of centralized mining pools. If it is carried out the reward is empty blocks.
Bitcoin’s internal code is not turing complete Ethereum has an internal code that is Turing complete. Anything can be calculated with enough computing power and time.

Litecoin – Charlie Lee a former Google engineer and MIT graduate incepted Litecoin in 2011. It uses memory-intensive ‘script’ as proof of work and is an open-source global payment network not controlled by any central authority. Compared to Bitcoin which has a block processing time of 10 minutes, Litecoin has a faster block generation rate where within 2.5 minutes blocks are processed and are hence key in providing faster transaction confirmation.

Litecoin has a token supply that is four times that of Bitcoin in the range of 84 million tokens. In April 2013 it was around $4.18 for a litecoin. Now it is around $333 for a litecoin.

Ripple – If you are looking for a cryptocurrency that is not mined then Ripple Blockchain is the straight answer. It is an instant, low-cost international payment network. It has a market cap of around $1.26 billion.

There is reduced network latency and it is less demanding of computing power due to the virtue that it doesn’t require mining. It was somewhere around $0.0059 for a Ripple in August 2013. Now it is about $0.7643. This shows how much it has grown in just 4 years.

Ripple –

Monero – It was incepted in April 2014 and became a subject of great interest among the cryptographic community. It is a form of currency that is untraceable, private, and secure. By using a concept called ‘ring signatures’ Monero guarantees total privacy. Even miners with very low computing power can mine it using Raspberry Pi and providing proof of work is easy here.

If you want to work on the Raspberry Pi platform then you can learn it in our IoT training. It was somewhere around $3.43 for a Monero in August 2013. Now it is about $402. This shows how much it has grown in just 4 years.

Ethereum – Vitalik Buterin announced the Ethereum project which had its own programing language in 2015. Voting systems and decentralized asset exchanges are all possible through smart contracts of Ethereum. Corrupt governments can’t manipulate the election process if Ethereum is used.

In Ethereum, users can build software directly on the Ethereum Blockchain itself. There is a cryptographic token called ether on which Ethereum applications are run. Ethereum has a market cap of $41.4 billion and is second after Bitcoin. It was around $2.83 in August 2015 and now it has a whopping value of $797 for a single Ethereum.

Cryptocurrency mining

Cryptocurrency mining is the process of adding new blocks to the cryptocurrency Blockchain network through intensive mathematical computing. It is to be noted that reward for Bitcoin mining halves every 4 years. The reward for mining one block of Bitcoin as of now is 12.5 Bitcoins (approximately $200,000 or Rs 1,28,00,000). Mining other cryptocurrencies won’t yield as much reward as Bitcoin mining but any kind of mining is a difficult process.

albert arnold gore

“When bitcoin currency is converted from currency into cash, that interface has to remain under some regulatory safeguards. I think the fact that within the bitcoin universe, an algorithm replaces the function of the government …[that] is actually pretty cool.” -Albert Arnold Gore, Former Vice President of the United States

What one can do with cryptocurrency?

The prices of these cryptocurrencies are highly volatile and therefore keep fluctuating now and then. If one has the knack and expertise in trading then he can well engage in buying and selling these currencies. If such short selling does turn favorable to you then you can make killing money. You just need to have patience.

On the other hand, several businesses accept Bitcoin as payment. Other cryptocurrencies are still picking up as a payment medium. You can get premium access to Usenet and Mega which are among the biggest name in online file sharing through Bitcoins. You can get premium offerings from Reddit through Bitcoins.

Buying new and used computers, tablets, phones, etc through Bitcoins is possible through Bitcoin Store, and Betemit. The prices in Bitcoin Store are cheaper than on Amazon for certain products. You can use Amagi Metals and Coinabul to buy and sell metals like silver, gold, etc in exchange for Bitcoin. FatProperty allows house renting through Bitcoins.

Ethereum is used in smart contracts. It is a well-known fact that Google makes billions every year selling our private search data to large multinationals. Ethereum Blockchain is helpful in this regard as it logs when the search engine uses our data and makes it publicly available. Large firms would think twice about using our data fearing privacy concerns from the public.

