Bitcoin is a decentralized digital currency created by an unknown person or group of people under the name Satoshi Nakamoto and released as open-source software in 2009. It does not rely on a central server to process transactions or store funds. There are a maximum of 2,099,999,997,690,000 Bitcoin elements (called Satoshis, the unit has been named in collective homage to the original creator), which are currently most commonly measured in units of 100,000,000 known as BTC. There will only ever be 21 million Bitcoin (BTC) to ever be created.
Bitcoin has no central issuer; instead, the peer-to-peer network regulates Bitcoins, transactions and issuance according to consensus in network software. These transactions are verified by network nodes through the use of cryptography and recorded in a public distributed ledger called a blockchain.
Bitcoins are issued to various nodes that verify transactions through computing power; it is established that there will be a limited and scheduled release of no more than 21 million BTC worth of coins, which will be fully issued by the year 2140.
Bitcoins are created as a reward for a process known as mining. They can be exchanged for other currencies, products, and services. As of February 2015, over 100,000 merchants and vendors accepted Bitcoin as payment. Research produced by the University of Cambridge estimates that in 2017, there were 2.9 to 5.8 million unique users using a cryptocurrency wallet, most of them using Bitcoin.