In the case of Bitcoin, miners run computer programs to verify the data that creates a complete transaction history of all Bitcoin. A technology known as the blockchain, which is used to create irreversible and traceable transactions, makes the process of verification possible. Once a miner has verified the data (which comes in a block, hence, blockchain), they are rewarded with some amount of digital currency, the same currency for which they were verifying the transaction history. So mining Bitcoin, for example, would earn you Bitcoin.
Bitcoin is the world’s first virtual digital currency underpinned by a completely decentralized blockchain technology also known as the Distributed Ledger Technology (DLT). Bitcoin was first created in 2009 by an anonymous identity of Satoshi Nakamoto. Bitcoin allows for peer-to-peer transactions and is completely free of any third-party involvement like financial institutions or central banks. The Bitcoin’s blockchain network maintains a history of all the transactions made and facilitates instant funds transfer with minimal transaction fees required to cover the cost of network operation. The total supply of Bitcoin is fixed at 21 million coins and its smallest fractional unit is called as Satoshi. Each Satoshi is a hundred millionth of a Bitcoin which means 100,000,000 Santoshi = 1 BTC. Bitcoins are generated by a process known as ‘mining’ which involves solving of complex mathematical algorithms. The miners involved in the mining process look after the Bitcoin network security and validate each transactions taking place on the network. Bitcoin can be exchanged with other digital currencies or fiat currencies. Bitcoin is used as a means of payment by over 100,000 vendors and merchants.
Coinbase requires you to link a bank account, or credit or debit card to your Coinbase account to purchase cryptocurrencies. Using a bank account allows for higher limits ($100/transaction, $2,500/week), but it also takes longer to verify transactions, so you will not see money in your Coinbase wallet for two to four days (depending on your bank). And when selling Bitcoin, once the sale is confirmed, it takes two to four days for the proceeds of that sale to show up in your bank account. With a credit or debit card, limits are lower ($200/week), but you can purchase digital currencies by simply transferring funds from that bank account to the site. For these transactions, Bitcoin shows up in your Coinbase wallet instantaneously. You can also sell Bitcoin to your PayPal account, effectively cashing out, as your Bitcoin will be exchanged for local currency. This transaction, too, is instantaneous.
Cryptocurrencies are experiencing a moment of unprecedented attention and speculation for several reasons. 1) The value of Bitcoin has been steadily climbing through 2017, with Ether seemingly poised to overtake the cryptocurrency giant any day; 2) Blockchain technology has purposes above and beyond cryptocurrency, and has been hailed by some as the backbone of the future financial system; 3) The increasing number of people who see cryptocurrency as a form of investment similar to gold. If cryptocurrencies stabilize in value, buying Bitcoin or Ether has the potential to be a worthy venture.
Coinbase has two core products: a Global Digital Asset Exchange (GDAX) for trading a variety of digital assets on its professional asset trading platform, and a user-facing retail broker of Bitcoin, Bitcoin Cash, Ether, Ethereum Classic, and Litecoin for fiat currency. It also offers an API for developers and merchants to build applications and accept payments in both digital currencies. As of 2018, the company offered buy/sell trading functionality in 32 countries, while the cryptocurrency wallet was available in 190 countries worldwide. On March 26, 2018, Coinbase announced their intention to add support for ERC-20 tokens.