Luckily, the spread between the bid and the ask price is very low, most of the time ranging between 1 and 2 dollars. At a current bitcoin rate of $819, this amounts to an added cost of 0.1 to 0.25%. You only pay the spread if you want to enter a trade right away with a market order. If you placed a limit order to buy and you’re willing to wait until someone wants to sell, you can purchase your bitcoins at a small discount at the bid and later sell them at the ask, pocketing the spread in the process.
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The debate over whether bitcoin should be considered a legal tender has accelerated in the wake of the high-profile attack of Japanese exchange Mt. Gox and the widespread adoption of it in payment processing at major U.S. retailers. Unlike the U.S. dollar, the Chinese yuan, or the euro, bitcoin is not recognized universally as a currency by every participant of the global markets, including regulators and government officials.
Then, in early 2009, an anonymous programmer or a group of programmers under an alias Satoshi Nakamoto introduced Bitcoin. Satoshi described it as a ‘peer-to-peer electronic cash system.’ It is completely decentralized, meaning there are no servers involved and no central controlling authority. The concept closely resembles peer-to-peer networks for file sharing.
But while cryptocurrencies are more used for payment, its use as a means of speculation and a store of value dwarfs the payment aspects. Cryptocurrencies gave birth to an incredibly dynamic, fast-growing market for investors and speculators. Exchanges like Okcoin, poloniex or shapeshift enables the trade of hundreds of cryptocurrencies. Their daily trade volume exceeds that of major European stock exchanges.
Wallets and similar software technically handle all bitcoins as equivalent, establishing the basic level of fungibility. Researchers have pointed out that the history of each bitcoin is registered and publicly available in the blockchain ledger, and that some users may refuse to accept bitcoins coming from controversial transactions, which would harm bitcoin's fungibility.
Exchanges, however, are a different story. Perhaps the most notable Bitcoin exchange hack was the Tokyo-based MtGox hack in 2014, where 850,000 bitcoins with a value of over $350 million suddenly disappeared from the platform. This doesn’t mean that Bitcoin itself was hacked; it just means that the exchange platform was hacked. Imagine a bank in Iowa is robbed: the USD didn’t get robbed, the bank did.
The largest potential for ‘’disruption’’ to the current status quo lies in taking a chunk out of the payment processors market. Visa and MasterCard are estimated to take a 2 to 3 percent cut of every card transaction. By using bitcoin instead, merchants stand to improve their bottom line by at least 2 percent. In addition, because bitcoin transactions are irreversible, there is no possibility for chargebacks and fraud. This reduces the costs of operation by another several percentage points.
Xcoins describes itself as a Bitcoin lending service that allows traders to get bitcoins by using a credit card or PayPal. Due to charge back with paypal, buying cryptocurrency has been difficult however Xcoins claims to have found a way around it. Their unique peer-to-peer lending model connects lenders and borrowers and allows users to get bitcoins through a series of secure loans. Each secure loan can be paid with any PayPal-recognised payment method. Unlike regular cryptocurrency exchanges, borrowers that no longer want the bitcoin can get their money back. Lenders may also choose to join the platform for free.
Researchers have pointed out at a "trend towards centralization". Although bitcoin can be sent directly to the bitcoin network, in practice intermediaries are widely used.:220–222 Bitcoin miners join large mining pools to minimize the variance of their income.:215, 219–222:3 Because transactions on the network are confirmed by miners, decentralization of the network requires that no single miner or mining pool obtains 51% of the hashing power, which would allow them to double-spend coins, prevent certain transactions from being verified and prevent other miners from earning income. As of 2013 just six mining pools controlled 75% of overall bitcoin hashing power. In 2014 mining pool Ghash.io obtained 51% hashing power which raised significant controversies about the safety of the network. The pool has voluntarily capped their hashing power at 39.99% and requested other pools to act responsibly for the benefit of the whole network.
“In 2 years from now, I believe cryptocurrencies will be gaining legitimacy as a protocol for business transactions, micropayments, and overtaking Western Union as the preferred remittance tool. Regarding business transactions – you’ll see two paths: There will be financial businesses which use it for it’s no fee, nearly-instant ability to move any amount of money around, and there will be those that utilize it for its blockchain technology. Blockchain technology provides the largest benefit with trustless auditing, single source of truth, smart contracts, and color coins.”