Bitcoin in the Last Twelve Months
What Made 2016 Great for Bitcoin?
As 2016 went on, global instability was on the increase in the geopolitical and central banking arena, Brexit shook the markets to their debt-based core, Donald Trump was voted in as President of the United States, and, of course, relations with the Middle East, China, and Russia were at an all-time low.
Fiat currencies were looking less valuable and were weakening daily, while the German banks were starting to feel the strain of the weak, debt-based currency system they help to inflate… Combine that with the recent Greek economic misery, and you have a very worried market!
What Happens When People Lose Faith in Their Economies?
They buy gold and silver! They run to a safe store of value. So what does this have to do with Bitcoin, you may ask… it has everything to do with it. People are starting to wake up to the fact that local, fiat-based currencies are bloated and are worth as much as toilet paper.
When this happens, people resort to safe havens or stores of value, such as precious metals, but in recent times, the markets have become extremely manipulated, and gold is very expensive and hard to move around.
Bitcoin Provides a Secure Store of Value – Yet It’s Easy to Move Around!
With the slow but steady exposure of Bitcoin and other alternatives, such as Litecoin and Ethereum, people have become much more savvy and have opted OUT of the banks’ outdated paper money system, combined with so much fear and uncertainty that Bitcoin has now been dubbed as “digital gold.”
A huge bonus is that both tiny and large amounts of digital currencies can be moved across the globe in minutes, with an almost non-existent transaction fee that renders the central banking empire almost obsolete!
With all of this happening, 2016 started to show an upward trend for the Bitcoin community – patience was paying off at last, as a chart from CoinMarketCap demonstrates below.
As 2016 began, the upward trend was slow and volatility was starting to decrease, showing that there was more to this type of currency. But during the end of May and the beginning of June, something happened that took people by surprise…
China’s Currency Was Devalued and More Regulations Were Put Upon the Chinese People’s Money!
Within days, the price surged from the $450 area to the $530 area. Bitcoin provided a safe haven for people to store their money, and as more and more of the Chinese bought Bitcoin, the price kept spiking! Stores of value, like metals and now digital currencies, always act as a safe haven and usually increase in value in unstable geopolitical times or financial crises.
But why China? They have the largest number of Bitcoin miners, by far, and to a certain point can influence the volume and price simply due to how many of them buy and sell. This new form of technology and money is proving to be extremely popular in the world’s second largest economy. These surges carried on throughout the summer. Although there were a few unexpected events, like the Bitfinex exchange hack and the Ethereum/DAO incident, Bitcoin remained strong.
As Brexit went ahead on the 24th of June, the markets crashed — especially the pound sterling — but the holders of Bitcoin saw a huge jump in their wealth again, showing how versatile Bitcoin can be in uncertain times, as the chart from CoinMarketCap shows again.
Late 2016 – Early 2017
Donald Trump shocks the world later in the year after winning the presidential election, leading to more increases in the price of Bitcoin. The more the unexpected happened, the more Bitcoin would increase. As 2016 drew to a close, it went on to reach heights of $700-$750, bringing hopes of the milestone of $1,000 being reached once again.
As volume increased, Bitcoin hit $800, and within two days, it blitzed $900! By the end of the year, it was just touching $1,000. Since the beginning of 2016, Bitcoin had become one of the best-performing currencies on the planet, with a value increase of over 100%, making it an investor’s dream come true!
As of the time of this writing, Bitcoin is at around $1,140, and within touching distance of its highest price of $1,165.89, a very exciting time for Bitcoin and blockchain technology in general.
What will 2017 bring? Anything can happen, and this is still a very experimental technology. No one knows what will happen next, but the future looks bright for innovation and for people who want to protect their hard-earned wealth from regulation and geopolitical turmoil!
Could we see another increase of value like we did in the last twelve months? It’s possible, as anything can happen. The technology behind Bitcoin is undervalued, banks are researching it 24/7, and Bitcoin is gaining popularity.
Always do your research and come to logical decisions.
Never put your money into anything if you can’t afford to lose it!
Bitcoin and Digital Currency
How did digital currency become worth $7 Billion? Well that’s what we’ll take you through in Part 1 of this report.
Where did it come from?
