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Other fans point to the growth in novel cryptocurrencies. Due to bitcoins maturity, and its focus on finance, if you want to get some Ether, some Filecoins or any other cryptocurrency, its generally easiest to buy bitcoin together with your conventional currency and then trade bitcoin for the cryptocurrency of your choice.

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Then theres the bubble argument. There, people argue that the majority of the price rise is due only to individuals buying bitcoin in the expectation they can sell it later for a profit. A traditional speculative bubble, a few individuals will create a great deal of money while others are going to eliminate everything. .

Few would argue that there isnt a lot of speculation in the cryptocurrency market. There are adverts on the London underground, and all over Instagram and Facebook, encouraging audiences to invest in cryptocurrencies and, judging from the amount of money flowing in to the ecosystem, so a lot of people are taking up the offer. .

At some point, those people will get flighty and try to cash out their gains. If enough do at once, the purchase price of bitcoin will take this kind of fall it is going to prompt a run and nicely see the classic crash.

But the actual question is not if this will happen, but when and how large the wreck is. Three times now, bitcoin has had boom-and-bust cycles which have seen vast amounts of value ruined, but have left the currency valued greater than it was before the prior boom began.

Following the crash that followed, one coin has been worth $120.) Its not only a smooth ride up, but that doesnt mean its a total bubble. .

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As the bitcoin network has grown, its reach problems. For dull, technical reasons, the network as it had been initially designed struggles to deal with the amount of traffic which flows through it these days, leaving huge delays in the amount of time that it takes for a transaction to be confirmed.

In a normal, centralised, business, that wouldnt be a problem: just update the applications and move on. However, a bitcoin upgrade requires convincing every single miner to accept the new applications otherwise, the miners who take on running view the older version are efficiently running a completely different currency from those who have updated. .

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This can be known as a hard fork, and for the first six decades of bitcoins lifetime, it had been the nightmare each developer tried to prevent. But recently, divisions among the community have come to be so fractious that numerous hard forks have happened, all around how to address this traffic slowdown.

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With names like Bitcoin Classic, Bitcoin Unlimited, and Bitcoin Gold, each claims that it's the genuine heir to the original vision but with each fork, the playing field becomes more crowded.

Nothing is destroyed with every branch: if you had 100 bitcoin until Bitcoin Cash split off, following the split you still had 100 bitcoin and you'd 100 Bitcoin Cash. However, with each branch, the playing field becomes more crowded, more confusing for newcomers, and the overall reputation for (relative) stability becomes eroded.

It varies greatly. Some, such as JP Morgan Chase mind, Jamie Dimon, are extremely dismissive of the whole thing, arguing that the most properties of bitcoin which make it so appealing as a form of digital gold will be why its doomed to remain a niche prospect. For Dimon and co workers, the volatility of its exchange rate, lack of any economic oversight to control monetary policy and absence of assistance in major nation states mean bitcoin cant ever truly replace pounds and dollars and is consequently a failure. .

Few disagree with that conclusion, but a few bankers point to other advantages of this technology. The blockchain concept, they say, could be helpful in conventional banking too. Forget bitcoin itself and focus instead on the value of a dispersed ledger. Imagine if each of the major banks substituted with their normal book-keeping with one shared, but still closed, database May that help cut down on fraud and ensure a higher playing field.

And then, obviously, there are the advantages of bitcoin that conventional banking cant hope to compete with - and doesnt want to. Can a shadow currency exist only on the back of drug dealing and cybercrime Quite possibly: Both are large businesses, and neither shows any sign of going away. .

Craig Wright, who promised to be Satoshi Nakamoto, the elusive bitcoin inventor. Photograph: Mark Harrison/PA

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Hes still a mystery. The pseudonymous founder of bitcoin, Nakamoto appeared out of nowhere in 2008 when he published the white paper that described how his proposed digital currency would get the job done. While he was busy in the online community around bitcoin for its first two or three years of the currencies lifetime, he published less and less, making his last ever post on 12 December 2010. .

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