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Other fans point to the 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 usually easiest to buy bitcoin with your conventional currency and then exchange bitcoin for the cryptocurrency of your selection.

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Then theres no bubble argument. There, individuals argue that the vast majority of the price rise is due simply to people buying bitcoin in the expectation they can sell it later for a profit. A classic speculative bubble, some individuals will create a lot of money while some are going to lose everything. .

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

At some point, those individuals will get flighty and try to cash out their gains. If enough do at once, the price of bitcoin will take this kind of fall that it will prompt a run and well see the classic crash.

But the actual question is not whether that will happen, however, when and just how big the crash is. Three times now, bitcoin has had boom-and-bust cycles that have seen vast amounts of worth ruined, but have left the currency valued higher than it had been before the previous boom began.

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

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

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

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This is known as a challenging fork, and for its first six years of bitcoins lifetime, it was the nightmare every programmer tried to prevent. But recently, divisions among the community have come to be so fractious that numerous hard forks have occurred, all around how to deal with this traffic slowdown.

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With names such as Bitcoin Classic, Bitcoin Unlimited, and Bitcoin Gold, every claims that it's the true heir to the original vision but with every branch, the playing field becomes more crowded.

Nothing is destroyed with every branch: if you had 100 bitcoin before Bitcoin Cash split off, following the split you still had 100 bitcoin and you had 100 Bitcoin Cash. However, with each branch, the playing field gets more crowded, more confusing for newcomers, and the overall reputation for (relative) stability becomes eroded.

It varies considerably. Some, like JP Morgan Chase head, Jamie Dimon, are really dismissive of the entire thing, arguing that the very properties of bitcoin which make it so appealing as a kind of electronic gold are why its doomed to remain a niche prospect. For Dimon and co workers, the volatility of its exchange rate, lack of any economic oversight to control monetary policy and absence of assistance from leading nation states mean bitcoin cant ever truly replace pounds and dollars and is consequently a failure. .

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

And then, obviously, there are the advantages of bitcoin that conventional banking cant expect to compete with company website - and doesnt want to. Can a shadow currency exist purely on the rear of drug dealing and cybercrime Quite possibly: both are large businesses, and neither shows any sign of going away. .

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

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Hes still a puzzle. The pseudonymous founder of bitcoin, Nakamoto looked out of nowhere in 2008 when he published the white paper that described how his proposed digital currency would work. While he was active in the online community around bitcoin for its first two or three years of their currencies life, he posted less and less, making his last ever post on 12 December 2010. .

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