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What is bitcoin and how does it work?

Bitcoin is a decentralised digital currency that you can buy, sell and exchange directly, without an intermediary like a bank. Each and every Bitcoin transaction that’s ever been made exists on a public ledger accessible to everyone, making transactions hard to reverse and difficult to fake. Core to their decentralised nature, Bitcoins aren’t backed by the government or any issuing institution.

Bitcoin is built on a distributed digital record called a blockchain. As the name implies, blockchain is a linked body of data, made up of units called blocks that contain information about each and every transaction, including date and time, total value, buyer and seller, and a unique identifying code for each exchange. Entries are strung together in chronological order, creating a digital chain of blocks.

Blockchain is not controlled by any one organization. “It’s like a Google Doc that anyone can work on,” says Buchi Okoro, CEO and co-founder of the African cryptocurrency exchange Quidax. “Nobody owns it, but anyone who has a link can contribute to it. And as different people update it, your copy also gets updated.”
 

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