Bitcoin is a cryptocurrency, a digital asset that uses cryptography to control its creation and management rather than relying on central authorities. Originally designed as a medium of exchange, Bitcoin is now primarily regarded as a store of value. The history of bitcoin started with its invention and implementation by Satoshi Nakamoto, who integrated many existing ideas from the cryptography community. Over the course of bitcoin's history, it has undergone rapid growth to become a significant store of value both on- and offline. From the mid-2010s, some businesses began accepting bitcoin in addition to traditional currencies.
On the 4th of January 2008, the domain name bitcoin.org was registered. Later that year, on 31 October, a link to a paper authored by Satoshi Nakamoto titled Bitcoin: A Peer-to-Peer Electronic Cash System was posted to a cryptography mailing list. This paper detailed methods of using a peer-to-peer network to generate what was described as "a system for electronic transactions without relying on trust". On 3 January 2009, the bitcoin network came into existence with Satoshi Nakamoto mining the genesis block of bitcoin (block number 0), which had a reward of 50 bitcoins. Embedded in the coinbase of this block was the text: The Times 03/Jan/2009 Chancellor on brink of second bailout for banks
The text refers to a headline in The Times published on 3 January 2009. This note has been interpreted as both a timestamp of the genesis date and a derisive comment on the instability caused by fractional-reserve banking.
The first open source bitcoin client was released on 9 January 2009, hosted at SourceForge.
One of the first supporters, adopters, contributors to bitcoin and receiver of the first bitcoin transaction was programmer Hal Finney. Finney downloaded the bitcoin software the day it was released, and received 10 bitcoins from Nakamoto in the world's first bitcoin transaction on 12 January 2009 (bloc 170). Other early supporters were Wei Dai, creator of bitcoin predecessor b-money, and Nick Szabo, creator of bitcoin predecessor bit gold.
In the early days, Nakamoto is estimated to have mined 1 million bitcoins. Before disappearing from any involvement in bitcoin, Nakamoto in a sense handed over the reins to developer Gavin Andresen, who then became the bitcoin lead developer at the Bitcoin Foundation, the 'anarchic' bitcoin community's closest thing to an official public face.
A bitcoin faucet is a reward system, in the form of a website or software app, that dispenses rewards in the form of a satoshi, which is worth a hundredth of a millionth BTC, for visitors to claim in exchange for completing a captcha or task as described by the website. There are also faucets that dispense alternative cryptocurrencies. The first bitcoin faucet was called "The Bitcoin Faucet" and was developed by Gavin Andresen in 2010. It originally gave out five bitcoins per person.
The rewards are dispensed at various predetermined intervals of time as rewards for completing simple tasks such as captcha completion and as prizes from simple games. Faucets usually give fractions of a bitcoin, but the amount will typically fluctuate according to the value of bitcoin. Some faucets also have random larger rewards. To reduce mining fees, faucets normally save up these small individual payments in their own ledgers, which then add up to make a larger payment that is sent to a user's bitcoin address.
Because bitcoin transactions are irreversible and there are many faucets, they have become targets for hackers interested in stealing bitcoins. Advertisements are the main income source of bitcoin faucets. Faucets try to get traffic from users by offering free bitcoin as an incentive. Some ad networks also pay directly in bitcoin. This means that faucets often have a low profit margin. Some faucets also make money by mining altcoins in the background, using the user's CPU.
Taxation and regulation
In 2012, the Cryptocurrency Legal Advocacy Group (CLAG) stressed the importance for taxpayers to determine whether taxes are due on a bitcoin-related transaction based on whether one has experienced a "realization event": when a taxpayer has provided a service in exchange for bitcoins, a realization event has probably occurred and any gain or loss would likely be calculated using fair market values for the service provided."
In August 2013, the German Finance Ministry characterized bitcoin as a unit of account, usable in multilateral clearing circles and subject to capital gains tax if held less than one year.
On 5 December 2013, the People's Bank of China announced in a press release regarding bitcoin regulation that whilst individuals in China are permitted to freely trade and exchange bitcoins as a commodity, it is prohibited for Chinese financial banks to operate using bitcoins or for bitcoins to be used as legal tender currency, and that entities dealing with bitcoins must track and report suspicious activity to prevent money laundering. The value of bitcoin dropped on various exchanges between 11 and 20 percent following the regulation announcement, before rebounding upward again.
Arbitrary blockchain content
Bitcoin's blockchain can be loaded with arbitrary data. In 2018 researchers from RWTH Aachen University and Goethe University identified 1,600 files added to the blockchain, 59 of which included links to unlawful images of child exploitation, politically sensitive content, or privacy violations. "Our analysis shows that certain content, e.g. illegal pornography, can render the mere possession of a blockchain illegal."
Interpol also sent out an alert in 2015 saying that "the design of the blockchain means there is the possibility of malware being injected and permanently hosted with no methods currently available to wipe this data"