Believe it or not, it has been almost ten years since the cryptocurrency known as Bitcoin first came into existence. According to legend, the mysterious creator(s) of Bitcoin, “Satoshi Nakamoto”, published it to a cryptography mailing list in October 2008, and released an open-source version in early 2009.
Since then, Bitcoin has mushroomed into a global phenomenon, spawning or inspiring rival cryptocurrencies like Litecoin, Ethereum and Ripple, all of which have real (and substantial) monetary value, although that value has a tendency to be volatile. A growing number of countries have legally recognized cryptocurrencies as real money. Even where they haven’t yet done so, some merchants already accept it as a payment option. It’s even become the go-to currency for ransomware creeps.
Meanwhile, blockchain – the enabling technology behind cryptocurrencies that functions as a decentralized shared ledger – has taken the financial community by storm as banks figure out ways to adopt it for more secure digital finance services. And companies like IBM and Microsoft are working on ways to bring blockchain to other industries, from shipping and marine insurance to sports, while others see it as a way to establish a digital identity for unbanked and displaced people.
Blockchain and cryptocurrencies have become mainstream enough that now start-ups are using them as a capital-raising tool via initial coin offerings (ICOs), a practice that has alarmed regulators in the US, China and elsewhere, if only because these things are happening outside of their regulatory purview.
For all this activity, Bitcoin and blockchain are still new and mysterious things to many people who may not understand just how disruptive a concept Bitcoin is, what people are doing with it, and the potential implications going forward. To say nothing of what the hell a hard fork is.
This infographic of random facts from BitCoinPlay may or may not provide the answers to those questions, but it is a fascinating whirlwind overview of Planet Bitcoin.