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Bitcoin and Virtual Currencies - Presented by: Nasdaq

  • This slideshow takes a look at Bitcoin and its short history, as well as a few other virtual currencies that have left their marks in the world. Shutterstock photo.
  • Bitcoin was <a href='http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2011/10/10/the-crypto-currency' target='_blank'>invented in 2008 by Satoshi Nakamoto</a>. It was released as open-source software in 2009. Nakamoto, who claimed to be a  36-year old Japanese man, said he created bitcoin in response to the financial crisis at the time. Shutterstock photo.
  • Bitcoin is a virtual currency (technically a cryptocurrency), and there are 21 million bitcoins which can be mined. As of August 2015, about 14,500,000 bitcoins have been mined. iStock photo.
  • A cryptocurrency is <a href='http://www.coindesk.com/bitcoin-digital-currency-virtual-one/' target='_blank'>based on the principles of cryptography</a> - namely, based on a peer-to-peer network. Most currency in the world can be held digitally (like gift cards); currency that's virtual, like bitcoin, exist only on the internet. Some financial analysts consider bitcoin a commodity. Shutterstock photo.
  • At first, a single bitcoin was worth less than a penny; as of August 2015, a single bitcoin is worth about 215 U.S. dollars. Shutterstock photo.
  • He announced in April 2011 that he was moving on from bitcoin, leaving that life behind. A highly controversial 2014 Newsweek article claimed to have identified Nakamoto, but the bitcoin creator came out of hibernation to <a href='http://www.cnbc.com/2014/03/07/real-bitcoin-creator-i-am-not-dorian-nakamoto.html' target='_blank'>say that he was not the person identified</a> in the Newsweek article. Newsweek Magazine cover.
  • The blockchain is the heart of bitcoin. It's a public ledger that records all bitcoin transactions, open to all users. And it's incredibly secure, making tampering very difficult. The blockchain has drawn the interest of many financial companies. Even <a href='http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2015-07-23/nasdaq-expects-to-be-first-exchange-to-use-bitcoin-technology' target='_blank'>Nasdaq is planning to incorporate blockchain technology</a>. Shutterstock photo.
  • Bitcoin has faced its share of controversies. Due to anonymity, people can use bitcoin to fund illicit activities (see: <a href='http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2013-10-03/fbi-snags-silk-road-boss-with-own-methods' target='_blank'>Silk Road</a>). Another major dustup occured during the <a href='http://www.nasdaq.com/article/a-480-million-mystery-the-saga-of-mt-gox-cm507054' target='_blank'>$480 million collapse of Mt. Gox</a>. Shutterstock photo.
  • However, bitcoin is becoming widely accepted, with retailers like Microsoft and Baidu accepting bitcoins. It is by far the most well-known digital currency, but not the only one. Shutterstock photo.
  • It was launched in 1996, and was the <a href='http://www.wired.com/2009/06/e-gold/' target='_blank'>first digitial currency to get widepsread usage</a>. It let people open accounts based on the value of gold, but was ultimately shut down by the U.S. Federal government after its founder pleaded guilty to money laundering-related crimes, and running an unlicensed money transmitting service. Shutterstock photo.
  • In 2007, <a href='http://www.bankingtech.com/196932/virtual-currency-ven-takes-on-bitcoin/' target='_blank'>Ven was launched</a>. It is now seen as an alternative to bitcoin, based on currencies, commodities, and carbon futures, making it an environmentally conscious currency. It is listed on the London FX trading venue LMAX Exchange. Shutterstock photo.
  • Originally conceived as a joke, it became popular very quickly, reaching a capitalization of $60 million by January 2014. (The meme was based on an image of a Shiba Inu dog. <a href='http://knowyourmeme.com/memes/doge' target='_blank'>Read more about that here</a>) One year later, that number has fallen to $13.5 million. <a href='http://motherboard.vice.com/read/talladega-shibe-josh-wises-highlights-in-the-dogecar' target='_blank'>Its most notable moment came when the community sponsored a NASCAR racer</a>, which led to the Dogecoin car being featured at several high-profile races.
  • This digital currency, along with DopeCoin hopes to make it <a href='http://smallbusiness.foxbusiness.com/technology-web/2014/03/20/dopecoin-potcoin-want-to-solve-marijuanas-banking-problems/' target='_blank'>easier for marijuana businesses to process money</a>. PotCoin focuses on the legalized marijuana industry. Shutterstock photo.
  • As mentioned earlier, bitcoin's blockchain technology has drawn a lot of interest, even to the point where some are saying that the <a href='http://www.forbes.com/sites/gregoryferenstein/2015/07/29/former-obama-tech-advisor-explains-how-bitcoin-could-transform-government-in-5-quotes/' target='_blank'>blockchain is actually more important than bitcoin itself</a>. Shutterstock photo.
  • But digital currency has the potential to <a href='http://www.nasdaq.com/article/bitcoin-and-remittances-can-it-work-cm504136' target='_blank'>become much more democratic</a>, with the rise of crowdfunding and microlending taking the place of more traditional bank loans. New payment systems like Paypal and Apple Pay are making it easier for people to spend money online. And currencies like bitcoin could be used by those who live in emerging markets to save money while making exchanges, or even store value in a more stable currency rather than inflationary fiat currency. Shutterstock photo.
  • Regulation of bitcoin, however, remains a contentious issue. Bitcoin adherents don't believe in regulation - after all, that was why bitcoin was made in the first place, they argue. But others see that bitcoin's growth and ultimate mainstream adoption requires some regulation. <a href='http://fortune.com/2015/04/23/theres-big-pressure-on-new-yorks-bitcoin-regulation-plan/' target='_blank'>New York was the first state to roll out a policy</a>, but more could be coming soon. Shutterstock photo.

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