Bitcoin, the p2p software design for the most successful digital currency is 5 years old. The origin document describing its design was released to the internet under someone of the moniker ‘Satoshi Nakamoto.’ This ‘white paper’ was released in 2008. The software itself was released in 2009 and a little over a year after that a man bought two Pizzas, the first recorded real-world transaction with bitcoin. The rest is history.
In late 2009 a bitcoin forum was created. On this forum, (BitcoinTalk.org) a member requested to purchase of these pizzas for bitcoin. A price was reached at 10,000 bitcoins. By December 2013 that many bitcoins was worth $10 Million! Back then the bitcoin economy was small. I don’t think you could even buy the infamous ‘alpaca socks’ for bitcoin. Now we have Pizzaforcoins.com to satisfy our tasty wheat-derived food cravings.
Getting back to the software’s creator; there is not much known. The major public consensus is that his name is a fake pseudonym and that the creator of bitcoin could be someone of any nationality or actually a group of people. A lot of hubbub happened when an author for Newsweek thought she found the creator but it just turned out to be an old man with a similar name.
The main person who was in close contact on a business level with Satoshi is Gavin Andresen, who was the lead developer for bitcoin. Gavin officially gave up his position in early April 2014 though. Gavin reveals in a trailer for ‘The Rise and Rise of Bitcoin’ that Satoshi stopped talking to him when Gavin told him that he agreed to talk to the CIA about bitcoin. We’ve been anticipating this bitcoin documentary which finally released April 23rd at the Tribeca Film Festival.
Software developers and programmers were interested when they saw this program for digital currency; some watched and some helped in its development. As it became more functional, intermediate level computer users began adopting it. Some businesses and people would begin to sell items for bitcoin in late 2010 and into 2011.
By 2013, hundreds of thousands of people already trust and believe in bitcoin. This is evident by simply one fact that a bitcoin was worth fractions of a cent in 2010 and is now hundreds of dollars per bitcoin unit. It took just a decade for the internet to transform our world and spread from thousands to probably over a billion people in the mid 2000’s. Digital currency may do the same in five years.
History of Digital Currencies
In a certain sense, ACH bank transfers, ATMs and swiping your debit card are like using forms of digital currency. They are however, just a representation of US Dollars. Credit cards have been around since the late 1950’s. Half of American families used credit cards in 1970, and this rose to three-fourths of households by 2000.
It really wasn’t until the internet age of the 1990s however, that we saw consumers using currency with a whole new level of abstractness. Money was now being represented by an electronic signal; just digits in a computer system. One strictly digital only hopeful was started with a company called DigiCash founded by David Chaum. The currency was ecash and it was designed to make digital purchases anonymous. Unfortunately only one bank in the United States, the Mark Twain bank (which has since dissolved) ever used ecash. Few banks worldwide did either. DigiCash went bankrupt in 1998 and its assets were sold to eCash Technologies, then acquired by InfoSpace in 2002 and which is currently known as Blucora. This sounds complicated, but basically means ecash faded away. The Mark Twain bank that tested ecash had only 5,000 customers including 300 merchants using the currency. The bank itself was dissolved around the same time.
Other attempts came and went in this era, like CypherCoin, Millicent, Minipay and Virtual PIN. PayPal provided a U.S. dollar based solution for online payments, but it never had its own digital currency. As the internet userbase grew, some more digital currencies saw slightly more success, but most of these failed due to government regulations. In the early 2000’s there was an anonymous internet banking system being created called “Digital Monetary Trust.” Their currency offered was called the rand, named after Ayn Rand. Unfortunately the website and its systems were shut down in mid-2005.
A few digital currencies tried to replace the old fashioned ‘hard money’ (backed by something physical, usually gold). Egold was created in 1996 and lasted until 2009 when regulators shutdown the currency. At its peak it had 5 Million users and $2 Billion in transactions for 2008. Some imitators were made including e-bullion and CrowneGold. Ebullion had over one million users at one point. E-bullion ended when the wife and partner of its creator, Pamela Fayed, was murdered in 2008. Jim, the creator was then under felony charges for conducting an unlicensed money transfer business. This regulation was authorized within the USA Patriot Act. Gold worth $24 Million and other assets were seized from the company. A similar example, GoldMoney, had its most useful function, the transfer of money from user to user, removed due to government regulations as well.
