The first cryptocurrency, the Bitcoin whitepaper was released in 2008 as a form of digital cash operating as a decentralized peer to peer payment system. Created by the mysterious Satoshi Nakamoto, the first coins were minted in 2009. Bitcoin operates the original proof of work consensus mechanism, where miners compete to solve cryptographic puzzles thereby contributing to the maintenance of the network while profiting from block rewards.
Bitcoin would go on to inspire the cryptocurrency revolution. Thanks to Bitcoin and the crypto revolution there are now over 1600 different cryptocurrencies in existence. Likened to digital gold by some, Bitcoin reached a market cap of $18 billion at its peak and continues to hold its own as the crypto market leader. While successful, Bitcoin is not without its critics, who continue to vent concern over its growing energy consumption, volatility, and use by cybercriminals the world over.