Bitcoin was created in 2009, by an unknown person using the alias Satoshi Nakamoto, as a reward for mining – and as a way to side-step traditional banking. Now, just nine years later, the current value of this virtual currency is greater than the value of banknotes and coins in most countries, including England, Canada and Australia.
The current value of all Bitcoins is 180 billion US dollars, almost twice as much as the UK (USD103 billion) and over three times that of Canada (59 billion USD) and Australia (USD55 billion). This makes it the 6th most valuable currency in the entire world, based on the amount in circulation, according to a new report by analysts at Small Business Prices.
Currently, 54% of the world's population live in countries with currencies in circulation worth less than the value of Bitcoin, the report states.
If the price of Bitcoin reaches 15,000 US dollars, it will overtake the value of all Indian Rupee banknotes and coins in circulation to become the 5th most valuable currency. And considering its exponential growth over the last month, this could become a reality.
Bitcoin, however, will still need to exceed the 72,300 US dollar mark if it wants to overtake the Euro – and become the 2nd most valuable currency on the planet. To beat the US dollar, in terms of circulation value, it will need to increase in price to at least 85,160 US dollars, the report explains.
This so-called "cryptocurrency" has its own value, and is not tied to any physical currency. Coins are transferred between its users and stored in special digital wallets online. A number of retailers have also started to accept Bitcoin.
Aside from trading them, or buying them online, new coins can be generated through a process called "mining," in which specialized computers are used to collect off-cuts transactions. It relies on a kind of decentralized technology – called the blockchain – for secure payments.
A number of global authorities, however, have started a crackdown on this virtual currency amid rising concerns about money laundering, hacking and tax evasion.