Bitcoin launched in 2009, after the global credit crisis, when many people lost faith in the government and in the financial systems.
From a practical stand-point, Bitcoin is a digital currency; there is no government guaranteeing it, there is no central bank printing it. It is a peer-to-peer soft-ware system that mimics what cash does in the physical world.
Every Bitcoin bought and sold is recorded in an open ledger and constantly updated across every participating computer's program, in a public spreadsheet that is maintained by its users. This is called the block-chain.
As for Bitcoin safety, and whether you should buy it, most experts say "not without a strong stomach.”
There are few vendors that accept Bitcoin in exchange for a physical good, such as a slice of pizza.
Even Bitcoin experts say they are not sure the day will ever come that Americans use Bitcoin instead of dollars; it is too early to tell.
The people who are jumping on the bit-coin bandwagon right now are investors. The reason: the value is soaring. On Thursday alone, the value of a Bitcoin rose 40% in 40 hours and its year-to-date gain is now at more than 1,500%.
For the investing community, Bitcoin is becoming mainstream. Starting on Sunday, the Chicago board of exchange will begin offering trade in Bitcoin futures. A competing exchange will offer the same later this month; the NASDAQ will start in the 1st half of 2018.
So far, Wall Street has a mixed reaction. JP Morgan CEO J Dimon says it is a fraud and will fire anyone who trades it/ Morgan Stanley will wait and see. Goldman Sachs said it will process Bitcoin futures trades on a case by case basis.