Bitcoin for Beginners
Welcome to the beginners guide for Bitcoin
You’ve probably been hearing a lot about Bitcoin recently and are wondering what’s the big deal? Most of your questions should be answered by the resources below but if you have additional questions feel free to ask them in the comments.
The following videos are a good starting point for understanding how bitcoin works and a little about its long term potential:
- Video 1: What Is Bitcoin & Why Should You Care?
- Video 2: The real value of bitcoin and crypto currency technology
- Video 3: Bitcoin Is Independent Money
- Video 4: Bitcoin 101 – Balaji Srinivasan
For some more great introductory videos check out Andreas Antonopoulos’s YouTube playlists, he is probably the best bitcoin educator out there today. Also have to give mention to James D’Angelo’s Bitcoin 101 Blackboard series. Lots of additional video resources can be found at the videos wiki page or /r/BitcoinTV.
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Key properties of bitcoin
- Limited Supply – There will only ever be 21,000,000 bitcoins created and they are issued in a predictable fashion, you can view the inflation schedule here. Once they are all issued Bitcoin will be truly deflationary. The halving countdown can be found here.
- Open source – Bitcoin code is fully auditable. You can read the source code yourself here.
- Accountable – The public ledger is transparent, all transactions are seen by everyone.
- Decentralized – Bitcoin is globally distributed across thousands of nodes with no single point of failure and as such can’t be shut down similar to how Bittorrent works.
- Censorship resistant – No one can prevent you from interacting with the bitcoin network and no one can censor, alter or block transactions that they disagree with, see Operation Chokepoint.
- Push system – There are no chargebacks in bitcoin because only the person who owns the address where the bitcoins reside has the authority to move them.
- Low fee – Transactions fees can vary between a few cents and a few dollars depending on network demand and how much priority you wish to assign to the transaction. Most wallets calculate the fee automatically but you can view current fees here.
- Borderless – No country can stop it from going in/out, even in areas currently unserved by traditional banking as the ledger is globally distributed.
- Trustless – Bitcoin solved the Byzantine’s Generals Problem which means nobody needs to trust anybody for it to work.
- Pseudonymous – No need to expose personal information when purchasing with cash or transacting.
- Secure – Encrypted cryptographically and can’t be brute forced or confiscated with proper key management such as hardware wallets.
- Programmable – Individual units of bitcoin can be programmed to transfer based on certain criteria being met
- Nearly instant – From a few seconds to a few minutes depending on need for confirmations. After a few confirmations transactions are irreversible.
- Peer-to-peer – No intermediaries with a cut, no need for trusted third parties.
- Portable – Bitcoins are digital so they are easier to move than cash or gold. They can even be transported by simply remembering a string of words for wallet recovery.
- Scalable – Each bitcoin is divisible down to 8 decimals allowing it to grow in value while still accommodating micro-transactions.
- Designed Money – Bitcoin was created to fit all the fundamental properties of money better than gold or fiat
Some excellent writing on Bitcoin’s value proposition and future can be found here. Bitcoin statistics can be found here, here and here. Developer resources can be found here and here. Peer-reviewed research papers can be found here. The number of times Bitcoin was declared dead by the media can be found here. Scaling resources here, and of course the whitepaper that started it all.
Where can I buy bitcoins?
BuyBitcoinWorldwide.com and Howtobuybitcoin.io are helpful sites for beginners. You can buy or sell any amount of bitcoin and there are several easy methods to purchase bitcoin with cash, credit card or bank transfer. Some of the more popular resources are below, also, check out the bitcoinity exchange resources for a larger list of options for purchases.
|Bank Transfer||Credit / Debit card||Cash|
Note: Bitcoins are valued at whatever market price people are willing to pay for them in balancing act of supply vs demand. Unlike traditional markets, bitcoin markets operate 24 hours per day, 365 days per year. Preev is a useful site that that shows how much various denominations of bitcoin are worth in different currencies. Alternatively you can just Google “1 bitcoin in (your local currency)”.
Securing your bitcoins
With bitcoin you can “Be your own bank” and personally secure your bitcoins OR you can use third party companies aka “Bitcoin banks” which will hold the bitcoins for you.
- If you prefer to “Be your own bank” and have direct control over your coins without having to use a trusted third party, there are many software wallet options here. If you want easy and secure storage without having to learn computer security best practices, then a hardware wallet such as the Trezor or Ledger is recommended. A more advanced option is to secure them yourself using paper wallets generated offline. Some popular mobile and desktop options are listed below and most are cross platform.
- If you prefer to let third party “Bitcoin banks” manage your coins, try Coinbase or Xapo but be aware you may not be in control of your private keys in which case you would have to ask permission to access your funds and be exposed to third party risk.
Another interesting use case for physical storage/transfer is the Opendime. Opendime is a small USB stick that allows you to spend Bitcoin by physically passing it along so it’s anonymous and tangible like cash.
Note: For increased security, use Two Factor Authentication (2FA) everywhere it is offered, including email!
2FA requires a second confirmation code to access your account, usually from a text message or app, making it much harder for thieves to gain access. Google Authenticator and Authy are the two most popular 2FA services, download links are below. Make sure you create backups of your 2FA codes.
Where can I spend bitcoins?
