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Other fans point to this growth in novel cryptocurrencies. Because of bitcoins maturity, and its focus on finance, if you want to buy some Ether, some Filecoins or any other cryptocurrency, its generally easiest to buy bitcoin together with your conventional currency and then exchange bitcoin for the cryptocurrency of your choice.

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Then theres the bubble argument. There, individuals argue that the majority of the price rise is due only to individuals buying bitcoin in the hope they can sell it later for a profit. A classic speculative bubble, some people will make a lot of money while others will eliminate everything. .

Few would argue that there isnt a good deal of speculation in the cryptocurrency marketplace. There are adverts on the London underground, and around Instagram and Facebook, encouraging viewers to invest in cryptocurrencies and, judging from the amount of money flowing in to the ecosystem, a great deal of people are taking up the offer. .

At some point, those people will get flighty and try to cash their gains. If enough do at once, the purchase price of bitcoin will take such a tumble that it is going to prompt a run and well see the timeless crash.

But the real question is not whether that will happen, however, when and just how large the crash is. Three times now, bitcoin has had boom-and-bust cycles that have seen enormous amounts of value destroyed, but have left the currency valued higher than it was before the previous boom began.

After the crash that followed, one coin was worth $120.) Its not a smooth ride but that doesnt mean its a entire bubble. .

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Since the bitcoin network has grown, its reach problems. For dull, technical reasons, the network as it had been initially designed struggles to deal with the amount of traffic that flows through it these days, leaving substantial flaws in the amount of time that it takes for a transaction to be confirmed.

In a normal, centralised, business, which wouldnt be an issue: just update the applications and continue on. However, a bitcoin upgrade requires convincing every single miner to take the new applications differently, the miners who take on running the older version are effectively running a completely different currency from people who have upgraded. .

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This can be known as a challenging fork, and for the first six years of bitcoins lifetime, it had been the nightmare each programmer tried to prevent. But recently, divisions among the community have become so try this fractious that multiple hard forks have occurred, all around how to deal with this traffic slowdown.

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With names like Bitcoin Classic, Bitcoin Unlimited, and Bitcoin Gold, each claims that it's the genuine heir to the original vision but using every fork, the playing field becomes more crowded.

Nothing is ruined with every fork: if you had 100 bitcoin before Bitcoin Cash split off, after the split you had 100 bitcoin and you'd 100 Bitcoin Cash. However, with every fork, the playing field becomes more crowded, more confusing for newcomers, and the overall reputation for (relative) stability becomes eroded.

It varies considerably. Some, such as JP Morgan Chase mind, Jamie Dimon, are extremely dismissive of the whole thing, arguing that the most properties of bitcoin that make it so appealing as a form of electronic gold will be why its doomed to remain a niche prospect. For Dimon and co workers, the volatility of its exchange rate, absence of any economic oversight to control monetary policy and absence of assistance in leading nation states mean bitcoin cant truly replace pounds and dollars and is consequently a failure. .

Few disagree with this conclusion, but some bankers point to other advantages of the technology. The blockchain concept, they say, might be useful in conventional banking too. Forget bitcoin itself and concentrate instead on the value of a dispersed ledger. Imagine if all the significant banks replaced their normal book-keeping with one mutual, but still closed, database Might that help cut down on fraud and ensure a more level playing field.

And then, of course, there are the advantages of bitcoin that conventional banking cant expect to compete - and doesnt want to. Can a shadow currency exist only on the back of drug dealing and cybercrime Quite possibly: Both are large businesses, and neither shows any sign of going away. .

Craig Wright, who promised to become Satoshi Nakamoto, the evasive bitcoin inventor. Photograph: Mark Harrison/PA

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Hes still a puzzle. The pseudonymous founder of bitcoin, Nakamoto appeared from nowhere in 2008 when he published the white paper that clarified his proposed More Help digital currency would get the job done. While he was active in the online community around bitcoin for the first two or three years of their currencies lifetime, he published less and less, making his final ever post on 12 December 2010. .

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