Marketplace’s Molly Wood answers 5 questions about BITCOIN

Hey, I’m Molly Wood, host of Marketplace Tech, here to answer five questions about bitcoin. Bitcoin is an encrypted digital currency. It’s sometimes called a cryptocurrency. And it is a global payment system. But it’s built on top of this technology called blockchain, which is essentially a virtual ledger that keeps track of every transaction. And the ledger is publically distributed. So in theory, anyone can track the transactions to verify that they’re real. It’s a little hard to estimate how many people do own bitcoin because when you own it, it’s assigned to your digital bitcoin address, which is really just like an encryption key. And one person can have several addresses. The best guess is that between 2 to 4 million people own at least some fraction of bitcoin — maybe as high as 15 million people. One reason might be because so few people control so much. Any move by one of these bitcoin whales can have a huge impact on supply and price. It is utterly unregulated and has no real infrastructure to speak of. Bitcoin is real as a financial asset because people say it is. But as a cryptocurrency, it’s real because there’s a finite number of bitcoin and there’s a record of each one that’s created or mined. So compared to something like a hundred dollar bill, which has a serial number but can disappear for years, bitcoin is actually pretty real. The future is really less about bitcoin or any individual currency and more about this decentralized, computerized ledger technology. It requires no middleman, no gatekeeper — just computerized, traceable, verifiable transactions. And that is something that’s actually sometimes called the I’m Molly Wood. For more on bitcoin and all kinds of tech topics,

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