After all these attempts at viable, alternative and digital currencies, none stood the test of time from the whole era of 1990s and early to mid-2000s. Even around the time bitcoin showed up in 2009, others were failing. Even companies outside the United States were not immune to United States regulations. Liberty Reserve of Costa Rica lasted from 2006 to 2013. It ended with much fanfare in the bitcoin community because it was one way some used to buy bitcoins online. There are many reasons why bitcoin is so successful compared to the failed early digital currencies of the past. These key changes are the essence of bitcoin itself.
What is Bitcoin?
The official headquarters for bitcoin is at bitcoin.org, but you do not necessarily need to access that site to learn or even use bitcoin. As you should know, bitcoin is a software protocol, like HTTP is (how you access websites). The major breakthrough with bitcoin, besides not relying on a central banking authority, is that it was the first digital currency known to solve the ‘double spend’ problem. This meant that people could not fraudulently create or spend coins that didn’t exist or were already spent (most people would call that hacking).
Bitcoin has many unique and required features it needed to be a successful digital currency. There are five points which we will go into detail here on why Bitcoin is so trusted and popular:
Here are some things that make the bitcoin system different:
- It is its own currency not based off any real world money,
- No names are attached in the bitcoin system, giving the potential for anonymitiy in owning or transferring,
- There is no central authority (very hard to shutdown or change the system)
- You cannot hack the system to get free coins
- It is inflation proof, the coins are created at an unchangeable rate
First off, bitcoin units within the bitcoin network are their own currency with a fluctuating value not pegged to any realworld currency such as the U.S. Dollar or Chinese Yen. The price is free to fluctuate, not pegged to any physical currency or commodity. This is why bitcoin’s price has and can be very
volatile in the free market.
Second, Bitcoin is mostly anonymous like cash is. You can choose not to attach your identity to your bitcoin wallet or transactions, by just not using services that require a verified identity.
Third, and one of the most important, is that Bitcoin has no central authority; it is a p2p (person to person) system where the network and system as a whole are controlled by everyone using it. This concept is difficult to grasp at first because almost nothing else in the world operates this way.
Fourth, it solved the biggest problem a digital currency could have; you cannot copy, make out of thin air, double spend, or otherwise ‘hack’ the system to get you more money!. This is a challenging feature to implement in the computer realm where with a few keystrokes you can make an infinite number of copies of that PDF file, MP3, or almost anything else. To make a digital product protected from duplication is a great achievement. With Bitcoin, the supply is fraud resistant.
The fifth and also major advantage to Bitcoin is that the supply is limited and it increases at a specified rate.
All of these points work in tandem and were required for this currency to be and to continue to be successful. The creator of the system can’t just reprogram it; nor can any other central authority, government, person, hacker, supercomputer, space alien, you name it. The coins cannot be stolen through the system. Coins can be stolen of course; like cash can be stolen but amazingly, Bitcoin is much harder to lose or steal (generally) than physical or other digital cash is. Someone needs your password which could be hidden in your brain for instance. Cash could be beaten out of you in person, but not thoughts in your brain.
At this point in the report is where we get really technical.
Password encrypting your wallet is like putting your cash in an incredibly strong safe. With a good password it is impossible in the realm of all probability to crack the code by repeated attempts, what’s known in the computer world as ‘brute forcing’. If someone can find your wallet file and it is not encrypted however, they can just spend your coins just as someone could spend your cash if they had stolen your physical wallet from your pocket. Encrypting is incredibly easy and commonplace these days. You can also store your wallet in an unlimited number of locations. Your ‘wallet’ is basically what we call the private key which is 64 units long (0-9 and A-F only) that was created at random. With this you can always utilize your bitcoins.
Bitcoin transactions are listed in a public ledger. This is how the protocol works to secure the supply of bitcoins is unhackable. Bitcoins are tracked from address to address so that all coins being circulated are accounted for in terms of their legitimate origin.
How are Bitcoins made?
Bitcoins are “made” or more accurately we should say distributed by a process known as mining. Only 21 million units of bitcoins will be mined, ever. There are roughly 12.7 million bitcoins as of May 2014. About ever 4 years the number of bitcoins being ‘mined’ is halved. The increasing supply quickly tapers off within a matter of years and bitcoins will trickle in creation up until 2140. At that point, bitcoin miners will only make revenue off of the small transaction fees that are paid from transactions.
