Digital Currency

Digital Currency

The emerging technology of digital currency may affect and change how we see, use, and save money in the years to come.


5 - 12


Social Studies, Economics


Blockchain Times Square Advertisement

An advertisement of blockchain on a building in Times Square in New York City, United States. Blockchains are the underlying technology on which cryptocurrencies are based. The financial industry has an enormous presence in New York City.

Photograph by Pascal Bernardon
An advertisement of blockchain on a building in Times Square in New York City, United States. Blockchains are the underlying technology on which cryptocurrencies are based. The financial industry has an enormous presence in New York City.
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When you think of "currency," you probably think of the cash you hand over when you buy a soda at a store, or of swiping a credit card to pay for your groceries. Currency refers to a system of money that a country uses. It is backed by that country's government. This means that merchants are required by law to accept that money as payment for services or debt. Usually, currency is made up of coins and paper notes, such as quarters and dollar bills. Different kinds of trades and transactions are based off of currencies. A transaction is an exchange or transfer of goods, services, or money.

As technology has moved forward, digital currencies have developed. Digital currencies only exist online. They are ways to make electronic payments. Digital currencies do not use any coins or paper notes. Over the past 10 years, cryptocurrency has become a popular kind of digital currency.

What Is Cryptocurrency?

The word "crypto" is a Greek word that means "hidden." This "hidden" money is digital. It is encrypted, which means that only people with the right code or password can access it. This keeps cryptocurrency secure. It is hard for people to steal or make fake copies of cryptocurrency.

Cryptocurrency is popular because users can transfer money online without having to use a bank. This is useful because banks often charge people to make transactions.

Cryptocurrencies have digital "tokens." The tokens have different values, just like one-dollar, five-dollar, and $10 bills. Take bitcoin, a type of digital currency. One bitcoin is worth 100,000,000 satoshis. Satoshis are named for bitcoin's inventor, Satoshi Nakamoto.

"Public" and "private" keys are used to transfer cryptocurrency. The keys are specific codes that must match on both sides for a transaction to happen. Cryptocurrency is saved in the user's "wallet," which is an account that can only be accessed by the owner.

People who want to use cryptocurrency can exchange their country's currency for cryptocurrency tokens. Blockchain is an online system that keeps track of all cryptocurrency transactions. No banks are involved. The blockchain is made up of a collection of data that is shared with a network of websites and computer programs. This helps prevent cyberattacks and data leaks.

There are many different types of cryptocurrency, which are sometimes also referred to as "altcoin." These include bitcoin, Litecoin, Ethereum, Zcash, Dash, Ripple, Monero, NEO, Cardano, and EOS. New forms of cryptocurrency are emerging all the time.

The Bitcoin Revolution

The most popular form of cryptocurrency is bitcoin. It was created by a developer or group of developers under the false name "Satoshi Nakamoto" in 2009. No one has been able to figure out who the mysterious Satoshi Nakamoto really is.

Bitcoins are not issued or controlled by a government. Bitcoins are created by "mining." Individuals can "mine" by adding their computers to the transaction network. In return, they receive bitcoins and access to bitcoin transactions. Bitcoin's developers have set a limit to the total supply of bitcoins, keeping it to 21 million bitcoins.

Bitcoin is by far the most popular cryptocurrency in circulation. However, it is not considered legal tender because it is not issued or backed by any government.

Currency of the Future?

The pros and cons of cryptocurrencies, like bitcoin, have become a hot topic of debate. These digital currencies are secure and people can use them without revealing who they are. Users can also avoid the fees and rules put in place by banks. Still, some experts believe the popularity of these cryptocurrencies is just a trend that may not last.

There are some legal and security issues concerning cryptocurrency. Because people can make transactions without saying who they are, this would make it easy to cover up criminal activity. In addition, cryptocurrency is not regulated by any government. Governments have rules about their country's currencies. It is likely that governments will look for ways to control and watch over cryptocurrency, too.

Media Credits

The audio, illustrations, photos, and videos are credited beneath the media asset, except for promotional images, which generally link to another page that contains the media credit. The Rights Holder for media is the person or group credited.

Tyson Brown, National Geographic Society
National Geographic Society
Production Managers
Gina Borgia, National Geographic Society
Jeanna Sullivan, National Geographic Society
Program Specialists
Sarah Appleton, National Geographic Society, National Geographic Society
Margot Willis, National Geographic Society
Clint Parks
Roza Kavak
Last Updated

October 19, 2023

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