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As the total number creeps toward the 21 million mark, many suspect the profits miners once made creating new blocks will become so low they'll become negligible. But with more bitcoins in circulation, people also expect transaction fees to rise, possibly making up the difference. One of the biggest moments for Bitcoin came in August When the digital currency officially forked and split in two: bitcoin cash and bitcoin.

Miners were able to seek out bitcoin cash beginning Tuesday August 1st , and the cryptocurrency-focused news website CoinDesk said the first bitcoin cash was mined at about p. Supporters of the newly formed bitcoin cash believe the currency will "breath new life into" the nearly year-old bitcoin by addressing some of the issues facing bitcoin of late, such as slow transaction speeds.

Bitcoin power brokers have been squabbling over the rules that should guide the cryptocurrency's blockchain network. On one side are the so-called core developers. They are in favor of smaller bitcoin blocks, which they say are less vulnerable to hacking.

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On the other side are the miners, who want to increase the size of blocks to make the network faster and more scalable. Until just before the decision, the solution known as Segwit2x, which would double the size of bitcoin blocks to 2 megabytes, seemed to have universal support.

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Then bitcoin cash came along. The solution is a fork of the bitcoin system. The new software has all the history of the old platform; however, bitcoin cash blocks have a capacity 8 megabytes. Bitcoin cash came out of left field, according to Charles Morris, a chief investment officer of NextBlock Global, an investment firm with digital assets.

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To be sure, only a minority of bitcoin miners and bitcoin exchanges have said they will support the new currency. Investors who have their bitcoin on exchanges or wallets that support the new currency will soon see their holdings double, with one unit in bitcoin cash added for every bitcoin. But that doesn't mean the value of investors' holdings will double. Because bitcoin cash initially drew its value from bitcoin's market cap, it caused bitcoin's value to drop by an amount proportional to its adoption on launch.

No one truly knows. Add to watchlist. Individuals must be able to reliably trade units of the currency for goods and services.

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This is a primary reason why currencies developed in the first place: so that participants in a market could avoid having to barter directly for goods. Utility also requires that currencies be easily moved from one location to another. Burdensome precious metals and commodities don't easily meet this stipulation.

Currencies must be easily transferred between participants in an economy in order to be useful. In fiat currency terms, this means that units of currency must be transferable within a particular country's economy as well as between nations via exchange. To be effective, a currency must be at least reasonably durable.

Coins or notes made out of materials that can easily be mutilated, damaged, or destroyed, or which degrade over time to the point of being unusable, are not sufficient. Just as a currency must be durable, it must also be difficult to counterfeit in order to remain effective. If not, malicious parties could easily disrupt the currency system by flooding it with fake bills, thereby negatively impacting the currency's value. To assess Bitcoin's value as a currency, we'll compare it against fiat currencies in each of the above categories.


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When Bitcoin was launched in , its developer s stipulated in the protocol that the supply of tokens would be capped at 21 million. To give some context, the current supply of bitcoin is around 18 million, the rate at which Bitcoin is released decreases by half roughly every four years, and the supply should get past 19 million in the year Changing the protocol would require the concurrence of a majority of the computing power engaged in Bitcoin mining , meaning that it is unlikely.

The approach to supply that Bitcoin has adopted is different from most fiat currencies. The global fiat money supply is often thought of as broken into different buckets, M0, M1 , M2 , and M3. M1 is M0 plus demand deposits like checking accounts. M2 is M1 plus savings accounts and small time deposits known as certificates of deposit in the United States.

M3 is M2 plus large time deposits and money market funds. Since M0 and M1 are readily accessible for use in commerce, we will consider these two buckets as mediums of exchange, whereas M2 and M3 will be considered as money being used as a store of value. As part of their monetary policy, most governments maintain some flexible control over the supply of currency in circulation, making adjustments depending upon economic factors.

