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Bitcoin [a] () is a digital and global money system cryptocurrency. It allows people to send or receive cryptocurrency units across the internet, even to someone they don't know or don't trust. It is the first of its kind technology that allows the transfer of digital scarcity across the internet without needing a third party. Cryptocurrency units can be exchanged without being linked to a real identity. The mathematical field of cryptography is the basis for Bitcoin's security.

Bitcoin was invented by someone using the name Satoshi Nakamoto.[14] A Bitcoin address, or simply address, is an identifier of 26-35 letters and numbers, beginning with the number 1, 3, or bc1, that represents a possible destination for a bitcoin payment. Addresses can be generated at no cost by any user of Bitcoin. For example, using Bitcoin Core, one can click “New Address” and be assigned an address. It is also possible to get a Bitcoin address using an account at an exchange or online wallet service.

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The domain name “bitcoin.org” was registered on 18 August 2008.[15] On 31 October 2008, a link to a paper authored by Satoshi Nakamoto titled Bitcoin: A Peer-to-Peer Electronic Cash System[4] was posted to a cryptography mailing list.[16]

In June 2021, El Salvador became the first country in the world to make Bitcoin a legal tender.[17] In April 2022, the Central African Republic made bitcoin a legal tender.[18]

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One of the differences between using bitcoin and using regular money online is that bitcoin can be used without having an internet connection to link any sort of real-world identity to it. Unless someone chooses to link their name to a bitcoin address, it is hard to tell who owns the address. Bitcoin does not keep track of users; it keeps track of addresses where the money is. Each address has two important pieces of cryptographic information, or keys: a public one and a private one.

The public key, which is what the “bitcoin address” is created from, is similar to an email address; anyone can look it up and send bitcoins to it. The private address, or private key, is similar to an email password; only with it can the owner send bitcoins from it. Because of this, it is very important that this private key is kept secret. To send bitcoins from an address, you prove to the network that you own the private key that belongs to the address, without revealing the private key. This is done with a branch of mathematics known as public-key cryptography.

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