Although cryptocurrency has only been around for a short time, it’s already expanded into a wide, convoluted universe that can be difficult to understand for the uninitiated. But with Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies seeing wild fluctuations in price, there’s the opportunity for big gains… for those who can stomach the risk.
Digital platforms like Coinbase and Robinhood have made it significantly easier for people to invest in popular cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin. However, the process is still slightly more complex than acquiring a more traditional currency. If you’re interested in purchasing Bitcoin or another cryptocurrency, here’s what you should know.
What is Cryptocurrency?
There are thousands of different cryptocurrencies available today, and it can be tricky to nail them all down with a single definition. Broadly speaking, though, a cryptocurrency is a digital currency that is encrypted and often decentralized. Bitcoin, the first and most recognizable cryptocurrency by far, is based on blockchain technology, a permanent, decentralized ledger system.
While Bitcoin is the most popular and most valuable cryptocurrency out there, it’s led to the creation of thousands of alternatives, or altcoins. There are all different kinds of altcoins. Some are close variations of Bitcoin, like Bitcoin Cash or Bitcoin Diamond. Others focus on privacy, like Monero and ZCash. Some are named after Greek Gods (Apollo Currency), reptiles (Komodo) or even internet memes (Dogecoin). It’s a weird, wild world.
Most people only have interest in holding on to Bitcoin or another popular currency, Ethereum. Still, there are some speculators who attempt to buy low and sell high on more obscure cryptocurrencies. The hope is to get rich quick by getting in early on the next Bitcoin.
Regardless of what currency you invest in, the common denominator is volatility. Any cryptocurrency has value only as long as people perceive it to have value. While this is technically true of any currency, it’s more pertinent with cryptocurrencies because they aren’t backed by a government or a precious metal (like gold), as most currencies are. This makes it a much riskier investment, as many investors and speculators have learned the hard way.