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If you take even a passing interest in technology or finance, you’ll already know about Bitcoin. The digital currency was released in 2009 and was heralded as a decentralised network for value exchange that would take power away from governments and big banks and put it in the hands of ordinary people.
Its revolutionary ‘blockchain’ technology created a distributed public ledge of transactions and enabled nearly instantaneous, cost-free transfers of money anywhere in the world. As it gathered momentum, Silicon Valley venture capitalist Marc Andreessen wrote in The New York Times that its invention was on a par with that of the personal computer, or the internet.
However, the technology’s utopian ideals weren’t what first brought it to wider public attention. Instead, it began to garner interest thanks to its sharp fluctuations in value, its status as a preferred method of payment for drugs and weapons on the dark web marketplace Silk Road, and because of the mystery surrounding the identity of its founder, known as Satoshi Nakamoto.