LONDON (Reuters) – Bitcoin hit another record near $ 16,000 in the Luxembourg-based Bitstamp exchange on Thursday after earning more than $ 4,000 in just 48 hours, stoking concerns that a rapidly inflating bubble could exploit.
There were large disparities between the prices in different bags. In GDAX, one of the largest, the price reached $ 19,500.
These are some facts you may not know about the largest and best-known cryptocurrency.
HOW MANY ARE THERE?
The supply of Bitcoin is limited to 21 million, a number expected to be reached around the year 2140. So far, around 16.7 million bitcoins have been released in the system, with 12.5 new launches approximately every 10 minutes through a process called "mining", in which a global computer network competes to solve complex algorithms in reward for the new bitcoins.
These mining computers require a large amount of energy to operate. As the price increases, more miners enter the market, further increasing energy consumption. A recent calculation made by the technology news site Motherboard calculated that the energy cost of a single bitcoin transaction is 215 kilowatt-hours, assuming there are around 300,000 bitcoin transactions per day. That's almost enough energy as the average American household consumes in a whole week.
BITS OF BITCOIN
If you want to buy bitcoin, you do not need to buy a complete one. The smallest unit of Bitcoin is a Satoshi, named for the elusive cryptocurrency creator, Satoshi Nakamoto. A Satoshi is one hundred millionth of bitcoin, so it's worth around $ 0.0002 at current exchange rates.
Bitcoin has performed better than all currencies issued by the central bank in all years since 2011, except in 2014, when it performed worse than any traditional currency. So far in 2017, it is more than 1,400 percent. If I had bought $ 1,000 of bitcoin in early 2013 and would never have sold any of that, I would now have about $ 120 million. Many people consider that bitcoin is more a speculative instrument than a currency, due to its volatility, high transaction fees and the fact that relatively few traders accept it.
More than 980,000 bitcoins have been stolen from exchanges, either by hackers or experts. That's a total of more than $ 15 billion at current exchange rates. Few have been recovered.
Despite many attempts to find the creator of bitcoin, and a series of affirmations, we still do not know who Satoshi Nakamoto is or what he was. Australian computer scientist and businessman Craig Wright convinced some prominent members of the bitcoin community that he was Nakamoto in May 2016, but then refused to provide the evidence that the majority of the community said was necessary. It is not clear if Satoshi Nakamoto, it is supposed to be a pseudonym, was a name used by a group of developers or by an individual. It is also not clear that Nakamoto is still alive: the name of the late computer scientist Hal Finney is sometimes mentioned. Developer Nick Szabo has denied claims that he is Nakamoto, as tech entrepreneur Elon Musk has recently done.
INFLATED CHINESE COMMERCE
Until the beginning of this year, it was thought that Chinese exchanges accounted for about 90 percent of the volume of operations. But it has become clear that some exchanges inflated their volumes through so-called washing operations, repeatedly exchanging nominal amounts of bitcoin between the accounts. Since the Chinese authorities imposed the transaction fees, Chinese trade volumes have fallen sharply, and now represent less than 20 percent, according to data from the Bitcoinity website.
The total value of all bitcoins released in the system so far has reached as high as $ 283 billion. That makes its total value – sometimes called its "market capitalization" – greater than that of Visa, and greater than the market capital of BlackRock and Citigroup combined.
Bitcoin is far from being the only cryptocurrency. Now there are more than 1,000 rivals, according to the Coinmarketcap trade website.
It is already possible to shorten the bitcoin in several platforms and retail exchanges, through contracts for difference (CFD), negotiation of leveraged margins or borrowing bitcoin from exchanges without leverage. But several large financial institutions, including CME Group, CBOE and Nasdaq, have recently announced that they will offer bitcoin futures, which will open up the possibility of reducing the cryptocurrency to the universe of conventional professional investment.
THE LOST BITCOINS
Many less than the 16.7 bitcoins that have been extracted are currently in circulation and are accessible, due to forgotten passwords, accidental losses, hoarding, owners forgetting coins or even dying. It is impossible to know with certainty how many bitcoins have been lost permanently, because those that are still in the system, in inactive addresses. But according to a December 2013 research paper from the University of San Diego and George Mason University, 64 percent of the 12 million bitcoins that had been mined at that time had never been spent. The Bitcoin developer, Sergio Lerner, estimates that almost 1 million unused bitcoins belong to the mysterious creator of the cryptocurrency.
There are 5,638,155 bitcoins in the 1,000 largest portfolios: more than a third of all bitcoins in circulation. That makes the 1,000 largest holders of wallets worth $ 87 billion collective, at current rates.
The average rate paid for processing bitcoin transactions has skyrocketed over the past year, surpassing even the staggering price increase of the same cryptocurrency. Every bitcoin transaction now costs around $ 7.30 to process, compared to 30 cents at the beginning of the year, according to the BitInfoCharts trading website.
If you owned bitcoins before August 1, 2017, you also own Bitcoin Cash, a cloning of the original. This is because on that date Bitcoin underwent a so-called "fork", in which the underlying software code was divided into two. A Bitcoin Cash unit is now worth more than $ 1,300. That adds approximately another 135 percent to the returns of a bitcoin investment at the beginning of the year.
Report of Jemima Kelly; edition by Mark Heinrich