What is Cryptocurrency? 

Here’s what to know about this increasingly popular digital currency before getting involved


Although there are thousands of kinds of cryptocurrencies available now, only 13 – including bitcoin, the first “crypto” to be built – are actively traded on sales.


  • Cryptocurrencies are digital investments that are built and run on a blockchain.
  • Bitcoin and ethereum are two famous cryptocurrencies, but there are numerous others.
  • Investing in cryptos can be incredibly risky, and the underlying technology is very unique.


Cryptocurrencies are digital assets that you can purchase, trade, and use to buy goods. People and institutions create cryptocurrencies for various causes, but they typically share a few typical characteristics.

Some are Chainlink, Bitcoin Cash, and Ethereum Classic

Learning how cryptocurrencies work, who makes and controls them, and why you might like to buy cryptocurrencies is significant for traders. While there may be possibilities to build wealth, there’s a lot of risks concerned with crypto funding, and you must be conscious of scams.


How do cryptocurrencies work?

While there are thousands of cryptos, multiple with special traits, they all manage to work in identical ways. It’s hard to avoid some jargon when concerning cryptos, but the concepts can be fairly easy to understand.


They use blockchain technology

A cryptocurrency’s blockchain is a digital ledger of all the transactions involving that crypto. Copies of the blockchain are kept and maintained by computers accross the world. They’re frequently compared to general ledgers, part of traditional double-entry bookkeeping systems where each transaction directs to a debit and recognition in different areas of the books.


“It works like a general ledger — it’s that simple,” says David Donovan, executive vice president, economic services, at the digital consulting firm Publicis Sapient. Maybe you start with two coins and transmit one to someone. “On the blockchain, it would say I’m dispatching you one coin, and I now own one coin, and you keep one coin.”

Each group of transactions is bent into a block and chained to the current ledger. Once a partnership is added it can’t be changed or altered — which exists why people tell blockchains as “immutable.”


Some cryptos keep their blockchain. For example, there are Bitcoin and Ethereum blockchains. But few cryptos are created on top of a current blockchain sooner than beginning from zero.


The blockchains are decentralized


Cryptocurrencies are differentiated from fiat currencies, such as the US dollar because they’re not given or approved by a government. In fact, no single person, organization, or government owns a crypto’s blockchain. Rather, they’re run by a decentralized network of computers across the world.


The absence of central control can also create cryptocurrencies safer. “It’s hack-proof because there’s no one major point of failure,” describes Donovan. But who determines which transactions get added to per block?


Coming to consensus

Cryptocurrencies generally use one of two means to create a system of trust and choose which transactions are good and counted to their blockchain:


  • Proof of work. This depends on individuals around the world, known as miners, contending to be the first to crack complex cryptographic riddles and count the next league to the blockchain. The champions are paid after the different members of the network ensure that the needed amount of computing capacity was used to discover the solution. “The route you make sure all the participants are validating the trades is the challenging work, action, and money they’re paying cracking the problem,” says Donna Parisi, international head of economic services and FinTech at Shearman & Sterling. Nevertheless, proof-of-work methods require a lot of energy to power.


  • Proof of stake. This is a unique and less energy-intensive means. “Proof of stake is they validate transactions on the blockchain by people placing value on the line,” describes Parisi. “They stake some of the money they own to make sure they only validate actual transactions.”


Transactions are general but pseudonymous

Cryptocurrencies also include another illustrative quality. The blockchains are general ledgers, which suggests anyone can see and check the transactions that happened. However, they can even deliver a degree of obscurity.


“You have a private key, which is how you create transactions, and a public key, which is how individual places you in the market,” says Donovan.


A blockchain’s transactions are linked to a crypto wallet’s public key, but nobody necessarily understands who holds that wallet. This is why cryptos are often portrayed as pseudonymous — the general key is a person’s alias.


How many cryptocurrencies are there?


According to the Market prediction, there lived more than 8,000 additional cryptocurrencies with an international market worth of about $2.24 trillion as of Dec. 12, 2021.


Bitcoin, the first cryptocurrency, was established in 2009 as an alternative type of decentralized and digital money. Since then, individuals have also made cryptocurrencies that serve additional functions or are created for distinct types of transactions.


“Cryptocurrencies can include many additional uses,” says Parisi. “Some are used in gaming events to gain prizes in a game, while others lower payments. They are created for cross-border remittances … some are designed for micropayments.”


For example, stablecoins are a type of cryptocurrency that tries to have a steady and set exchange momentum with another asset, such as the US dollar. Governance tokens are another illustration of a technical cryptocurrency. They give token holders voting control in a connected crypto project.


The financial takeaway

While cryptocurrency funding is a hotly discussed topic, it’s worth comprehending what’s running on so you can create an educated decision. If you choose to get created, you could totally jump in or just dip your toe.


“Learn about crypto by extending up wallets, accounts, trading currencies, and understanding more about the use cases,” says Parisi. “But do it well. We’re still in the early days, and principles of crypto is still developing.”


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