As I write this, bitcoin has breached $50,000. That may just be a number, but consider Bitcoin’s recent ascent: Just two years ago, a single bitcoin fetched $3,600, and at the beginning of this year, the value had increased tenfold to over $36,000, and it is now trading at $50,000. The dizzying ride of Bitcoin began for me back in 2013, when I went on television to discuss the fact that it had risen above $1,000, from $13, earlier that year.
As a primer, Bitcoin was created in 2008 — and launched in 2009 — by an anonymous group of software developers (or maybe one, who went by the alias “Satoshi Nakamoto”) who believed that it would become a useful currency that was outside the purview of large institutions and central banks.
The technology that powers Bitcoin (and other similar crypto currencies) is called “Blockchain,” which allows a network of computers to agree at regular intervals on the true state of different types of shared data, like transaction records. As Dan Roberts, a Bitcoin expert and editor in chief of Decrypt, explained, the idea is similar to an old-fashioned library card in the back of a book, where in one convenient place, everyone can see who took out a particular book.
In the early years, regulators were worried that Bitcoin could be used for money laundering and other criminal enterprises and be subject to huge price swings. Those warnings were born out, but in the dozen years after its launch, Bitcoin has found its footing and acceptance by many of the early doubters. Late last year, the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) released updated guidance on digital assets, over which it will act as the primary regulator.