What is bitcoin?

Some of my fellow meetup members on IoT group asked if i was interested in Bitcoin and what that is. 
Bitcoin is a form of digital currency, created and maintained electronically. Nobody controls it, its not printed like traditional currencies. They are produced by people for people, increasingly businesses are recognizing the true value of this network.
Its one of the form of cryptocurrency. I have known Bitcoin as a virtual currency, stumbled upon it during 2010. I was very curious about the virtual currency and how to collect them. Did manage to collect few, which was worth pennies. Was worth $870 when i sold few in 2013 and now its worth $370 as of today, 7th Feb 2016.

Who created it?

A software developer called Satoshi Nakamoto proposed bitcoin. The idea was to produce a currency independent of any central authority, transferable electronically, more or less instantly, with very low transaction fees.

How is it different?
Bitcoin can be used to buy things electronically. Its like conventional dollars or euros which are also traded digitally. However, bitcoin's most important characteristic is, it is decentralized. No single institution controls the network. This means that large banks and financial corporations cannot control peoples money or money in this network.

Who prints it?

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No body. Thats the beauty of digital currency and bitcoin network. Unlike centralized currency which is typically controlled by banks and regulators can easily print additional money to cover their debts, thereby undervaluing the overall currency rate.
Instead, bitcoin is created digitally, by a community of people that anyone can join. Bitcoins are ‘mined’, using computing power in a distributed network.
This network also processes transactions made with the virtual currency, effectively making bitcoin its own payment network.

Conventional currency has been based on gold or silver. Theoretically, you knew that if you handed over a dollar at the bank, you could get some gold back (although this didn’t actually work in practice). But bitcoin isn’t based on gold; it’s based on mathematics.

Around the world, people are using software programs that follow a mathematical formula to produce bitcoins. The mathematical formula is freely available, so that anyone can check it.
The software is also open source, meaning that anyone can look at it to make sure that it does what it is supposed to.

What are its characteristics?

Bitcoin has several important features that set it apart from government-backed currencies.

1. It's decentralized

The bitcoin network isn’t controlled by one central authority. Every machine that mines bitcoin and processes transactions makes up a part of the network, and the machines work together. That means that, in theory, one central authority can’t tinker with monetary policy and cause a meltdown – or simply decide to take people’s bitcoins away from them, as the Central European Bank decided to do in Cyprus in early 2013. And if some part of the network goes offline for some reason, the money keeps on flowing.

2. It's easy to set up

Conventional banks make you jump through hoops simply to open a bank account. Setting up merchant accounts for payment is another Kafkaesque task, beset by bureaucracy. However, you can set up a bitcoin address in seconds, no questions asked, and with no fees payable.

3. It's anonymous

Well, kind of. Users can hold multiple bitcoin addresses, and they aren’t linked to names, addresses, or other personally identifying information. However…

4. It's completely transparent

Bitcoin stores details of every single transaction that ever happened in the network in a huge version of a general ledger, called the blockchain. The blockchain tells all.
If you have a publicly used bitcoin address, anyone can tell how many bitcoins are stored at that address. They just don’t know that it’s yours.
There are measures that people can take to make their activities more opaque on the bitcoin network, though, such as not using the same bitcoin addresses consistently, and not transferring lots of bitcoin to a single address.

5. It’s fast

You can send money anywhere and it will arrive minutes later, as soon as the bitcoin network processes the payment.

6. It’s non-repudiable

When your bitcoins are sent, there’s no getting them back, unless the recipient returns them to you. They’re gone forever.