The gambling industry is around $ 240 billion in the USA. Players are often highly skeptical of casinos and they may lead them into fraud. Ethereum or even Bitcoin for that matter can be used which will completely disrupt the casino industry because all transactions are secure here.

Advantages of Cryptocurrency

Immutable – No entity can change a transaction after it’s completed. Your transactions can’t be undone by any regulatory body as this is beyond all that. Once a transaction is done it is done for good.

Pseudonymous – No transaction or account can be traced to its real-world identity. You send and receive cryptocurrencies on some character addresses. For Bitcoin, it is about 30 characters. The transaction flow can be analyzed but not the true identity behind the addresses.

In fact, the group who started this cryptocurrency by incepting Bitcoin is under the pseudonym Satoshi Nakamoto. Complete privacy is therefore guaranteed by this system.

Advantages of Cryptocurrency

Low transaction fee – Miners are rewarded in cryptocurrencies only and hence there is no fee or even if there is it is very little. Cryptocurrency and Blockchain may well be the alternative for corresponding banking transactions.

Very often miners use cryptocurrency exchange software. So they can buy fiat money at any time. The fee will be minimal. For a simpler solution, they can use a white-label crypto exchange.

Identity protection – Payment through a credit or debit card requires that you partake in your identity at the POS or where you use the card. But if you use cryptocurrency you can transfer your funds directly to your intended individual without anyone anywhere knowing your real identity.

Better ownership – You are the sole owner of the currency assets which is also the same in the BFSI sector. The difference and advantage of having currency assets here are that unlike banks these assets can’t be frozen.

Fast – Transactions happen instantly and are confirmed usually within minutes. The instantaneous exaction of the transaction is the reason why Blockchain technology which is

support behind cryptocurrency is being considered for the Australian Stock Exchange. It doesn’t matter what your physical location is. If you are connected to a steady internet connection then sending cryptocurrencies to your friend in the city or relative across the continent is all possible and is the same.

melanie swan

“As a portfolio manager, when do you start advising to your clients that they have some cryptocurrency exposure? When will there be an index fund, a mutual fund of cryptocurrencies? It will happen.”– Melanie Swan, Technology Theorist in the Philosophy Department at Purdue University

Security – All those keen on security know that the public key cryptography system is the best among cryptographic systems. Cryptocurrencies use this public key cryptographic system and that is why the security is robust.

Only the owner of the private key is able to send the cryptocurrency and Bitcoin addresses are simply impregnable. It is no coincidence that this system has become so rampant owing to its robust security precautions.

Accessible – 40% of the global adult population doesn’t have a bank account. But the majority of the world and these adults have some access to the internet. They can leverage this opportunity to use cryptocurrencies where without any intermediary they can send money across the world.

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When a surgeon holds a knife he uses it to save a life while a crook uses it to take one. Similarly, cryptocurrencies are frowned upon because they are used in illicit activities. But it is all about how one uses it that matters. It’s not like the regular currency is easily traceable. Usually, tax defaulters make use of various shell companies to evade tax and black money.

This makes the detection of such funds extremely difficult by governments. The fact that these cryptocurrencies are independent of any regulatory bodies or government and hence can’t be responsible for inflation or deflation is their main selling point.

It is also their weakness in that various governments have said a firm no to the adoption of these cryptocurrencies. But in the history of technology often those technologies which are decentralized have grown big. Take the Internet as an example and even Blockchain is essentially decentralized.

The growth in the future of Blockchain technology and these cryptocurrencies will in a way be parallel as those who become confident of the robustness of the Blockchain technology won’t overlook these cryptocurrencies which are based on the technology. Stalwart companies like IBM are researching Blockchain technology to improve its security, accountability, and various other features.

We now experience that the Internet has become integrated into our lives and that new technologies have emerged out of it. Looking that way even Blockchain has so much potential that in the future new technologies can emerge.

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About the Author

Senior Reserch Analyst - Cloud Computing

Arpit has years of experience working with top-tier tech companies and has developed a plethora of knowledge in Data Analysis and Machine Learning. He currently holds the position of Senior Research Analyst in Cloud Computing. His passion for writing extends beyond the technical world, crafting profound narratives that bridge the gap between complex concepts and accessible understanding.