A more comprehensive list can be found at the Trade FAQ but some more commons ones are below.
|Gyft||Gift cards for hundreds of retailers including Amazon, Target, Walmart, Starbucks, Whole Foods, CVS, Lowes, Home Depot, iTunes, Best Buy, Sears, Kohls, eBay, GameStop, etc.|
|Steam, HumbleBundle, Games Planet, itch.io, g2g and kinguin||For when you need to get your game on|
|Microsoft||Xbox games, phone apps and software|
|Spendabit, The Bitcoin Shop, Overstock, DuoSearch, The Bitcoin Directory and BazaarBay||Retail shopping with millions of results|
|ShakePay||Generate one time use Visa cards in seconds|
|NewEgg and Dell||For all your electronics needs|
|Cashila, Bitwa.la, Coinbills, Piixpay, Bitbill.eu,||Bill payment|
|Foodler, Menufy, Takeaway, Thuisbezorgd NL, Pizza For Coins||Takeout delivered to your door!|
|Expedia, Cheapair, Lot, Destinia, BTCTrip, Abitsky, SkyTours, Fluege the Travel category on Gyft and 9flats||For when you need to get away|
|BoltVM, BitHost||VPS service|
|Cryptostorm, Mullvad, and PIA||VPN services|
|Namecheap, Porkbun||For new domain name registration|
|Stampnik and GetUSPS||Discounted USPS Priority, Express, First-Class mail postage|
|Reddit Gold||Premium membership which can be gifted to others|
There are several benefits to accepting bitcoin as a payment option if you are a merchant;
- 1-3% savings over credit cards or PayPal.
- No chargebacks (final settlement in 10 minutes as opposed to 3+ months).
- Accept business from a global customer base.
- Increased privacy.
- Convert 100% of the sale to the currency of your choice for deposit to your account, or choose to keep a percentage of the sale in bitcoin if you wish to begin accumulating it.
If you are interested in accepting bitcoin as a payment method, there are several options available;
- Mycelium Gear (direct to your wallet)
- Blockonomics (direct to your wallet)
Can I mine bitcoin?
Mining bitcoins can be a fun learning experience, but be aware that you will most likely operate at a loss. Newcomers are often advised to stay away from mining unless they are only interested in it as a hobby similar to folding at home. If you want to learn more about mining you can read more here.
If you want to contribute to the bitcoin network by hosting the blockchain and propagating transactions you can run a full node using this setup guide. Bitseed is an easy option for getting set up. You can view the global node distribution here.
Just like any other form of money, you can also earn bitcoins by being paid to do a job.
|WorkingForBitcoins, Bitwage, XBTfreelancer, Cryptogrind, Bitlancerr, Coinality, Bitgigs,||Freelancing|
|OpenBazaar, Purse.io, Bitify, /r/Bitmarket, 21 Market||Marketplaces|
|Watchmybit, Streamium.io, OTika.tv, XOtika.tv NSFW, /r/GirlsGoneBitcoin NSFW||Video Streaming|
|Bitasker, BitforTip, WillPayCoin||Tasks|
|Supload.com, SatoshiBox, JoyStream, File Army||File/Image Sharing|
|CoinAd, A-ads, Coinzilla.io||Advertising|
You can also earn bitcoins by participating as a market maker on JoinMarket by allowing users to perform CoinJoin transactions with your bitcoins for a small fee (requires you to already have some bitcoins)
The following is a short list of ongoing projects that might be worth taking a look at if you are interested in current development in the bitcoin space.
|Lightning Network, Amiko Pay, and Strawpay||Payment channels for network scaling|
|Blockstream and Drivechain||Sidechains|
|21, Inc.||Open source library for the machine payable web|
|ShapeShift.io||Trade between bitcoins and altcoins easily|
|Open Transactions, Counterparty, Omni, Open Assets, Symbiont and Chain||Financial asset platforms|
|Hivemind and Augur||Prediction markets|
|Mediachain||Decentralized media library|
|Tierion and Factom||Records & Titles on the blockchain|
|BitMarkets, DropZone, Beaver and Open Bazaar||Decentralized markets|
|Samourai and Dark Wallet – abandoned||Privacy-enhancing wallets|
|JoinMarket||CoinJoin implementation (Increase privacy and/or Earn interest on bitcoin holdings)|
|Coinffeine and Bitsquare||Decentralized bitcoin exchanges|
|Keybase and Bitrated||Identity & Reputation management|
|Bitmesh and Telehash||Mesh networking|
|JoyStream||BitTorrent client with paid seeding|
|MORPHiS||Decentralized, encrypted internet|
|Storj and Sia||Decentralized file storage|
|Streamium and Faradam||Pay in real time for on-demand services|
|Abra||Global P2P money transmitter network|
|bitSIM||PIN secure hardware token between SIM & Phone|
|Identifi||Decentralized address book w/ ratings system|
|Coinometrics||Institutional-level Bitcoin Data & Research|
|Blocktrail and BitGo||Multisig bitcoin API|
|Insight||Open source blockchain API|
|Leet||Kill your friends and take their money 😉|
One Bitcoin is quite large (hundreds of £/$/€) so people often deal in smaller units. The most common subunits are listed below:
|millibitcoin||mBTC||1,000 per bitcoin||SI unit for milli i.e. millilitre (mL) or millimetre (mm)|
|microbitcoin||μBTC||1,000,000 per bitcoin||SI unit for micro i.e microlitre (μL) or micrometre (μm)|
|bit||bit||1,000,000 per bitcoin||Colloquial “slang” term for microbitcoin|
|satoshi||sat||100,000,000 per bitcoin||Smallest unit in bitcoin, named after the inventor|
For example, assuming an arbitrary exchange rate of $500 for one Bitcoin, a $10 meal would equal:
- 0.02 BTC
- 20 mBTC
- 20,000 bits
For more information check out the Bitcoin units wiki.