Saturday, June 01, 2013

Late To The Bitcoin Story

I am running a little late to the Bitcoin story, but the buzz is inescapable. Gold was replaced by the government. Now the government itself is getting replaced. That makes it fundamental. It is Google not America that is leading the effort to take Africa online. That is notable. The nation state is being challenged, and not just by Wikileaks. The Bitcoin is about erasing the national boundaries and making global commerce frictionless, pretty much. The first global currency has been birthed not by heads of state and governments at summits but by anonymous tech entrepreneurs.

Bitcoin Hits the Big Time, to the Regret of Some Early Boosters
bitcoins, an intangible, digital currency that is backed by not gold or any government, but by math...... the cryptocurrency was set to upend the world of finance, perhaps more ..... Scribner, who, after buying large numbers of bitcoins early in their short history, has seen them soar in value ..... he bought his first 100 bitcoins when they were just $3 each, and then steadily amassed more at relatively low prices. A single bitcoin today now sells for just over $120..... ‘What does this do for global commerce?’ ...... easy transactions between conventional currencies, bitcoins, and a math-backed currency of the company’s own design...... CoinBase, the media sponsor of the San Jose event, received the largest venture investment in a Bitcoin business to date earlier this month. The company, which originated in the incubator Y Combinator and helps individuals and businesses use bitcoins, received $5 million from Union Square Ventures, a fund better known for backing Tumblr and Zynga. In San Jose, I also met the founders of BitPay, which enables online stores—including those hosted by Amazon—to take Bitcoin payment. Bitpay recently received $3 million from Founders Fund, led by Facebook’s first major investor, Peter Thiel....... how the company could help ease online commerce across borders ...... “Traditional payments such as credit cards don’t even work in half the world, so companies just choose to not service international customers” ..... could displace the practice of wiring money across borders, which underpins much international trade today and can be onerous ...... “If I’m trying to wire a supplier in China it’s a three- or four-day process with heavy fees,” he says. “Bitcoin transactions can be instant and free.” ...... BitPay, OpenCoin, and others also offer services that make it possible for a business to make sure incoming bitcoins keep their value by having them instantly converted to dollars. “Bitcoin can be used as just a transport network” ...... will enable money to flow as easily across the world, and between people, as e-mails and video do today..... Bitcoin’s earliest adopters were libertarians, cryptographers, and coders attracted by the idea of money that could operate without government oversight. They liked the idea that people could exchange bitcoins without knowing or trusting one another...... he quit a job with Goldman Sachs’s commodity desk in Tokyo to operate a private, one-man Bitcoin exchange business in Seattle. “These companies would be happy for it to just function like Mastercard. That is not what Bitcoin is about.” ....... the potential for a truly anonymous currency like Zerocoin to undermine existing financial and political systems ...... Bitcoin could hit the big time as less an idealistic reinvention of currency and more a technology to move payments more efficiently than today’s systems...... Jared Kenna, a 30-year-old Bitcoin millionaire
What Bitcoin Is, and Why It Matters
In 2008, a programmer known as Satoshi Nakamoto—a name believed to be an alias—posted a paper outlining Bitcoin’s design to a cryptography e-mail list. Then, in early 2009, he (or she) released software that can be used to exchange bitcoins using the scheme. That software is now maintained by a volunteer open-source community coordinated by four core developers....... “Satoshi’s a bit of a mysterious figure,” says Jeff Garzik, a member of that core team and founder of Bitcoin Watch, which tracks the Bitcoin economy. “I and the other core developers have occasionally corresponded with him by e-mail, but it’s always a crapshoot as to whether he responds,” says Garzik. “That and the forum are the entirety of anyone’s experience with him.” ...... Nakamoto wanted people to be able to exchange money electronically securely without the need for a third party, such as a bank or a company like PayPal. He based Bitcoin on cryptographic techniques that allow you to be sure the money you receive is genuine, even if you don’t trust the sender...... The existence of a public log of all transactions also provides a deterrent to money laundering, says Garzik. “You’re looking at a global public transaction register,” he says. “You can trace the history of every single Bitcoin through that log, from its creation through every transaction.” ...... If the Federal Reserve controls the dollar, who controls the Bitcoin economy? No one. The economics of the currency are fixed into the underlying protocol developed by Nakamoto. Nakamoto’s rules specify that the amount of bitcoins in circulation will grow at an ever-decreasing rate toward a maximum of 21 million. Currently there are just over 6 million; in 2030, there will be over 20 million bitcoins. ...... if more than half of the Bitcoin network’s computing power comes under the control of one entity, then the rules can change. This would prevent, for example, a criminal cartel faking a transaction log in its own favor to dupe the rest of the community...... “The combined power of the network is currently equal to one of the most powerful supercomputers in the world,” says Garzik. “Satoshi’s rules are probably set in stone.” ..... “Elaborate controls to make sure that currency is not produced in greater numbers is not something any other currency, like the dollar or the euro, has” ..... “In a Bitcoin world, everyone would anticipate that, and they know what they got paid would buy more then than it would now.” ..... even limited success could allow Bitcoin to change the fate of more established currencies. “Competition is good, even between currencies—perhaps the example of Bitcoin could influence the behavior of the Federal Reserve.”
Big-Name Investors Back Effort to Build a Better Bitcoin
OpenCoin, a startup with a new digital currency called Ripple...... digital currency called Ripple and tools for making transactions in other currencies, including Bitcoins ..... Ripple, the currency developed by OpenCoin, is similar to Bitcoin in that it uses math to prevent counterfeiting and fraud ..... transfers made with Ripple can be confirmed in seconds; Bitcoin transfers take, on average, 10 minutes to be confirmed, and many sites that accept Bitcoins make users wait an hour for confirmation ..... The company’s website for Ripple is more polished and easy-to-use than most sites built for Bitcoin users. As well as sending Ripples to other people, users can also send and exchange U.S. dollars, Euros, Bitcoins, and other currencies using the site. Ripple’s design has those transactions automatically routed through exchange companies that are working with OpenCoin. Tools are also available to allow others to offer software or websites that make use of Ripple....... Transferring Ripples is free, while transactions that involve converting between currencies involve small transaction fees—typically 0.02 percent. That’s significantly less than the fees levied by existing financial companies, such as PayPal, credit card issuers, or banks ..... “You can send e-mails for free, but not payments,” says Larsen. “Finally we might get finance to the place where e-mail or social networking has taken communication.” ..... OpenCoin plans to hand out some 50 billion Ripples in coming months, and more in the future, in an attempt to get the currency to function independently..... his company aims to turn a profit by retaining a chunk, likely 25 percent, of the total 100 billion Ripples that will ever exist, in the expectation that the currency gains value...... large Internet companies are starting to accept payments or donations in Bitcoin, including Expensify, Wordpress, and Reddit

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