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Bitcoin is a cryptocurrency. It's a digital system of (non-physical) "tokens" which have an ascribed value & are used for trading goods or services, much like cash or credit. Like other currencies & commodities, the value of bitcoin fluctuates greatly based on demand and supply & it's perceived value.It's important to know that these coins can be broken down into smaller units, the smallest being one hundred millionth of a bitcoin- called a Satoshi. The mathematical rules of bitcoin stipulate that there can only ever be 21 million bitcoins. So unlike other currencies, bitcoin is finite in number and cannot be printed beyond this limit. Despite the finite no. not all 21 million have been out yet, so more are being discovered everyday. 

Most people who have heard of blockchain technology think of it in terms of it's relationship to the cryptocurrency Bitcoin. However, blockchain technology is capable of revolutionizing the way every business conducts transactions. Blockchain is referred to as a distributed ledger. Instead of having a single entity, like a bank or a bookkeeper holding & managing a ledger, the ledger is managed by everyone who has an interest in the transactions. Unless every interested party, or node, is in agreement about the transaction, then that "block" of the "chain" cannot be completed. Once everyone is in agreement, that block is permanent & unchangeable. Each record or block in the chain is signified by a unique cryptographic signature & a timestamp. 

Bitcoin is decentralised. No single bank, government, company or individual owns the network or has control over it. This means that your a/c's can never be frozen, a government cannot devalue the currency. The network is composed of computers that solve open source mathematical cryptographic problems in order to add "blocks" to the network, known as the blockchain. It's like solving a puzzle in a computer game that then reveals a part of the game that was previously inaccessible. In return for solving these problems, the computer's owner receives bitcoins. The algorithm adjusts in level of difficulty so that bitcoins are not released into the world too quickly. This process is known as mining. Anyone with a computer who can solve this puzzle is a miner. It can be used in every country and because of it's anonymous nature & technically savvy operations, it can avoid taxation. 

There is no mediator required. Instead, a consensus protocol is relied upon to create the ledger content, with digital signatures and cryptographic hashes being used to guarantee the integrity of each entry. Because, the ledger is shared, it appears identical to all members. Additionally, it is not possible for anyone to go back to make an alteration to any block. The shared nature of blockchain thus ensures that no single member is capable of undermining the system as a whole. Everyone involved is an equal participant & there is no third party that manages the records. If changes to a prior record do need to take place, then this also must be agreed to by all participants & the action will be recorded as a new block in the chain. It is designed to entirely negate the possibility of counterfeiting, because each transaction must be agreed upon in consensus. 

The exact no. of miners changes all the time, but it has grown from a handful of early stage enthusiasts into an industrial-level venture for power players backed by specialised machinery. People see possibilities for blockchain technology that go well beyond cryptocurrency. Centralised agencies that hold reams of information are big targets for hackers looking to steal identities. With the decentralisation that's inherent to blockchain, there's no single server for a hacker to attack. Each individual may have a unique digital identity record, & no one lacking a key to that record could have access to it or use it.