What is a Cryptocurrency?

By July 8, 2020July 30th, 2020No Comments
What is Cryptocurrency

If you have been following the news, you must have come across the term – cryptocurrency.

Ever since the price of bitcoin hit $20,000 in 2017, cryptocurrencies have become the talk of the town. You must have come across folks vouching vehemently for virtual currencies (used synonymously with cryptocurrencies).

But what are they exactly? What makes them so different from traditional and legacy financial systems?

Two words make up the word cryptocurrency – ‘crypto’ and ‘currency’. Crypto stands for cryptography. A cryptocurrency uses cryptography to successfully secure, conduct, and validate monetary transactions.

No individual or organization controls the creation and issuance of cryptocurrencies as they exist on distributed, decentralized networks called blockchains. Now you must be thinking, oh wait! Blockchain? Yes.

Cryptocurrencies exist on blockchains
Cryptocurrencies exist on blockchains, Source: Pixabay

What is Blockchain?

Blockchains basically consist of information packets called ‘blocks’ that are interconnected in a ‘chain’ type arrangement. Contrary to centralized ledgers maintained by banks or data repositories ‘controlled’ by software and networking behemoths, blockchain is a decentralized ‘peer-to-peer’ digital ledger. For a detailed understanding check out the video below:

How does a blockchain work

Modern cryptocurrencies employ blockchains but early cryptocurrency prototypes were a bit different. Let’s look at what they were like.

History of Cryptocurrencies

Cryptocurrency systems are not entirely new. Research and development on programmable money has been happening since the 1980s and early 1990s. In 1989, American cryptographer, David Chaum attempted a breakthrough with Digicash.

It was a cryptographic electronic money system through which users could withdraw money from a bank and designate specific encrypted keys to that money.

Users could also conduct monetary transactions through Digicash. Unfortunately, the cryptocurrency system didn’t survive for long and the parent company filed for bankruptcy in 1998.

Few more notable names like Wei Dai and cryptography pioneer Nick Szabo also tried introducing cryptocurrencies through “B-Money”, and BitGold but didn’t find much success.

The workable concept of a cryptocurrency finally took tangible shape with the inception of Bitcoin in 2009. Anonymous inventor Satoshi Nakamoto introduced its idea in the whitepaper titled Bitcoin: A Peer-to-Peer Electronic Cash System.

Bitcoin’s peer-to-peer network is very similar to the file-sharing system like BitTorrent. No centralized authority controls the system.

Post bitcoin, many digital currencies have emerged. They follow different blockchain protocols that serve a variety of use cases. Some of them are:

  • Proof-of-Work (PoW)
  • Proof-of-Stake (PoS)
  • Delegated Proof-of-Stake (DPoS)
  • Proof-of-Weight (PoW)

Bitcoin, Ethereum, Bitcoin Cash, Litecoin, Monero, Dash, ZCash, Dogecoin, and 500 more cryptocurrencies follow proof-of-work protocols. Therefore, it makes sense to know how they work.

How do Proof-of-Work Cryptocurrencies Work?

As mentioned earlier, cryptocurrencies or digital currencies run on blockchain networks. Satoshi introduced blockchain as a distributed ledger concept that powers Bitcoin.

Blockchain ensures that all cryptocurrencies issued on the decentralized network are accounted for. And how? Senders and receivers are required to sign off on transactions through their own public and private keys.

Apart from this, transactions undergo strict verification. Cryptocurrency miners play a significant role in this regard. They use powerful computers to solve complex mathematical algorithms. This is the key to the entire verification process. The miner who solves the problem first gets to add the transaction to the blockchain.

In the process, the miner earns a set number of cryptocurrencies as a reward for the work done.

Miners sell these cryptocurrencies to cover their operations costs. That’s how these crypto-assets become active contributors in a proof-of-work blockchain-based economy. To understand the mechanism visually check out the video below:

The entire system is transparent right from the start till the end as every miner/ network participant has access to a copy of the blockchain ledger. All transactions are publicly visible which means that forging transactions through ‘double spending‘ is out of the question.

How to Buy Cryptocurrencies and from Where?

Cryptocurrency exchanges can serve as the most appropriate place to buy cryptocurrencies. At WazirX we offer a plethora of digital currency options for you to explore according to your portfolio budget.

In order to get started, you will need to provide your bank account details. It takes a few hours to verify the information shared from your end, after which you are all set.

You can go ahead and directly and buy any cryptocurrency using the funds from your bank account.

Knowing about cryptocurrencies can open doors to a whole new world of opportunities. You can explore options in cryptocurrency investment as well as blockchain development. If you think you want to dig deeper into the blockchain space, we got just the right thing for you here: https://blog.wazirx.com/how-to-learn-blockchain-programming/

We hope this primer will give you a solid headstart in your cryptocurrency journey!

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