What the heck is a bitcoin?
Winkelvoss twins: "The Social Network" antiheros and Bitcoin enthusiasts

Bitcoin: If you’re anything like us, you have a vague understanding that it exists... and no clue what it actually is.

Here’s a super-simple explanation so you can quit feeling like a secret idiot.

What is it? Bitcoin is a digital currency (i.e., it doesn’t take up any room in your wallet) that was created in 2009 and can be used to buy something from a retailer or individual. But unlike dollars or euros or even rupees, a finite number of Bitcoins exist out in cyberspace. Depending upon supply and demand, their value can go up or down, kind of like stock.

Why should I care? If you follow the news, you should be somewhat aware of how Bitcoin works. The buzzy Winklevoss twins were early investors and are now staunch defenders of the currency, and the infamous and now-shuttered digital drug marketplace Silk Road recently had millions of dollars’ worth seized. (Bitcoin is a popular choice for illegal traffickers, since it can’t be traced to a user and doesn’t incur any bank fees.)

So can I use Bitcoins to pay for my manicure? No, and you probably won’t be able to anytime soon. Bitcoin may be a hot topic among cyber geeks, but only a few retailers (such as Overstock and OK Cupid) currently accept it.

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