What is bitcoin?
Learn from the horse's mouth, Bitcoin.org, how it works.
Okay, that was a little confusing. Here it is, simplified.
Visual learner? Yeah, me, too:
Okay, now that I have a handle on what bitcoin is, how do I get some?
If you're in the United States, then Coinbase is definitely for you. I think of it like Paypal without the banks.
|See? Very intuitive and not scary at all.|
Don't want to give up your banking info to The Man? See who's in your area and buy bitcoin person-to-person and/or face-to-face at LocalBitcoins.com.
Of course, you could go to the exchanges. Many people like Bitstamp or exchanges that are fairly specific to their respective countries, like Canada's CAVirtEx. You will find that exchange prices are generally lower than those found on LocalBitcoins.com, whose users charge a premium for anonymity.
If you want to compare price across exchanges, you can always keep an eye on them at BitcoinWatch.
Now that I have bitcoin, how do I keep mine safe?
Security is a big issue in the bitcoin community; the more paranoid you are the better. Cold storage, or storing bitcoin "offline", is the most secure way to keep your bitcoin. Leaving your bitcoin in web wallets or exchanges like Bitstamp and Coinbase is not advised.
There are three types of cold storage:
- Paper Wallet: Create a paper wallet from Bitaddress.org and send any bitcoin you've acquired or are in the process of acquiring, to the address on the paper wallet. It's a little tricky to do, so try these steps. Since transferring money from paper wallets is a bit confusing, consider these type of wallets best to use for long-term storage.
- Offline: Electrum is a lightweight software wallet that can be set up to be used in a most secure fashion for offline storage and transactions. Armory also provides a similar service, but Electrum is even simpler. Here's a handy guide to setting up your secure, offline Electrum wallet.
- Hardware Wallet: The tech behind these are pretty complicated but, basically, it's the concept of easy to use, plug-and-playish type dongles that automatically handle storing bitcoin securely. The most commercially celebrated of these, the Trezor, is to make its real world debut in 2014.
Keep in mind, you want to keep some bitcoin available in your web wallets so you can gift and spend them. But if you're a long-term hoarder of bitcoin like I am, you will want the bulk of your holdings in cold storage.
I've secured my bitcoin - now what?
Stretch. You've been at this awhile - it's a lot to take in. Take a break!
Okay, that was nice. Now I own bitcoin. What can I spend it on?
Nowadays, you can spend bitcoin on just about anything. Gyft takes bitcoin for gift cards to many of your favorite retailers. Sites like CoinMap and Coinjabber can show you where to spend your bitcoin. If you have the taste - and means - for the finer things in life, go price a private island or an beach home on BitPremier.
You will see that more and more large retailers like Overstock.com are now accepting bitcoin directly.
Have we missed anything? Let us know what you absolutely need to know in getting started with bitcoin by emailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org!