Yeah. Soon to be filthy rich losers…
Get this: anyone who invested £300 in Bitcoin six years ago will now be sitting on a cool £13.8 million. If you did exactly that and are currently reading this over a glass of Armand De Brignac aboard your 100ft superyacht, then bully for you. If, however, you don't understand what Bitcoin is, let alone know how to get hold of any, it's time to gen up. There could well be more money to be made and chances are that someone you know has already bought in. Got fomo? Here's a quick-start guide...
What is Bitcoin?
Bitcoin is a digital currency whose every coin and transaction is tracked on a huge database called the blockchain. Rather than existing in one place, this database is held by all Bitcoin users. Like any currency, it has a value in terms of others - dollars or pounds - and, as people have become interested in its potential, Bitcoin's value has soared. It has been the best-performing currency globally every year since 2010 (apart from 2014 when it was, err, the worst).
How to buy Bitcoin?
Good news: you don't have to buy a whole Bitcoin - at the time of publishing this, that would cost you £3,360. Instead, you can snap up as tiny a fraction of one as you please. The most user-friendly method is to download a free mobile app called Coinbase. You can transfer local currency to your Coinbase "wallet" via a credit or debit card and buy or sell Bitcoin at the click of a button for a small fee. Coinbase also lets you invest in two rising-star "alt-coins": Ethereum and Litecoin.
These are cryptocurrencies other than Bitcoin and there are hundreds of them. Some have been set up as a joke, such as Dogecoin (because of geeky internet memes), but others - including Monero, Ripple and Dash - have the potential to go far. Ethereum, which recently won backing from Microsoft and JP Morgan Chase, is up 900 percent this year.
What are the risks of buying cryptocurrency?
Buying cryptocurrency is a crapshoot. It's highly volatile: the last time the US stock market fell by more than ten percent in a day was back in 1957; Bitcoin has seen more than ten percent wiped off its value 38 times since January 2012. A cryptocurrency could also be obliterated overnight. Should major governments regulate hard against it or hackers manage to break its security, that's your money up in smoke. What's more, criminals have been stealing from online wallets (though that is avoidable: keep your cryptocurrency offline if you own a significant amount).
How much could I make?
Depends on who you listen to. The doom-mongers say that we're in a cryptocurrency bubble that's about to burst (indeed, the market took a steep downturn recently), while others believe a single Bitcoin could be worth $500,000 by 2030. A handful of GQ staffers have already made a small profit (count that as our full disclosure). If you end up hitting pay dirt, make ours a double.
A brief history of Bitcoin
Since the creation of the first Bitcoin in 2009, the cryptocurrency has had a roller-coaster ride. Herewith, a timeline...
June 2011: WikiLeaks begins to accept Bitcoin for donations
February 2012: Bitcoin Magazine launches
June 2012: Bitcoin exchange Coinbase opens
September 2012: Bitcoin Foundation starts ups
December 2014: Microsoft begins accepting Bitcoin for games and apps
January 2015: Coinbase raises $75M in venture capital funding
November 2016: Swiss rail operator SBB upgrades ticket machines to sell Bitcoin
August 2016: 120,000 Bitcoins stolen by hackers from the Bitfinex exchange
April 2017: Japan makes Bitcoin a legal currency
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