Much discussion has been had lately about bitcoins, the online currency first brought to mainstream attention by the discovery of a website called Silk Road, an online black market for narcotics set up to function like Amazon or eBay (article here.)
Bitcoins have been called a “crypto-currency,” the online equivalent of a brown paper bag of cash. Bitcoins are a peer-to-peer currency, not issued by banks or governments, but created and regulated by a network of other bitcoin holders’ computers. (The name “Bitcoin” is derived from the pioneering file-sharing technology Bittorrent.) They are purportedly untraceable and have been championed by cyberpunks, libertarians and anarchists who dream of a distributed digital economy outside the law, one where money flows across borders as free as bits.
One bitcoin is worth about $8.67, though the exchange rate fluctuates wildly every day. The value of the virtual currency has soared nearly 15% in the last two days, according to the most recent pricing data. The rapid change is said to be largely due to the financial crisis in Cyprus, with one particular libertarian entrepreneur announcing plans to install the world’s first bitcoin ATM there.