Bitcoin: The next big thing. Imagine a currency that is free from any government restrictions! Imagine a virtual currency that you can use to buy anything off the Internet. No more carrying cash! No more remembering your credit card passwords! Wow! Doesn't it sound too good to be true?

"Bitcoin is a techno tour de force." - Bill Gates

“It's money 2.0, a huge huge huge deal.” - Chamath Palihapitya (venture capitalist)

But wait something doesn't seem right. Bitcoin seems a bit too perfect... a bit too utopian right? Well yes, it certainly does. Bitcoin has been one of the most polarizing topics recently. Some see Bitcoin as the "next Internet" while others see it as a giant bubble just about to burst. Everywhere you go, there is a certain amount of hype about this new "virtual currency". After all, if this thing really takes off, it will change our future forever. And yes, much like the Internet, it would be open to everyone.


What is Bitcoin?

Bitcoin is a digital currency that is generated using a computer program and can be converted into cash by depositing it into a virtual wallet. The transactions that are made using this currency are independent of any bank or government.


How did it begin?

Unlike Bill Gates or the charismatic Steve Jobs, the inventor of Bitcoin is rather a reclusive personality. Satoshi Nakamoto, the man behind the digital currency doesn't like to reveal himself to the public. Very little is known about him and his whereabouts. According to Nakamoto, he started working on Bitcoin since 2007. In 2008, he published a paper on The Cryptography Mailing List at metzdowd.com describing the functioning of Bitcoin digital currency. Then, in the following year, Bitcoin's first version was released to the public as open-source software.

From then on, began the rapid growth of this open-source digital currency. In 2011, Wikileaks, Free Software Foundation and many others foundations began to accept donations in Bitcoin. In 2013, many hosting companies and online merchants were accepting payments in Bitcoins.

But, but, but. There's a catch here. Bitcoin, despite its soaring growth, has attracted a huge amount of controversy. This is mainly because it's a decentralized mode of commerce, thus escaping from the clutches of tight government regulations, which are many times fair and sometimes downright evil. The main source of this controversy is the fact that Bitcoin has no central authority, and countries fear, especially those like China, that Bitcoin can facilitate a new world order wherein the global economic control is disrupted.

“Right now Bitcoin feels like the Internet before the browser.” - Wences Casares, Technology Entrepreneur



How does it work?


Once you download the Bitcoin software client, you can generate a set of unique keys without the help of any external resources. These keys can then be used to exchange Bitcoins with other users by mathematically linking your keys with theirs. You can have two or more keys. One can be a public key and others can be private keys. The public keys can be shared with anyone on the Internet for accepting payments, much like using a PayPal address.



Is it just another bubble?

Probably yes, probably no. Bitcoin, as far as a currency is concerned, is a utopia for consumers and merchants. It's completely decentralized and doesn't fall into the clutches of the governments. That's why many governments are scared of it. It has a potential to create a major disruption in the world economy. 


Open Source Software Revolution?

If Bitcoin really makes it, it will be a huge revolution, probably a bigger revolution than Linux itself. It will set a big role model for future technology enthusiasts about the power of open-source software. Open-source, slowly but steadily is spreading its wings into the technology of the future. Be it Android's dominance in the mobile market or the rise of Bitcoin, the future looks more open than we thought it would be.


Written by: Abhishek, a regular TechSource contributor and a long-time FOSS advocate.

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