Why bitcoin is unique
The Internet lets people anywhere instantly exchange ideas and information with people everywhere. Bitcoin takes this further by giving everyone a built-in method for storing and transferring value online.
It’s money, but digital #
Historically, in order to be considered money, it must be usable as each of the following:
- A medium of exchange
- A unit of account
- A store of value
In addition, six fundamental properties define whether or not a currency can actually function as money. Those properties are:
Although bitcoin is purely digital, it meets every classical definition of what makes something money. Instead of relying on physical properties (like gold and silver) or central authorities (like government-issued fiat currencies), bitcoin relies on the world’s most powerful computer network to mathematically enforce the rules that make it the first truly digital form of cash.
Natively digital money can also be extended in previously unthinkable ways. From smart contracts to Layer 2 solutions like the Lightning Network that enable faster and cheaper payments, bitcoin can get built upon to enable new and evolving use cases.
There’s a limited supply #
There will never be more than 21 million bitcoin. The creation of new bitcoin is mathematically defined and strictly enforced by the bitcoin network. This is different from fiat currencies, which may experience supply changes due to government decisions, which in turn can have various effects on economies and economic behavior. For an independent, global asset like bitcoin, the rigid supply dynamics are a big benefit, as they create reliability and trust.
You own it #
When you take cash out of your bank account, it becomes your responsibility. If you lose it, it’s lost. If you transact with it, no middleman can block or reverse the transaction. Either way, you are its custodian—this is bitcoin in a nutshell. It’s digital, self-custodial cash.
Bitcoin combines the custodial benefits of physical cash with the convenience of online banking and payment processing. But unlike your bank, bitcoin has never been hacked. So as long as you responsibly manage your private keys, not only do you own your bitcoin, no one can take them away.
Global by default #
If you can access the Internet, you can access bitcoin. As of 2019, roughly 53.6% of the world’s population was online. That means 53.6% of the world already has access to bitcoin. This makes bitcoin the first currency of any kind entirely unbound by national borders. It also makes it the first currency to completely cut out middlemen like currency exchanges, local payment services, and banks.
Equal treatment for all #
Bitcoin uses scrambled, pseudonymous strings of letters and numbers in place of personal information, real-life identities, and even usernames. It treats everyone from individuals to corporations and governments the same. No group has the power to censor transactions, shut others out of the network, or confiscate another’s bitcoin. While certain services might discriminate or request personal information, the bitcoin network not only won’t, but can’t.
Bitcoin complements existing financial systems #
Globally, around 1.7 billion adults have no access to banking services, including 55 million US citizens. Geographical distance, lack of access to dependable institutions, and exclusion based on legal, social, and financial status are just some of the factors that contribute to this disparity.
However, because bitcoin is unbiased, open, and public, it can serve communities that conventional financial institutions overlook, helping grow economies and creating economic mobility where it never existed.
It is open-source #
It’s only appropriate that the bitcoin ecosystem is being developed by teams and individuals worldwide. Not many financial institutions allow anyone to participate and contribute to them. So it’s fitting that bitcoin almost exclusively relies on collaboration between volunteers from around the world to keep it running and evolving.
Why participate as a designer in bitcoin? See the next section, why design for bitcoin.