The hottest topic in investing news is cryptocurrencies. I previously discussed how to get setup on Coinbase to enable you to start investing in crypto. But many people still aren’t sure what exactly cryptocurrency is. It’s a little complicated and technical but I’m going to break it down so it’s simple and understandable.
Wikipedia defines a cryptocurrency or crypto as, “a digital asset designed to work as a medium of exchange wherein individual coin ownership records are stored in a ledger existing in a form of a computerized database using strong cryptography to secure transaction records, to control the creation of additional coins, and to verify the transfer of coin ownership.”
Basically all cryptos use blockchain technology, which is essentially lots of computers linked together over a cryptography secured network, to store and verify all transactions involving that particular cryptocurrency or coin. So any transactions involving let’s say Bitcoin, are recorded on the publicly shared Bitcoin ledger, and that ledger is verified to be accurate by all the other computers on that blockchain network. That’s why crypto is considered a decentralized currency because it is regulated by all the computers on the network instead of by a central bank.
The process of verifying transactions is often referred to as “mining”. So when you hear people say things like “Bitcoin mining” or they’re a “crypto miner” they aren’t talking about breaking rocks with pickaxes. People are rewarded and incentivized to verify the transactions on the network, or mining, by receiving small amounts of that cryptocurrency that they are mining. Bitcoin mining for example requires the use of many high-powered computers to secure and verify its network, which also consumes a lot of electricity. Bitcoin mining in particular uses a specific form of mining called proof of work, which is what Elon Musk now infamously tweeted about on 5/12.
There are two different methods used for crypto mining, proof of work (like Bitcoin) and proof of stake (like Cardano). Proof of work involves one party proving to other parties (validators or miners) that the transaction is legitimate through complex mathematical calculations. These complex mathematical calculations require a lot of computational power and energy usage. Proof of stake is similar to the proof of work process but requires much less computer power and energy usage. Instead, the validators must own large quantities of the cryptocurrency in order to validate it. This prevents hackers from attacking the network because the attacker would need to first acquire a large amount of tokens/coins which means they have a large stake in that cryptocurrency and should then want to see it gain value.
Besides the computational power and energy usage required, Bitcoin has also been criticized for having a slow block time (the amount of time to verify transactions). Bitcoin has an average block time of 10 minutes, whereas faster networks like Ethereum have a 14-15 second block time. Bitcoin was the original cryptocurrency, but since it was first created in 2009, many new altcoins have been created and come onto the market. What’s your thoughts on Bitcoin, altcoins, or cryptos in general? Leave me a comment and let me know.