In its truest sense, cryptocurrency (crypto for short) is a form of decentralized digital money that is designed to be maintained and used over the internet. The first cryptocurrency, Bitcoin ($BTC), was launched in 2008 in the face of global economic turmoil and it remains by far the largest, most influential, and most popular crypto to date. In the time since Bitcoin arrived on the scene, thousands of other cryptocurrencies have sprung up and captured people’s imaginations as possible digital alternatives to fiat currencies issued by governments.
Cryptocurrencies are produced (minted) and their transactions are vetted by blockchain technology. A blockchain is similar to a bank’s balance sheet or ledger (whence the name distributed ledger technology or DLT) that is a peer-to-peer (P2P) network of computers that run free, open-source software. Cryptocurrencies and tokens are mined or minted (how they are produced) on a blockchain, which is an ongoing, constantly re-verified record of every transaction ever made using that cryptocurrency. Think of the Ethereum blockchain being a continuous ledger of all Ether ($ETH) transactions (with other bells and whistles such as ERC20 tokens and smart contracts that will be introduced in later lessons) or Cherry Network being a constantly updated list of all $CHER transactions.
Cryptocurrency, with its underlying blockchain technology, makes it possible to transfer value globally, 24/7, near-instantly, and cheaply without the need for a middleman like a bank or payment processor. To use cryptocurrency, you don't need to sign up on a website with an email address and password. You can download a wide variety of apps onto your computer or smartphone and begin sending and receiving crypto within minutes.
The name cryptocurrency is a combination of cryptography and currency. With cryptography, advanced math is used to secure your funds, making sure that nobody else can spend them.