In 2008, short of sending a suitcase full of cash, there was essentially just one way for an individual to send money between, say, the United States and Europe. You had to wire the money through a mainstream financial service, like Western Union or a bank. That meant paying high fees and waiting up to several days for the money to arrive.
A radically new option arose in 2009 with the introduction of bitcoin. Bitcoin makes it possible to transfer value between two individuals anywhere in the world quickly and at minimal cost. It is often called a “cryptocurrency,” as it is purely digital and uses cryptography to protect against counterfeiting. The software that executes this cryptography runs simultaneously on computers around the world. Even if one or more of these computers is misused in an attempt to corrupt the bitcoin network (such as to steal money), the collective action of the others ensures the integrity of the system as a whole. Its distributed nature also enables bitcoin to process transactions without the fees, antiquated networks and (for better or worse) the rules governing intermediaries like banks and wire services.
Bitcoin’s exciting history and social impact have fired imaginations. The aggregate market