This is not the case with Bitcoin. So far, the continued availability of more tokens to be generated has encouraged a robust mining community, though this is liable to change significantly as the limit of 21 million coins is approached. What exactly will happen at that time is difficult to say; an analogy would be to imagine the U. Fortunately, the last Bitcoin is not scheduled to be mined until around the year This can be seen with precious metals like gold.

Notably, 21 million bitcoins are vastly smaller than the circulation of most fiat currencies in the world. Fortunately, Bitcoin is divisible up to 8 decimal points. The smallest unit, equal to 0. This allows for quadrillions of individual units of Satoshis to be distributed throughout a global economy. One bitcoin has a much larger degree of divisibility than the U. While the U. It is this extreme divisibility that makes bitcoin's scarcity possible; if bitcoin continues to gain in price over time, users with tiny fractions of a single bitcoin can still take part in everyday transactions.

One of the biggest selling points of Bitcoin has been its use of blockchain technology. Blockchain is a distributed ledger system that is decentralized and trustless, meaning that no parties participating in the Bitcoin market need to establish trust in one another in order for the system to work properly. This is possible thanks to an elaborate system of checks and verifications which is central to the maintenance of the ledger and to the mining of new Bitcoins. Best of all, the flexibility of blockchain technology means that it has utility outside of the cryptocurrency space as well.

Thanks to cryptocurrency exchanges , wallets , and other tools, Bitcoin is transferable between parties within minutes, regardless of the size of the transaction with very low costs. The process of transferring money in the current system can take days at a time and have fees. Transferability is a hugely important aspect of any currency. While it takes vast amounts of electricity to mine Bitcoin, maintain the blockchain, and process digital transactions, individuals do not typically hold any physical representation of Bitcoin in the process.

Durability is a major issue for fiat currencies in their physical form. A dollar bill, while sturdy, can still be torn, burned, or otherwise rendered unusable. Digital forms of payment are not susceptible to these physical harms in the same way. For this reason, bitcoin is tremendously valuable.

It cannot be destroyed in the same way that a dollar bill could be. That's not to say, however, that bitcoin cannot be lost. If a user loses his or her cryptographic key, the bitcoins in the corresponding wallet may be effectively unusable on a permanent basis. Thanks to the complicated, decentralized blockchain ledger system, bitcoin is incredibly difficult to counterfeit.

Doing so would essentially require confusing all participants in the Bitcoin network, no small feat. The only way that one would be able to create a counterfeit bitcoin would be by executing what is known as a double-spend. This refers to a situation in which a user "spends" or transfers the same bitcoin in two or more separate settings, effectively creating a duplicate record. While this is not a problem with a fiat currency note—it is impossible to spend the same dollar bill in two or more separate transactions—it is theoretically possible with digital currencies.

What makes a double-spend unlikely, though, is the size of the Bitcoin network. By controlling a majority of all network power, this group could dominate the remainder of the network to falsify records.

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However, such an attack on Bitcoin would require an overwhelming amount of effort, money, and computing power, thereby rendering the possibility extremely unlikely. Generally, Bitcoin holds up fairly well in the above categories when compared against fiat currencies. So what are the challenges facing Bitcoin as a currency? One of the biggest issues is Bitcoin's status as a store of value. Bitcoin's utility as a store of value is dependent on its utility as a medium of exchange.

We base this in turn on the assumption that for something to be used as a store of value it needs to have some intrinsic value, and if Bitcoin does not achieve success as a medium of exchange, it will have no practical utility and thus no intrinsic value and won't be appealing as a store of value. Like fiat currencies, Bitcoin is not backed by any physical commodity or precious metal.

Bitcoin has exhibited characteristics of a bubble with drastic price run-ups and a craze of media attention.

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This is likely to decline as Bitcoin continues to see greater mainstream adoption, but the future is uncertain. Bitcoin's utility and transferability are challenged by difficulties surrounding the cryptocurrency storage and exchange spaces. New coins are minted every 10 minutes by bitcoin miners who help to maintain the network by adding new transaction data to the blockchain. The Bitcoin price page is part of The CoinDesk 20 that features price history, price ticker, market cap and live charts for the top cryptocurrencies.