Most cryptocurrencies are ‘mined’ via a decentralized (also known as peer-to-peer) network of computers. But mining doesn’t just generate more bitcoin or Ethereum – it’s also the mechanism that updates and secures the network by constantly verifying the public blockchain ledger and adding new transactions.
Technically, anyone with a computer and an internet connection can become a miner. But before you get excited, it’s worth noting that mining is not always profitable. Depending on which cryptocurrency you’re mining, how fast your computer is, and the cost of electricity in your area, you may end up spending more on mining than you earn back in cryptocurrency.
As a result, most crypto mining these days is done by companies that specialize in it, or by large groups of individuals who all contribute their computing power.
How does the network encourage miners to participate in maintaining the blockchain? Again, taking Bitcoin as an example, the network holds a lottery in which all the mining rigs around the world race to become the first to solve a math problem, which also verifies and updates the blockchain with new transactions. Each winner is awarded new bitcoin, which can then make its way into the broader marketplace.
Where do cryptocurrencies get their value?
The economic value of cryptocurrency, like all goods and services, comes from supply and demand.
Supply refers to how much is available—like how many bitcoin are available to buy at any moment in time. Demand refers to people’s desire to own it—as in how many people want to buy bitcoin and how strongly they want it. The value of a cryptocurrency will always be a balance of both factors.
There are also other types of value. For example, there’s the value you get from using a cryptocurrency. Many people enjoy spending or gifting crypto, meaning that it gives them a sense of pride to support an exciting new financial system. Similarly, some people like to shop with bitcoin because they like its low fees and want to encourage businesses to accept it.