Bitcoin (BTC) is one of the first cryptocurrencies to rise to popularity. Invented in 2008, Bitcoin is now the largest cryptocurrency by market share. As of June 2017, BTC has a market of nearly $40 Billion US Dollars. The only other cryptocurrency to come close to this is Ethereum.
As a cryptocurrency, Bitcoin is a store of value that is becoming more and more generally accepted. Online stores and eCommerce businesses are more likely to accept BTC for payment. However, there are also brick and mortar stores that have taken to accepting the cryptocurrency.
You can purchase and invest in BTC through the following means:
Dealers buy and sell BTC, and provide liquidity to the market. These dealers make profit through the spread between their bid and ask price. By buying through a dealer, you will most likely pay a slightly higher fee than the current market rate.
Exchanges are automated, digital marketplaces that connect BTC buyers with BTC sellers. There are many different backend Exchanges and even many more frontend/UI Exchanges. Because of the variety of Exchanges available, there will generally be slightly different market rates for Bitcoin. For example, the GDAX which is the backend exchange used by the frontend exchange Coinbase has lower prices than the backend exchange that supports CEX.io.
Finally, local purchases are increasingly common. There are websites that act as “craigslists” or “eBays” that connect local users willing to trade their Bitcoin for local currency.
As more people accept Bitcoin as an accepted form of payment, its value increases. There is a fixed supply of Bitcoin in the market. In fact, the blockchain network and protocols that support Bitcoin state that there can only ever be 21 million Bitcoin in existence. It is expected that all available Bitcoin will circulate into the market by 2140. Because of this fixed nature, Bitcoin’s value is heavily affected by its demand.
Bitcoin’s value is currently quite volatile. Much like stocks, it is affected by news in the market. As of mid-2017, there are talks of regulating Bitcoin in certain countries. Because of this, and the expectation of reduced liquidity, Bitcoin’s value has been stagnating compared to its past rallies. As of press date, BTC trades at approximately $2,490 per BTC.
Because of the growing popularity of BTC, several new cryptocurrencies have been created to attempt to penetrate the market. Bitcoin’s strongest contender is Ethereum, followed by other cryptocurrency known as alternative coins, or Altcoins.