The origins of bitcoin trace back to 2008, when its creator, who went by the pseudonym Satoshi Nakamoto, published a proof of concept for Bitcoin. The proof was then published to a cryptocurrency mailing list in 2009. Nakamoto left the project in 2010 and disappeared, but other developers picked up the work. Bitcoin’s birthday is Jan. 3, when Nakamoto mined the first 50 units of the currency.
The true identity of Bitcoin’s creator has never been confirmed. Newsweek claimed to have found Bitcoin’s creator in 2014, identifying Temple City, Calif., resident Dorian Satoshi Nakamoto. He has vigorously denied it. In 2015, an Australian entrepreneur named Craig Wright said he was Bitcoin’s creator, but he couldn’t produce the evidence to support his claim. Whoever Nakamoto is, that person is very rich, as the creator is estimated to have mined a million bitcoins in the currency’s early days.
You can spend bitcoins
As of early December, there is another way to invest in Bitcoin without possessing some of the digital currency. On Dec. 10, 2017, Bitcoin futures — “financial contracts obligating the buyer to purchase an asset or the seller to sell an asset,” according to Investopedia — became available on Cboe, a Chicago exchange. What this means for the future of Bitcoin is uncertain, but some argue it will help stabilize the cryptocurrency’s wild price fluctuations.
In early 2014, Bitcoin suffered a devastating loss after the alleged hacking of Mt. Gox, a Japanese exchange. About $460 million of the currency (in 2014 value) was stolen. It was the largest loss of bitcoins ever and raised concerns about how secure the currency was.
Warren Buffett’s take
Warren Buffett, perhaps the most famous investor in the world, was not so keen on Bitcoin one of the only times he addressed the currency. “Stay away from it. It’s a mirage, basically,” he told CNBC. “The idea that it has some huge intrinsic value is a joke in my view.”
Fellow billionaire investor Jamie Dimon, chief executive of JPMorgan Chase, had even stronger words about Bitcoin: “You can’t have a business where people are going to invent a currency out of thin air. It won’t end well … someone is going to get killed and then the government is going to come down on it.”
But not all billionaires are against Bitcoin. Mark Cuban has said its value is inflated, but he recently invested in a venture capital fund that backs cryptocurrency. Richard Branson, however, has spoken more optimistically about it.
Notable investors in Bitcoin include Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss (the Harvard-educated twins who sued Mark Zuckerberg claiming that Facebook was based on an idea they’d had). They bought $11 million worth of Bitcoin in 2013, an amount said to be about 1 percent of all bitcoins in circulation at that time. When Bitcoin’s value reached more than $11,000 in early December, the twins were declared the first Bitcoin billionaires. The Winklevoss twins have been petitioning the SEC to create a bitcoin exchange traded fund. The agency rejected the idea earlier this year.