Bitcoin

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The grand champion of cryptocurrencies
Bitcoin (BTC) is the granddaddy of cryptocurrencies, continues to hold the largest market share as of November 2017, and has reached a value of greater than 8000 USD. It's the cryptocurrency that most people have heard of, and this acts as a double-edged sword. On the one hand, it's true that illegal and immoral activity is likely to take place with Bitcoin rather than Ethereum or Litecoin, but, on the other, it has the longest track record of stability, usability, reliability, and legitimacy. Although accusations continue to abound that cryptocurrencies are "a fad," that Bitcoin is "a scam," and so on, the Verdict of CryptoCheck is that Bitcoin is unequivocally not a scamcoin or a shitcoin. With all that said, let's discuss Bitcoin.

Origins

Bitcoin began when an enterprising individual or group known only as "Satoshi" (there is a first name, as well, but it's rarely used) produced a [whitepaper] that rocked the world. The world was not taken back by the promise of turning an $80 investment into a $640,000 profit or any such thing. No, the whitepaper was remarkable because it was clear, concise, and sound; it proposed real solutions to extremely complex problems, some of which had gone unsolved for decades, centuries, or even millennia. There was no mention of "revolution" or "ground-breaking." It was rather modest, considering the brilliance it showed. Those interested in learning more about the technical brilliance of Bitcoin can do so, starting at Wikipedia: Bitcoin.

Bitcoin was not meant to make people money. It was not meant to be used as a stock, with people investing in it low and cashing out when it was high. It was meant to be a currency, a medium of exchange, a common good that is easily transferred from one person to the next and used to transfer wealth. That it has become an asset and has become stock-like in recent years speaks to how terrible current fiat currencies are and how poorly the stock market is performing compared to how it could be performing.

The value of Bitcoin currency has increased dramatically in the last year.
Progress was slow at first, and Bitcoin remained in the value range of pennies for a while, but steadily climbed. There have been so many developments with Bitcoin that an entire encyclopedia could itself be dedicated to them and explaining them, and most of them aren't important to the average user. The important takeaway is that Bitcoin is capable of evolving and changing years faster than government is able to react to it. Government is still trying to figure out how to stop magnet and torrent networks, while cryptography and anonymity have moved onto Tor, LBRY, and Bitcoin.

Problems

Bitcoin is without a doubt the biggest of the cryptocurrencies, and this is both its greatest strength and greatest weakness. A recent attempt to reach a consensus and upgrade the currency in order to solve several problems it has been facing proved to be a disaster, showcasing very well the problem of "too many cooks in the kitchen." We can expect many more hard forks in the coming years due to this. Note that CryptoCheck is not asking for the bogeyman centralization, but is saying that a hierarchy of authority and power appears to be necessary. This is why CryptoCheck's Aria DiMezzo has called for cryptocurrencies to begin using constitutions rather than whitepapers.

At any rate, Bitcoin has notoriously high fees, such that a user may end up having to pay 10% or more of the amount they wanted to send as the transaction fee in order to broadcast the payment to the network and have it processed and verified within a reasonable timeframe. Bitcoin transactions have been known to take several days to complete, while also costing the user 0.005 or more Bitcoin.

Small Quantities of Bitcoin

Cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin are divisible into very small units, currently allowing a person to sell 0.00000001 Bitcoin, a unit that is called "a satoshi." This isn't currently feasible, because of previously mentioned transaction fees, and those who currently control Bitcoin's direction seem to prefer it that way. The smallest useful amount of Bitcoin right now is 0.001. Bitcoin can be purchased and sold in these quantities, so it is not an "all or nothing" affair. Those new to cryptocurrencies can choose to buy 0.01 Bitcoin.

Controversy

There is tons surrounding it, naturally. Bitcoin is the go-to currency for immoral activity such as ransomware. Governments across the world have a vested interest in keeping cryptocurrencies down and throwing mud on them for a number of reasons that any anarchist or libertarian would gladly fill the curious person in regarding. Government are far more inclined to talk about Bitcoin's usage by ransomware creators than they are to talk about the financial autonomy and stability delivered by the very same currency.

