But it's not just this blockchain technology that makes bitcoin special. It is also the immense network surrounding it. Bitcoin is like a sports team: its success depends on playing well together, functioning as a collective.
Bitcoin’s team has several players on the field. For example, there are nodes, which are computers that check transactions. They make sure bitcoins aren’t spent more than once, and that the sender has enough bitcoins on his balance sheet to make the transaction. After this check, the nodes include the transaction in the blockchain.
There are also miners: computers that secure the network and process transactions on the blockchain. The more computers and the more processing power, the more secure the bitcoin network is. By solving a cryptographic puzzle, mining computers process transactions in blocks.
The first miner to solve the puzzle is allowed to add the block of transactions to the chain. In addition, the miner receives a fixed reward, as well as all transaction costs from that block. This reward ensures an influx of new bitcoins.
What started out as a small network has now grown into the largest and safest system in the world. Day in, day out, thousands of computers are working to make the network more secure and stable.
This system is virtually impossible to hack. If you want to do that, you would have to own the majority of the computing power of all computers.
But what can you actually do with bitcoin, at this moment?