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.
Bitcoin (BTC) is the world’s first decentralized digital currency and payment system and is by far the most known and valuable cryptocurrency. It was created in 2009 by an anonymous person or group called Satoshi Nakamoto. Bitcoin enables transactions to be sent peer-to-peer without passing through a central authority. The transactions are recorded on a decentralized public ledger called the blockchain and each payment acquires a small transaction fee to cover the cost of the network. The total supply of Bitcoin is 21 million and it’s smallest unit of bitcoin is called a Satoshi, it’s a hundred millionth of a bitcoin – 0.00000001 BTC. The creation of Bitcoin’s is happening through mining. Miners have the task to validate transactions and keep the network secure. Their efforts are rewarded by new minted Bitcoins and transactions fees. Bitcoin can be exchanged for fiat or other cryptocurrencies, products and services. Over 100,000 merchants and vendors accepts bitcoin as a payment.
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.
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.