What Is Cryptocurrency: Types, Benefits, History, Explained, Guide and More

What is Cryptocurrency?

A cryptocurrency is a coded string of data representing a currency unit. Peer-to-peer networks called blockchains monitor and organize cryptocurrency transactions, such as buying, selling, and transferring, and also serve as secure ledgers of transactions. By utilizing encryption technology, cryptocurrencies can serve as both a currency and an accounting system.

A cryptocurrency is a digital or virtual currency that is meant to be a medium of exchange. It is quite similar to real-world currency, except it does not have any physical embodiment, and it uses cryptography to work.

Because cryptocurrencies operate independently and in a decentralized manner, without a bank or a central authority, new units can be added only after certain conditions are met. For example, with Bitcoin, only after a block has been added to the blockchain will the miner be rewarded with bitcoins, and this is the only way new bitcoins can be generated. The limit for bitcoins is 21 million; after this, no more bitcoins will be produced.

Cryptocurrencies have become increasingly popular over the past several years – as of 2018, there were more than 1,600 of them! And the number is constantly growing. With that has come to an increase in demand for developers of the blockchain (the underlying technology of cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin). The salaries blockchain developers earn show how much they are valued: According to Indeed, the average salary of a full-stack developer is more than $112,000. There’s even a dedicated website for cryptocurrency jobs.

Whether you’re interested in a career as a blockchain developer or you just want to keep up with the latest trends in tech, Simplilearn’s Cryptocurrency Explained video explains what cryptocurrency is and why it’s important will get you off to a good start. Here we’ll recap what’s covered in the video.

A Brief History of Cryptocurrency

In the caveman era, people used the barter system, in which goods and services are exchanged among two or more people. For instance, someone might exchange seven apples for seven oranges. The barter system fell out of popular use because it had some glaring flaws:

  • People’s requirements have to coincide—if you have something to trade, someone else has to want it, and you have to want what the other person is offering.
  • There’s no common measure of value—you have to decide how many of your items you are willing to trade for other items, and not all items can be divided. For example, you cannot divide a live animal into smaller units.
  • The goods cannot be transported easily, unlike our modern currency, which fits in a wallet or is stored on a mobile phone.

After people realized the barter system didn’t work very well, the currency went through a few iterations: In 110 B.C., an official currency was minted; in A.D. 1250, gold-plated florins were introduced and used across Europe; and from 1600 to 1900, the paper currency gained widespread popularity and ended up being used around the world. This is how modern currency as we know it came into existence.

Modern currency includes paper currency, coins, credit cards, and digital wallets—for example, Apple Pay, Amazon Pay, Paytm, PayPal, and so on. All of it is controlled by banks and governments, meaning that there is a centralized regulatory authority that limits how paper currency and credit cards work.

Traditional Currencies vs. Cryptocurrencies

Imagine a scenario in which you want to repay a friend who bought you lunch, by sending money online to his or her account. There are several ways in which this could go wrong, including:

  • The financial institution could have a technical issue, such as its systems are down or the machines aren’t working properly.
  • Your or your friend’s account could have been hacked—for example, there could be a denial-of-service attack or identity theft.
  • The transfer limits for your or your friend’s account could have been exceeded.

There is a central point of failure: the bank.

This is why the future of currency lies with cryptocurrency. Now imagine a similar transaction between two people using the bitcoin app. A notification appears asking whether the person is sure he or she is ready to transfer bitcoins. If yes, processing takes place: The system authenticates the user’s identity, checks whether the user has the required balance to make that transaction, and so on. After that’s done, the payment is transferred and the money lands in the receiver’s account. All of this happens in a matter of minutes.

Cryptocurrency, then, removes all the problems of modern banking: There are no limits to the funds you can transfer, your accounts cannot be hacked, and there is no central point of failure. As mentioned above, as of 2018 there are more than 1,600 cryptocurrencies available; some popular ones are Bitcoin, Litecoin, Ethereum, and Zcash. And a new cryptocurrency crops up every single day. Considering how much growth they’re experiencing at the moment, there’s a good chance that there are plenty more to come!

Moving forward, let us discuss what is cryptocurrency.

What is Cryptocurrency?

A cryptocurrency is a coded string of data representing a currency unit. Peer-to-peer networks called blockchains monitor and organize cryptocurrency transactions, such as buying, selling, and transferring, and also serve as secure ledgers of transactions. By utilizing encryption technology, cryptocurrencies can serve as both a currency and an accounting system.

A cryptocurrency is a digital or virtual currency that is meant to be a medium of exchange. It is quite similar to real-world currency, except it does not have any physical embodiment, and it uses cryptography to work.

Because cryptocurrencies operate independently and in a decentralized manner, without a bank or a central authority, new units can be added only after certain conditions are met. For example, with Bitcoin, only after a block has been added to the blockchain will the miner be rewarded with bitcoins, and this is the only way new bitcoins can be generated. The limit for bitcoins is 21 million; after this, no more bitcoins will be produced.

Benefits of Cryptocurrency

With cryptocurrency, the transaction cost is low to nothing at all—unlike, for example, the fee for transferring money from a digital wallet to a bank account. You can make transactions at any time of the day or night, and there are no limits on purchases and withdrawals. And anyone is free to use cryptocurrency, unlike setting up a bank account, which requires documentation and other paperwork.International cryptocurrency transactions are faster than wire transfers too. Wire transfers take about half a day for the money to be moved from one place to another. With cryptocurrencies, transactions take only a matter of minutes or even seconds.

What is Cryptography?

Cryptography is a method of using encryption and decryption to secure communication in the presence of third parties with ill intent—that is, third parties who want to steal your data or eavesdrop on your conversation. Cryptography uses computational algorithms such as SHA-256, which is the hashing algorithm that Bitcoin uses; a public key, which is like a digital identity of the user shared with everyone; and a private key, which is a digital signature of the user that is kept hidden.

The Future of Cryptocurrency

The world is clearly divided when it comes to cryptocurrencies. On one side are supporters such as Bill Gates, Al Gore and Richard Branson, who say that cryptocurrencies are better than regular currencies. On the other side are people such as Warren Buffet, Paul Krugman, and Robert Shiller, who are against it. Krugman and Shiller, who are both Nobel Prize winners in the field of economics, call it a Ponzi scheme and a means for criminal activities.

In the future, there’s going to be a conflict between regulation and anonymity. Since several cryptocurrencies have been linked with terrorist attacks, governments would want to regulate how cryptocurrencies work. On the other hand, the main emphasis of cryptocurrencies is to ensure that users remain anonymous.

Futurists believe that by the year 2030, cryptocurrencies will occupy 25 percent of national currencies, which means a significant chunk of the world would start believing in cryptocurrency as a mode of transaction. It’s going to be increasingly accepted by merchants and customers, and it will continue to have a volatile nature, which means prices will continue to fluctuate, as they have been doing for the past few years.

That wraps up our cryptocurrency tutorial. If you’d like to learn more about blockchain (the underlying technology of cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin), check out Simplilearn’s Blockchain Basics Course. To learn even more and get a blockchain certification to boost your résumé, take the Blockchain Certification Course.

If you have any questions in the article “what is cryptocurrency”, please ask your questions in the comment section below. Our experts will get back to you at the earliest.

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