If you want to trade in digital currencies, you are going to need a platform on which to trade them, and an intermediary to communicate with the network. Coinbase is a global digital asset exchange company (GDAX), providing a venue to buy and sell digital currencies, as well as send information about those transactions out to the blockchain network to verify those transactions. Coinbase serves as a wallet, too, where the digital currencies can be stored. The application operates exchanges of Bitcoin, Ethereum, Bitcoin Cash, and Litecoin, as well as other digital assets with fiat currencies in 32 countries, and Bitcoin transactions in many more countries. According to its website, Coinbase has served over 10 million customers and facilitated the exchange of more than $50 billion worth of digital currency.
Despite the intricate technology associated with and necessary for cryptocurrency investing, speculation and possession, Coinbase has created an apparatus that makes this process remarkably easy and familiar, almost like buying and selling stocks. This screenshot from the Coinbase site shows real-time cryptocurrency prices and doesn't look too different from your ordinary online stock tracker.
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.
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.