A computer program is run on either a standard computer or a specialized piece of hardware. They process a SHA256 algorithm. SHA-2 cryptogrpahic hash functions were designed by the U.S. National Security Agency and published in 2001. According to Wikipedia:
A hash function is an algorithm that transforms (hashes) an arbitrary set of data elements, such as a text file, into a single fixed length value (the hash). The computed hash value may then be used to verify the integrity of copies of the original data without providing any means to derive said original data.
The software regulates how easy it is to solve the hash function and thus how fast coins are ‘made’ and sent to the miners as a reward. It currently takes a good bit of knowhow to mine bitcoin. Though there have been USB bitcoin miners for some time, they are far from ‘plug and play’.
Bitcoin mining encodes all new transactions into blocks that are generated. This is a necessary and clever solution for distributing the supply of coins and securing the network at the same time. If mining wasn’t distributed, the central authority could then change the software at a whim.
For every 2016 blocks that are mined the the system calculates the amount of computing power that is being used mining bitcoin and adjusts what is called the ‘difficulty’ so that blocks are generated at the ideal interval of about one every 10 minutes. This process makes the supply of bitcoins, the inflation rate, increasing at a predictable and steady rate.
What is Bitcoin Mining Hardware?
Originally people mined bitcoins using their CPU, which is the main processor in a computer, that all of us have. Later code was developed for people to ‘mine’ using GPU’s which are graphics processors. Mainly only computer specialists have them, like computer gamers, video editors or for 3D animation type things.
GPU cards can mine significantly faster than the average CPU, by about 10 times. Bitcoins were worth around 10 cents each when mass GPU mining was adopted. Currently most bitcoin mining is being done with custom designed hardware from a number of companies. These are about 50 times as efficient than GPU’s are at bitcoin mining. Other cryptocurrencies however can still be mined profitably with GPU’s, and some with even CPU’s due to purposeful differences in their mining algorithms.
As with all new age technology, over time it becomes easier to use.
Making a Bitcoin Wallet
A simple online bitcoin wallet can be created in under one minute at blockchain.info. This is the most trusted online bitcoin wallet which has over a million users. You can watch this short video from our friends to see just how easy it is to make a wallet there:
Note that above is an online wallet. If you’d like more control and security of using your wallet you can download the bitcoin wallet software at bitcoin.org/en/download
New versions come out every few months. There are windows, Ubuntu, Linux, and Mac OS X versions. Once you install the program you will have to wait for the blockchain to download. This is the disadvantage of storing the blockchain which is a record of all the transactions that have taken place. Sometimes this can take many hours to do the initial download. Newer versions of the software can shorten this time by consolidating the past blockchain history somehow. Many other wallets are available including custom ones, and cellphones apps’; many listed on bitcoin.org as well. Please ask a trusted source what the best wallet is for you.
To get bitcoin you need to do one of the following: Purchase, mine, or have someone with some bitcoins send them to you. Free BUYING GUIDE here.
Bitcoin Mining Revenue
You can buy a mining contract online at CloudHashing.com. This allow you to invest in bitcoin mining through their website! You will be paid in bitcoins as they’re mined by the hardware that Cloud Hashing owns. If you’d like to learn how to mine bitcoins yourself (good luck), go to BitcoinMining.com
So the option more common for acquiring bitcoins is just outright purchasing them. There are a number of online exchanges that sell bitcoins but the best way to buy is from a local seller. You can find these on LocalBitcoins.com. They provide an escrow service which is like a safety net for both the buyer and the seller in case of attempted scammers and thieves. Like amazon and eBay there are member rankings to help you decide who to transact with.
We recommend you make an account and try it out. You can email a bitcoin expert for advice at firstname.lastname@example.org
To buy online the most trusted place is Coinbase.com, though they will require you to verify your identity. After that you can transer funds from your bank account to purchase bitcoins which they can store for you, or you can transfer to an outside wallet like blockchain. Unfortunately due to U.S. government and other governments’ regulations, it is not very easy to get U.S. dollars onto any of the old exchanges that used to function. Consequently this has driven the bitcoin price down in the short term and slowed it’s growth.
