Bitcoin (BTC)

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As the first digital currency to be introduced publicly—not to mention it existed without competition for over two years—Bitcoin is currently the most easily recognized cryptocurrency in the world. Since they were the first, many other currencies have adopted Bitcoin's methods, such as the mining process for generating new coins and establishing a mintage cap—this means once a certain number of coins is minted, there will be no more created. Though investor numbers are a closely-guarded secret, it's projected that there will be over one million people invested in Bitcoin by the end of 2014—and some industry insiders believe that goal will be reached even sooner.

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In 2008, Satoshi Nakamoto wrote a white paper that presented the details of a new cryptocurrency. Less than a year later, Nakamoto announced Bitcoin to the world. Up until March 2014, Nakamoto was considered a pseudonym; until that time, no one was sure who he/she/they may have been. An in-depth article published in Newsweek Magazine at that time shed light on the fact that Satoshi Nakamoto was indeed the currency's founder's real name. Since Bitcoin was introduced in 2009, it's been considered the gold standard to which other currencies are compared. Though being the first and most famous means Bitcoin gets the lion's share of the praise when things go well, they also find themselves the main target of the industry's critics.