Ten years of bitcoin is about more than boom, bubble and bust

Ten years of bitcoin is about more than boom, bubble and bust

This weekend will mark the 10th anniversary of the very first transaction involving bitcoin. A decade later the future of bitcoins and the host of the so-called cryptocurrencies that it spawned is still uncertain.

On 12 January 2009, someone who called themselves Satoshi Nakamoto sent 10 bitcoins to a US software engineer, Hal Finney (they may, some believe, have been one and the same). The coins were virtually worthless and it took more than two years before the first exchange of bitcoins for goods – 10,000 bitcoin for two pizzas worth about $US30 ($42) – occurred.

For most of their history cryptocurrencies have been a curiosity, a peer-to-peer anti-establishment version of digital cash that was more of a concept than a functioning currency.

Bitcoin was borne in the midst of the financial crisis during a period of mistrust of financial institutions, central banks, governments and the financial system more broadly. Its acolytes — and there are passionate true believers (some might say anarchists) — see it displacing fiat currencies, undermining the authority of governments and erasing borders.

Initially its primary usage was within the dark web and, in particular, the notorious and now-defunct Silk Road marketplace for all things illegal. To some extent cryptocurrencies remain a medium of exchange for illegal activity, particularly money laundering.

Early cryptocurrency exchanges established to facilitate trading of the digital currencies also attracted illegal activity, with a series of exchanges hacked and the digital money ‘’stolen.’’

For whatever reason, in 2017 the concept of cryptocurrencies captured mainstream attention and excitement. Having started the year worth less than $US1000, the value of bitcoins, and other digital currencies, soared.

 

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