Work for Bitcoins
There is a third way to get bitcoins. You can provide goods or services to others in exchange; mainly online or digital services. Examples are graphic design, advertising, programming, and web design. Service category of the BitcoinTalk forum is basically a Craigslist jobs area for bitcoin. There’s more sites like BitTask.com and BitGigs.com. I have not used either of these sites.
BitPay Directory of merchants: https://bitpay.com/directory
The trade section of the Bitcoin Wiki currently lists an incredible amount of businesses that already take bitcoin. The growth in early 2014 has been incredible. Major cities like San Francisco, Los Angeles, London, New York, and Denver have thriving bitcoin communities and merchant acceptance trends. ‘Bitcoin Boulevard’ is a new group of businesses who just decided to accept bitcoin in Cleveland, Ohio. A similar thing is taking place in the Netherlands as well. CoinMap.org has a good interactive map of bitcoin accepting stores.
Last year a newlywed couple in Utah actually lived off of bitcoin for 101 days and filmed a documentary about it. We’re not sure when, but the documentary was supposed to come out this summer 2014.
Food for Bitcoin
In January 2014 retailer Overstock.com began accepting bitcoins. Soon after, computer parts online TigerDirect.com followed. There was already an online electronics store for bitcoin, Bitcoinstore.com which has over 500,000 products available. There are a few eBay style auction sites for bitcoin but we have not vetted any after the most popular one was closed last year.
There are easy daytrading opportunities in bitcoin since it is volatile. You can arbitrage between exchanges, especially with other alternative currencies. There are many alternative currencies that have mostly copied bitcoin (literally copied the source code). Litecoin is the biggest alternative with around $400 Million market capitalization.
The major alternative Cryptocurrency trading sites, in order of size (big to smaller) are Cryptsy.com, Btc-e.com and vircurex.com. It’s not viable to get USD onto them due to regulations but you could trade bitcoin with alternative currencies. You don’t need to give your identity to register for these sites.
Bitcoin Stock Markets?
Several sites have come and gone that claimed to be stock exchanges. It’s very hard to trust the operators and the security of such sites. Then when you count in government regulations, this type of business is immensely risky.
Keeping Your Bitcoins Safe
Speaking of risk, lets talk about how to keep your bitcoins secure. If you’re using the standard software wallet you installed on your computer, the FIRST thing you need to do is go to:
Choose a long password that you can memorize in your head. If you must, write it down and store somewhere only you know the location and purpose of.
If you are using the Blockchain wallet, be sure to EXPORT a copy of it, save the password reset phrase they give you when you signed up, and store that backup and phrase at a different location than your computer. I would use multiple flash drives (since flash drives can theoretically stop working over years of use). The wallet file is a small file called wallet.dat. Google where this would be stored on your PC.
For the downloaded bitcoin client on your computer you should open it periodically to download portions of the blockchain. If you DON’T do this it will take much longer to open and you have to wait until it catches up before you can send a transaction. As bitcoin client software improves perhaps this will change.
If you use exchange sites or in fact are trading bitcoin, I recommend spreading your entire bitcoin net worth over multiple sites, because like other websites they can be possibly be hacked, or shutdown by the government. This will not necessarily make you lose the bitcoins, but could make it difficult. Blockchain.info wallets are the most safe; you can take a backup of the wallet and restore your wallet without using the site. Otherwise, with most other sites such as holding your bitcoins on a ‘wallet’ on an exchange site is less secure than having it on your own PC or in a blockchain wallet. If you don’t take a wallet backup then blockchain would be less secure than your personal wallet on your computer. This is because you DO NOT hold the private key to the wallet on exchange sites, and only if you download the backup from Blockchain.
- Encrypt your wallet
- Backup your wallet
- Use a long, complex password
- Double check any sending or receiving bitcoin addresses
- Store your bitcoins diversified in multiple wallets in separate locations and websites
- Make a transaction you’re not absoluely sure about; they’re irreversible
- Use a new bitcoin site you haven’t researched or been recommended to by a trusted party
Bitcoin resists the censorship that caused equally revolutionary digital payment methods to cease to run.
