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.
Since prices are based on supply and demand, the rate at which a cryptocurrency can be exchanged for another currency can fluctuate widely. However, plenty of research has been undertaken to identify the fundamental price drivers of cryptocurrencies. Bitcoin has indeed experienced some rapid surges and collapses in value, reaching as high as $19,000 per bitcoin in December of 2017 before returning to around $7,000 in the following months. Cryptocurrencies are thus considered by some economists to be a short-lived fad or speculative bubble. There is concern especially that the currency units, such as bitcoins, are not rooted in any material goods. Some research has identified that the cost of producing a bitcoin, which takes an increasingly large amount of energy, is directly related to its market price.
Bitcoin is a peer-to-peer version of electronic cash that allows payments to be sent directly from one party to another without going through a financial institution. The network timestamps transactions by hashing them into an ongoing chain of hash-based proof-of-work, forming a record that cannot be changed without redoing the proof-of-work. – Satoshi Nakamoto
Behind the scenes, the Bitcoin network is sharing a massive public ledger called the "block chain". This ledger contains every transaction ever processed which enables a user's computer to verify the validity of each transaction. The authenticity of each transaction is protected by digital signatures corresponding to the sending addresses therefore allowing all users to have full control over sending bitcoins.
Something else that many have turned to Bitcoin because of is the ability to trade it with leverage. Certain platforms will give you leverage over your initial desired trading amount. For example, BitMEX offers up to 100x leverage for your trades. This means your investment of $20 can be leveraged as high as $2000. Keeping in mind that most of these platforms will have regulations and rules in place to protect their investment; it is still a somewhat heavenly environment for a trader when combining these leverages with the high volatility that Bitcoin goes through each day.
Cryptocurrencies' blockchains are secure, but other aspects of a cryptocurrency ecosystem are not immune to the threat of hacking. In Bitcoin's almost 10-year history, several online exchanges have been the subject of hacking and theft, sometimes with millions of dollars worth of 'coins' stolen. Still, many observers look at cryptocurrencies as hope that a currency can exist that preserves value, facilitates exchange, is more transportable than hard metals, and is outside the influence of central banks and governments.
Another thing that the blockchain can be used for is truly decentralized market systems which can use peer-to-peer payments without a middleman. One of the early examples of such a market is OpenBazaar. It is a completely free marketplace where you can Buy or Sell items without any fees or restrictions. The payment system is peer-to-peer and a blockchain is in use to verify all transactions. Simply download the software and look for items you wish to buy or post items you wish to sell; the rest is history as they say.
In January 2009, the bitcoin network was created when Nakamoto mined the first block of the chain, known as the genesis block. Embedded in the coinbase of this block was the following text: "The Times 03/Jan/2009 Chancellor on brink of second bailout for banks." This note has been interpreted as both a timestamp and a comment on the instability caused by fractional-reserve banking.:18