Computing power is often bundled together or "pooled" to reduce variance in miner income. Individual mining rigs often have to wait for long periods to confirm a block of transactions and receive payment. In a pool, all participating miners get paid every time a participating server solves a block. This payment depends on the amount of work an individual miner contributed to help find that block.
Bitstamp are big in Europe and, since 2011, have moved from Slovenia, and the United Kingdom in search of sound regulatory environments. Good volumes are available for larger trades. Well received by people using SEPA and credit cards. Both euro and US dollar deposits are accepted. I like Bitstamp because they really focus on being a pure bitcoin-only exchange (update: since 2017 Bitstamp have started adding popular cryptocoins). Please read my Bitstamp critique for analysis of factors such as security, fees, and the history.
All of those factors make mining cryptocurrencies an extremely competitive arms race that rewards early adopters. However, depending on where you live, profits made from mining can be subject to taxation and Money Transmitting regulations. In the US, the FinCEN has issued a guidance, according to which mining of cryptocurrencies and exchanging them for flat currencies may be considered money transmitting. This means that miners might need to comply with special laws and regulations dealing with this type of activities.
Aside from the exchanges, you can also buy bitcoins on ebay and similar auction sites. Keep in mind that due to the possibility for chargebacks and fraud, bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies trade at a premium on ebay. Face to face meetups are another option to acquire bitcoins. Checklocalbitcoins.com for bitcoin sellers and buyers near your area. Always exercise caution when doing an offline exchange. Meet during the daytime and in places with a lot of people around. If possible, bring a friend.
For us non-miners, getting Bitcoin is now easier than it was a year ago. Now, one only needs to be in a right country to purchase and sell Bitcoins, where exchanges legally act as intermediaries for currency transactions — something that also protects your funds from being mismanaged by external and internal attacks. These exchanges instantly convert your Bitcoin into USD or other fiat currency, and based on the price fluctuations between these two, one can simultaneously sell and purchase their holdings and make good profits — a process we know as arbitrage (explained further below)
Bitcoin and many other cryptocurrencies are opening the doors to a new type of digital money, which we think has the potential to someday become a leading currency of the world. At the moment, even the oldest of cryptocurrencies are still maturing and only time will tell where this genius invention is heading. From what we can tell, there is plenty room for advancement. At the same time, Bitcoin has already revolutionized the digital world.
In order to purchase bitcoins, users must create a bitcoin account and initiate a transfer of money into the account every time they want to purchase a bitcoin. Coinbase does not hold currencies in their accounts, meaning that every “exchange” between dollars and bitcoin requires additional security steps. In order to purchase bitcoin, it may require three to five working days, meaning that it doesn’t work as a traditional currency exchange would. Still, you are able to purchase at an agreed price, meaning that each transaction is locked in before delivery of bitcoins to the individual account. There is a fee for each transfer from dollars to bitcoin or vice-versa, charged at 1% plus a $0.15 bank fee.
Darknet markets present challenges in regard to legality. Bitcoins and other forms of cryptocurrency used in dark markets are not clearly or legally classified in almost all parts of the world. In the U.S., bitcoins are labelled as "virtual assets". This type of ambiguous classification puts pressure on law enforcement agencies around the world to adapt to the shifting drug trade of dark markets.
The receiver of the first bitcoin transaction was cypherpunk Hal Finney, who created the first reusable proof-of-work system (RPOW) in 2004. Finney downloaded the bitcoin software on its release date, and on 12 January 2009 received ten bitcoins from Nakamoto. Other early cypherpunk supporters were creators of bitcoin predecessors: Wei Dai, creator of b-money, and Nick Szabo, creator of bit gold. In 2010, the first known commercial transaction using bitcoin occurred when programmer Laszlo Hanyecz bought two Papa John's pizzas for 10,000 bitcoin.