As we mentioned in part 1, History, many digital currencies were decimated from government regulations. From 2006-2008 the U.S. Treasury Department in conjunction with the United States Department of Justice stretched the definition of money transmitter in the USA Patriot Act to include any system that allows transfer of any kind of value from one person to another, not merely national currency or cash. This was the reason so many attempts at digital currency were stifled by the government. GoldMoney, e-gold, E-bullion, Liberty Reserve and more were all ended or dramatically affected by the USA Patriot Act’s money transmitter restrictions.
The main weakness with all the currencies we’ve just mentioned were that they were centralized. Bitcoin is decentralized, meaning there is no one point of failure that can be exploited by people or government. Bitcoin and things very much like it are the future of money. You should accept this as soon as possible because it is not going away.
You may not quite understand how it works yet; in fact, a Reason-Rupe Poll in April 2014 showed that the more people knew about how bitcoin works the less likely they wanted to ban it. As knowledge of bitcoin spreads, more will know the great benefits of it. You don’t have to know every little detail of the software to understand the just of it though.
If you think you’re in over your head in terms of your technological understanding, think of how a car exactly runs. Think of how your computer works. You trust your computer to store and transfer personal information all the time, but so many people that do this don’t even know how these work. Trust in technology is mainly a response to others around you trusting the same things. If everyone around you believes a certain way, most people follow the group think.
Why should we use bitcoin and nto just develop a secure way of sending US Dollars worldwide?
This is one of the most important aspects of why you should like bitcoin. You may have heard that Gold is supposed to be a hedge against inflation. Inflation is an increase in the money supply, usually expressing itself by a rise in prices since there is more money chasing the same amount of goods. The Federal Reserve central bank of the United States determines how much the money supply increases. Here is a famous chart from the St. Louis Federal Reserve showing just how fast the money supply has increased in the last 40 years:
As you can see, it appears that the supply has quadrupled in a short amount of time, only since the crash of 2008. Theoretically this could mean a quadrupling of consumer good prices; you may have noticed the price of food going up in recent years. Here is a chart of how much purchasing power the US Dollar has lost since the creation of the
Federal Reserve in 1913 until only 2009:
Another reason to favor something like bitcoin is because of increasing capital controls. Argentina is an often used example of a place that limits how much money can be converted from their country’s currency to external currencies of the world. Their country has seen massive inflation, evaporating the wealth and standard of living of most of their people. If our government thought it was a threat to stability that people were trading US Dollars for other currency, they could increase our restrictions to do the same. A microcosm example of some capital controls was Chase bank which recently stopped allowing people to deposit money into someone else’s bank account. Doug Casey of Casey Research has been stating for years that more capital controls are coming to America.
The Good Bitcoin Has Done
In 2010 & 2011 WikiLeaks donations through Visa, PayPal & Mastercard were shutoff for political reasons. Bitcoin came to the rescue in providing the organization with a revenue stream from like-minded individuals across the globe.
In Argentina, like we mentioned, currency controls are in place to prevent people of that country to move their money into U.S. Dollars. Though the dollar has it’s own problems, the Argentine peso is seeing some of the highest rates of inflation in the Western Hemisphere according to The Wall Street Journal. They saw 11% inflation for 2013 and the rate spiked for January 2014. In real terms this means a $100 grocery trip in january 2013 would have increased to $115 by Februrary 2014.
Bitcoin helps people safely transfer their wealth out of country or to store in something not their native and manipulated currency. Bitcoin is the first global currency where anyone with internet can take part in use or investment with it.
Investors have a strong incentive to start getting into bitcoin.
Bitcoin has made people rich. It has made many millionaires. Yes that’s right; some people saw a 300,000% return in just two and a half years! Some early believers could be millionaires now from just a few hundred dollars invested at the very beginning. In fact it only took one year for bitcoin to skyrocket to nearly $30 USD per coin in June 2011. When it crashed, many thought this was the end of this new digital currency; that bitcoin would be short lived and that this was the great crash. YouTube was overflowing with videos and consistent naysayers who probably said “I told you bitcoin was a scam.” But ever since, less people are calling Bitcoin a scam. Bitcoin recovered and it did so magnificently. It is now seeing less significant volatility than its early days.
The next big bitcoin bubble happened earlier this year when we saw from January to April bitcoin go from $13 to a high of $260. That’s 20x your money in just a few months! Later investors were able to make over 10x their money again in late 2013 when bitcoin moved from the $100 range to over $1,000.
Chief Editor, CrushTheStreet.com