Bitcoin is a digital asset and a payment system invented by Satoshi Nakamoto, who published the invention in 2008 and released it as open-source software in 2009.

The system is peer-to-peer; users can transact directly without needing an intermediary. Transactions are verified by network nodes and recorded in a public distributed ledger called the blockchain. The ledger uses bitcoin as its unit of account. The system works without a central repository or single administrator, which has led the U.S. Treasury to categorize bitcoin as a decentralized virtual currency.

Bitcoin is often called the first cryptocurrency, although prior systems existed. Bitcoin is more correctly described as the first decentralized digital currency. It is the largest of its kind in terms of total market value.

Bitcoins are created as a reward for payment processing work in which users offer their computing power to verify and record payments into a public ledger. This activity is called mining and the miners are rewarded with transaction fees and newly created bitcoins. Besides being obtained by mining, bitcoins can be obtained in exchange for different currencies, products, and services. Users can send and receive bitcoins for an optional transaction fee.

Bitcoin is a form of digital currency, created and held electronically. No one controls it. Bitcoins aren’t printed, like dollars or euros – they’re produced by people, and increasingly businesses, running computers all around the world, using software that solves mathematical problems.

It’s the first example of a growing category of money known as cryptocurrency.