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In February 2014 the world's largest bitcoin exchange, Mt. Gox, declared bankruptcy. The company stated that it had lost nearly $473 million of their customers' bitcoins likely due to theft. This was equivalent to approximately 750,000 bitcoins, or about 7% of all the bitcoins in existence. The price of a bitcoin fell from a high of about $1,160 in December to under $400 in February.
Dash, which was formerly known as Darkcoin and Xcoin, is an open-source peer-to-peer cryptocurrency with the goal of being more user-friendly than other options. Dash created masternodes, which provide incentives to users to help secure the network and assist with user-friendly features, such as InstaSend - which significantly speeds up transaction-processing times.
In cryptocurrency networks, mining is a validation of transactions. For this effort, successful miners obtain new cryptocurrency as a reward. The reward decreases transaction fees by creating a complementary incentive to contribute to the processing power of the network. The rate of generating hashes, which validate any transaction, has been increased by the use of specialized machines such as FPGAs and ASICs running complex hashing algorithms like SHA-256 and Scrypt. This arms race for cheaper-yet-efficient machines has been on since the day the first cryptocurrency, bitcoin, was introduced in 2009. With more people venturing into the world of virtual currency, generating hashes for this validation has become far more complex over the years, with miners having to invest large sums of money on employing multiple high performance ASICs. Thus the value of the currency obtained for finding a hash often does not justify the amount of money spent on setting up the machines, the cooling facilities to overcome the enormous amount of heat they produce, and the electricity required to run them.
Among the Asian countries, Japan is more forthcoming and regulations mandate the need for a special license from the Financial Services Authority to operate a cryptocurrency exchange. China and Korea remain hostile, with China banning bitcoin miners and freezing bank accounts. While Australia is yet to announce its conclusive regulations on cryptocurrency, it does require its citizens to disclose their digital assets for capitals gains tax.
Litecoin is similar to Bitcoin in many of its characteristics, and is also one of the more veteran cryptocurrencies out there. However, there are two main differences between Litecoin and Bitcoin; Speed and amount. While it takes 10 minutes to create a Bitcoin block, Litecoin demands roughly 2.5 minutes to create a block – meaning 4 times the speed. Moreover, Litecoin attracts many users as it can produce 4 times the quantity of Bitcoin! However, as Litecoin uses highly complex cryptography, often mining it is more complicated than other cryptocurrencies.
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A cryptocurrency (or crypto currency) is a digital asset designed to work as a medium of exchange that uses strong cryptography to secure financial transactions, control the creation of additional units, and verify the transfer of assets. Cryptocurrencies use decentralized control as opposed to centralized digital currency and central banking systems.