A type of cryptocurrency, Bitcoin is a digital currency created in January 2009 following the housing market crash. Bitcoin offers the promise of lower transaction fees than traditional online payment mechanisms and is operated by a decentralised authority, unlike government-issued currencies. There are no physical bitcoins, only balances kept on a public ledger that everyone has transparent access to, that – along with all Bitcoin transactions – is verified by a massive amount of computing power. Balances of Bitcoin tokens are kept using public and private "keys," which are long strings of numbers and letters linked through the mathematical encryption algorithm that was used to create them.
The public key (comparable to a bank account number) serves as the address which is published to the world and to which others may send bitcoins. The private key (comparable to an ATM PIN) is meant to be a guarded secret and only used to authorize Bitcoin transmissions.
Who created bitcoin
The identity of the person or persons who created the technology is still a mystery.
How does Bitcoin work
Each Bitcoin is basically a computer file which is stored in a 'digital wallet' app on a smartphone or computer. People can send Bitcoins (or part of one) to your digital wallet, and you can send Bitcoins to other people. Every single transaction is recorded in a public list called the blockchain. This makes it possible to trace the history of Bitcoins to stop people from spending coins they do not own, making copies or undo-ing transactions.
How to get Bitcoin
There are three main ways people get Bitcoins.
You can buy Bitcoins using 'real' money.
You can sell things and let people pay you with Bitcoins.
Or they can be created using a computer.
Is bitcoin safe?
Every transaction is recorded publicly so it's very difficult to copy Bitcoins, make fake ones or spend ones you don't own.
It is possible to lose your Bitcoin wallet or delete your Bitcoins and lose them forever. There have also been thefts from websites that let you store your Bitcoins remotely.
The value of Bitcoins has gone up and down over the years since it was created in 2009 and some people don't think it's safe to turn your 'real' money into Bitcoins.