Bitcoin is a form of digital currency that was launched in 2009. It can be used to pay for goods and services, as well as to store value. It is based on a decentralized network of computers, which work together to verify transactions and create copies of the blockchain.

In the wake of the financial crisis, a group of programmers sparked a discussion about whether a new form of money could be developed to replace the current system of government-backed fiat currencies. Satoshi Nakamoto, the creator of Bitcoin, proposed a cryptographically secure and decentralized peer-to-peer payment system that would not require third parties to process transactions.

Instead, a public ledger records all of the transactions that have been made in bitcoin and copies of it are distributed amongst users in a network of high-speed computers. This decentralized network of computers is free from the need for a trusted centralized authority like a bank, which makes it more resistant to hackers and double-spending.

Another benefit of the decentralized network is that the price of bitcoin doesn’t depend on an outside source such as a central bank or government. It can change at any time because of supply and demand in the market.

If you’re not sure how to use your bitcoin, there are many apps and websites available that will help you get started. Some of them function like brokerages with an emphasis on charting and trading the price of bitcoin, while others are more like payment systems that let you exchange it for U.S. dollars.

Other apps and websites that accept bitcoin include dating sites, online newspapers, and even video games. These platforms allow you to pay for subscriptions or game credits with your bitcoin, making it more convenient to play a game.

The value of your bitcoin can fluctuate as much as every few seconds, so you should always keep track of the latest price before spending any money. This is especially true if you’re buying something with a large amount of bitcoin.

Because of the volatile nature of the cryptocurrency, there are numerous scams and pyramid schemes that will lure you in with promises of high returns. The most common of these are bogus companies that claim to double your bitcoin or offer high interest rates on your holdings. Most of these are fraudulent and will quickly lose you money.

You should also be aware of taxation related to your bitcoin holdings. You should consult a professional accountant to make sure you’re compliant with the law.

Some people believe that Bitcoin has the potential to replace gold as a store of value, but this isn’t guaranteed. In addition, the cryptocurrency’s fixed supply limits how many coins can be created at any given time.

As of February 2019, there are 21 million bitcoins in circulation, and they can be divided into smaller units known as satoshis (up to eight decimal places). These coins have limited purchasing power but are considered a valuable store of value because of their low cost and stability.