2017 was a busy year for Bitcoin. In addition to seeing large increases in value, miners and developers have been working all year to solve the scalability problem--that as Bitcoin becomes more popular and more used, fees are increasing to the point that many people are unwilling to send Bitcoin, which creates artificially low supply. According to Peter Ver, this is being done intentionally to drive up Bitcoin's value and kill it as a currency, instead turning it into an asset. In simple terms, people holding 3,000 Bitcoin want Bitcoin's value to keep going up, and so they are allegedly doing things that will intentionally keep the network expensive and congested, which lowers the available supply relative to the demand. The plan was to introduce a new technology called "segwit" that would partially alleviate the problem, and then later to increase the block size from 1 MB to 2 MB, effectively doubling the number of transactions inside a block and thus halving people's transaction fees. This agreement was reached during the New York Agreement (NYA), but fell apart before the hard fork to Segwit2x occurred in November.

Additionally, Bitcoin Cash forked from the blockchain in August, and took the step of increasing the block size to 8 MB and foregoing SegWit. Because it made very minimal changes, it is the purest continuation of the blockchain, and thus many people refer to it as "the real Bitcoin." Bitcoin.com is among them, and refers to actual Bitcoin as "segwit." This gets unnecessarily confusing. "Segwit" is a name people use for Bitcoin because they are stubborn and don't want to call it "Bitcoin."

There is also Bitcoin Gold, which forked in November 2017. All of these are different currencies, though they use "Bitcoin" in the name because they are modified from Bitcoin or are otherwise continuations of the blockchain.

Noteworthy Hard Forks

  • Bitcoin Cash
  • Bitcoin Gold

Scam Warnings

Seeing the relative success of Bitcoin Gold, which had a value of nearly 400 USD on Thanksgiving of 2017, it was inevitable that people would create new currencies and Ethereum tokens that have "Bitcoin" in the name. A quick look at the Coinomi wallet reveals Bitcore and Bitsend, and a recent scamcoin called Bitcoin Silver had its ICO. Bitcoin Silver, of course, is an Ethereum token and has absolutely nothing to do with Bitcoin. As stated there, it is rather transparently attempting to borrow the Bitcoin name for credibility, and hoping to present itself as a contrast to Bitcoin Gold (which actually is a fork from Bitcoin, and not a scam).

Is Bitcoin Fiat?

"Fiat" means "by decree." What makes a currency fiat is that a government has decreed it will be the currency of the realm. It is not, and will probably never be, a fiat currency of any nation.

Investigation Results (24 Nov 2017)

Utility: Extremely Low
Stability: Moderate
Coinomi Support: Yes
Whitepaper Availability: Yes
Management Availability: Not centralized
Birth: January 2009
Death: Still Alive
Scamcoin Likelihood: Nil
Shitcoin Likelihood: Nil

Verdict

"Hindsight is 20/20" they say, but at this point we have 8 years of hindsight and a steady, exponential growth that suggest we have every reason to expect Bitcoin to continue climbing in value. Many people continue to say "I wish I'd gotten into it when it was $50" yet continue to not buy any. In two more years, they will probably be saying, "I wish I'd gotten into it when it was $50,000." Don't be one of these people. Don't wait on certainty. Bitcoin has had the longest life of any cryptocurrency and has survived its "death" as predicted by people thousands of times. We hope to one day see USD removed from the equation entirely, with Bitcoin being among the most widely accepted currencies, and it's more important to hold Bitcoin for that inevitability (blockchain technology has placed financial autonomy within our grasp) than it is to try to make a buck or two off it.

Grade

For exorbitant transaction fees and privacy issues.
Bitcoin boasts ridiculously high transaction fees, but also has severe problems with privacy. It is the personal opinion of Editor-In-Chief Aria DiMezzo that "Bitcoin now exists only for the miners." These exorbitant transaction fees destroy Bitcoin's utility as a currency by encouraging people to hold them and discouraging them from sending or spending them, which has systematically turned Bitcoin into an asset rather than a currency, thereby going against the core of what Bitcoin is supposed to be. Even with HD Wallets (those that assign new addresses each time coins are received), Bitcoin has a terribly privacy rating among those who are capable of assessing such things.

It is for these and other reasons that Bitcoin has been graded as B-.

References

Bitcoin's Whitepaper