Recently, the cryptocurrency Bitcoin(or BTC) has been recieving a lot of attention in the media, both positive and negative. You may be wondering "What's The Big Deal?". Well, Bitcoin, and other altcoins, are a relatively new universal international currency, which unlike traditional fiat currencies, is decentralized, meaning there is no central bank backing it's value, regulating it's transactions, hoarding it, or printing more. Bitcoin operates on a peer to peer level, meaning anyone in the world can spend or get paid in bitcoin.
One of the great features of BTC is that it is decentralized, not tied (officially, fiat or basketed) to a particular currency. This means everyone in the world is on an even playing field so to speak. My Bitcoin in the USA is equal to your Bitcoin in Canada, Europe, or Asia. The price will fluctuate as the market drives price up or down, but no one country's BTC will ever be worth more than another. It is a limited resource, there will be no "new" bitcoins produced there are reserves and certain amounts are created via mining daily. At least in theory this creates a completely market-driven currency, devoid of the inherent inflation/deflation cycles of government and central bank backed currencies.
With any new technology come plenty of questions.
Here's some of the most common, and some quick answers
Is Bitcoin Safe?
It's as safe as most any other funding options. Unlike a bank, there's no such thing as a "hold" on Bitcoin, and BTC transactions are not reversible, so there are no chargebacks, and no chance of double spending.
What about Hackers?
Just like Paypal, Amazon.com, Target and so many more, if hackers really want your information, and there is an available entrance point for them, they will take it. Bitcoin is no safer, nor less safe than traditional bank accounts, credit card accounts, or merchant accounts.
Isn't Bitcoin just a scam, ponzi scheme, etc?
No, it's just a currency system, and like any currency system, MLM, ponzis, and scammers are out there working it. Beware and research before investing, or utilizing any services.
What can I use Bitcoin for?
An open question like this is probably the most common, and most difficult to answer succintly. Here's a short version:
BTC can be used as a hedge against collapsing, or inflating currencies as part of a portfolio. BTC can be used as you would use cash. It can be stored, traded, or spent.
Where Can I Get Bitcoin? Do you have to join a club or something?
Well, no, you don't have to join a club. There are Bitcoin and altcoin Exchanges, which buy/sell/trade BTC and other currencies 24 hours a day, they're always open. There are also websites you can visit to get tiny amounts of Bitcoin or other cryptocurrencies for free, called faucets. Like any currency, there are PTC programs, "clubs", and MLM programs that you can also utilize to earn small amounts of free bitcoin.
How liquid is BTC?
That depends on how you look at the question. Hundreds, maybe thousands of new businesses are accepting Bitcoin for payment each day, the market is growing exponentially. Can you go into your neighborhood megamart and spend bitcoin? Not "yet". Bitcoin ATMs are springing up all over the world, especially Japan, Indonesia, Europe and China. You can also buy gift cards to almost any major national/international chain store/restaurant/website on several BTC to Giftcard sites. These two developments allow you to spend your bitcoin in virtually any city with more than one traffic light across the first world.
Isn't it a bubble, won't the price go down (to zero, lower etc)?
While the market determines the value, and it's impossible to say where the price will go day to day, it is important to note that Bitcoin has survived the collapse of it's largest Exchange (Mt Gox) and severe restrictions in the one of the largest markets in the world (China). The price has dropped since it's all time high, but since it's inception in 2008 has grown nearly by a factor of nearly 70k, and in the past year has quadrupled, despite the fall from record levels. Had you bought, or been given BTC at it's birth or early adoption period, $1.00 worth of Bitcoin would today be worth $65,000.00. The market is growing daily, and acceptance for payment is growing at exponential levels. While the price may not stay where it is, it's doubtful that Bitcoin will collapse, disintegrate, disappear, or become unusable any time soon.