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Frequently Asked Questions
What is Bitcoin?
Bitcoin is a distributed peer-to-peer digital currency that can be transferred instantly and securely between any two people in the world. It's like electronic cash that you can use to pay friends or merchants.
Who runs Bitcoin? What is the company behind Bitcoin?
In short, no one runs Bitcoin. Bitcoin is run collectively by the users who use the Bitcoin Client, and any changes to the Bitcoin system have to be approved by the majority of users before they are implemented.
Why use bitcoins?
It is fast, cheap and central governments can't take it away at the moment. There are also no chargebacks and greater security for merchants. Inflation is less likely to be a problem and there is greater privacy built into the system.
How much does a Bitcoin cost?
The current market price for a Bitcoin is always changing due to the supply and demand for it. Bitcoins are traded at Bitcoin Exchanges such as MtGox.com. A historical Bitcoin price chart can be found at: https://blockchain.info/charts/market-price
What is a private key?
A private key is a secret code which allows the user to prove his ownership of his Bitcoins. Every Bitcoin address has a matching private key, which is saved in the wallet file of the person who owns the balance. The private key is mathematically related to the Bitcoin address, and is designed so that the Bitcoin address can be calculated from the private key, but importantly, the same cannot be done in reverse.
Please keep your private keys safe, and make periodic backups to prevent the loss of Bitcoins. Anyone with your private keys can spend your Bitcoins!
How can I get bitcoins?
There are a variety of ways to acquire bitcoins:
- Accept bitcoins as payment for goods or services.
- The most common way to buy bitcoins are the Bitcoin Exchanges
- There are several services where you can trade them for traditional currency.
- Find someone to trade cash for bitcoins in-person through a local directory.
- Participate in a mining pool.
- If you have a lot of mining hardware, you can solo mine and attempt to create a new block (currently yields 25 bitcoins plus transaction fees).
- Visit sites that provide free samples and offers.
What is a Bitcoin Client?
Bitcoin clients are the base level of technology for conducting Bitcoin transactions, and they store the keys needed to conduct a Bitcoin transaction. They come in multiple flavors, and are customized to fit different niches.
The Bitcoin-QT Client (Downloadable at http://bitcoin.org/) is the original software written by Satoshi Nakamoto, the project's founder. If you aren't sure which program to pick, this is a good bet. It is suited for enthusiasts, merchants, miners, developers and people who want to help support the project.
The MultiBit Client (Downloadable at https://multibit.org/) is fast and easy to use, even for people with no technical knowledge. It is also able to import Blockchain.info's wallet backups, making it a versatile tool for all kinds of users.
The Electrum Client (Downloadable at http://electrum.org/) focuses at speed, with low resource usage and simplifying Bitcoin usage. Startup times are instant because it operates in conjunction with high-performance servers that handle the most complicated parts of the Bitcoin system.
Blockchain.info is also a form of Bitcoin client. We provide a web-based client with emphasis on speed, security, and ease of use.
Can I get real cash for my Bitcoins?
Absolutely. You only need to get linked up with a Bitcoin exchange. The most popular one is called Mt.Gox. It currently only takes new members based on an application, but several others are out there. These are your go-to destinations to buy Bitcoins from other people or to turn your digital Bitcoins into real, analog money.
What do I call the various denominations of bitcoin?
There is a lot of discussion about the naming of these fractions of bitcoins. The leading candidates are:
1 BTC = 1 bitcoin
0.01 BTC = 1 cBTC = 1 centibitcoin (also referred to as bitcent)
0.001 BTC = 1 mBTC = 1 millibitcoin (also referred to as mbit (pronounced em-bit) or millibit or even bitmill)
0.000 001 BTC = 1 μBTC = 1 microbitcoin (also referred to as ubit (pronounced yu-bit) or microbit)
The above follows the accepted international SI prefixes for hundredths, thousandths, and millionths. There are many arguments against the special case of 0.01 BTC since it is unlikely to represent anything meaningful as the Bitcoin economy grows (it certainly won't be the equivalent of 0.01 USD, GBP or EUR). Equally, the inclusion of existing national currency denominations such as "cent", "nickel", "dime", "pence", "pound", "kopek" and so on are to be discouraged; this is a worldwide currency.
One exception is the "satoshi" which is smallest denomination currently possible
0.000 000 01 BTC = 1 satoshi (pronounced sa-toh-shee)
which is so named in honour of Satoshi Nakamoto, the pseudonym of the inventor of Bitcoin.
Why does my Bitcoin address keep changing?
Unlike postal or email addresses, Bitcoin addresses are single-use. This means that whenever you want to receive a payment, you need to generate a new address.
While it is technically possible to receive coins multiple times with a single address, this compromises your wallet's security as well as the privacy of the entire Bitcoin network, and also makes it impossible to know for certain who sent the coins or why.