New bitcoin are released during the mining process, in which network participants compete to record recent transactions with the winner receiving some previously-unreleased bitcoin as a reward. Those bitcoin then circulate when miners sell or transact these bitcoin.
Though it was once relatively simple to mine bitcoin yourself, the bitcoin mining industry has become so specialized and competitive that it is highly unlikely that an individual will successfully earn a bitcoin subsidy with their personal computers (individuals can however participate in mining pools to have a better shot at bitcoin subsidies).
Most individuals that are looking to acquire some bitcoin do so through online exchanges, which sell BTC in exchange for fiat currency or other cryptocurrencies (they also collect fees and generally require the verification of personal information). Many others, including a range of individuals and merchants, get bitcoin by accepting it for goods and services.
Merchants that are interested in accepting bitcoin as payment — because they are seeking to accrue the asset, to attract a new segment of customers, to transact more freely and efficiently or for other reasons — can do so by generally following the same processes that guide individual bitcoin transactions. However, there is also a range of specialized services that make it easy for merchants to accept bitcoin.
Because they are purely digital, bitcoin cannot be stored or accessed in a physical location, but are accessible only through Bitcoin addresses. These addresses have two sets of keys — public keys and private keys. While public keys can and must be shared with others in order to receive bitcoin, private keys control the sending of BTC and should not be shared.
Bitcoin wallets store and protect users’ keys. They come in many forms — including online wallets, hardware wallets and paper wallets — and deciding which wallet is best for your needs is up to each individual user.
Just like individuals who would like to receive some bitcoin, merchants can accept BTC by asking customers to transfer the asset directly to them through a bitcoin wallet.
Once you have a wallet set up, you can provide your customers with a wallet address to which they can send BTC. This address can be displayed as a QR code to make the process of sending bitcoin even easier. Some services will also help you integrate a “Buy With Bitcoin” button directly on your website that will help users send BTC to your wallet.
Some companies in the Bitcoin space have developed payment terminals, like point-of-sale (PoS) systems, that are specifically designed to manage bitcoin transactions. There are also some application programming interfaces (APIs) that update existing PoS hardware to include bitcoin.