Bitcoin. Bitcoin. Bitcoin….Bitcoin is everywhere. All the time. Forever. The fact that thousands of articles, surveys and analysis are published everyday to tell the Bitcoin story is the proof that we are facing a phenomenon. Why and how did Bitcoin become so popular and controversial that fast? One of the reason why is probably because of the freedom, anonymity and transparency it offers to its users, because of the distance it offers from a financial and banking system that made the world plunged in one of the worst economic crisis ever. Bitcoin cannot be controlled by central banks and governments. It is controlled by all the Bitcoiners in a total transparency system. Plus, there is no transaction fees whatsoever which simplifies any local, national or international trades. So this means that I can send Bitcoins to a charity in South Africa and the transaction will be free and only take a couple of minutes, contrary to the couple of days it usually takes, and the fees the bank would normally charge me. Bitcoin allows communities to use an alternative form of payments and free them from the pressure of an old-established system. However, I personally do not have real examples of this phenomenon in my daily life yet. And I still have tons of questions such as who really uses this new digital currency? When and where can I use it? Is it accessible to anyone or is Bitcoin the latest digital toy of talented geeks or economics and finance experts? In order to answer those questions I started to look for stories of people somewhere in the world who were able to make a simple and good use of Bitcoin. Here is what I have found.
1. One neighbourhood in Berlin named Kreuzberg has become a champion in the use of Bitcoin. Kate Connoly and Guy Grandjean wrote an article in the Guardian, Bitcoin: the Berlin streets where you can shop with virtual money, explaining how Bitcoin is being used and what it means for the neighbourhood. “Kreuzberg is traditionally an area in which people are very politically aware, critical towards existing systems and are constantly discussing and looking for alternatives to them, which makes it the perfect breeding ground for Bitcoin,” says Joerg Patzer, the owner of a popular bar of the area. In this example, Bitcoin has become popular because it is not part of a dangerous banking system as one of the Kreuzberg resident explains: “Looking at the way the economy is going and the way we’re dealing with it, particularly after what’s just happened in Cyprus, I don’t really trust having my money in the banks.”
2. More and more companies are accepting Bitcoin but those who do are still a short minority: WordPress started accepting Bitcoin in November 2012; the large BitTorrent company, The Pirate Bay, entered the Bitcoin community in April 2013; Reddit, the social news and entertainment, is also part of it since February 2013, Etsy Vendors and the latest company who decided to accept Bitcoin is the luxury car group, Lamborghini, who sold its very first car using Bitcoin last month in California. The Bitcoin community is growing bigger and bigger thus influencing companies to accept the new digital currency. Overstock, a major retailer in San Francisco, decided to accept Bitcoin too and stated that ” In its first 22 hours accepting the digital currency, it accepted 800 orders in bitcoin, and they were worth a total of about $126,000. The company nabbed $5,000 in bitcoin orders in the first 30 minutes alone, and about $10,000 in the first two hours.” The reaction was immediate. Customers seems to be pleased to see some of their shops surfing the Bitcoin wave and are ready to purchase goods from them using the new digital currency. This could influence other companies to do the same in the very near future.
3. Bitcoin is also facilitating payments for smaller companies and entrepreneurs. The lack of fees for local, national and international transactions is a relief for small businesses. There is one example of that new form of business through Bitcoin. ” In Argentina, organic farmers are struggling to sell their products. But some farmers found an alternative. With the help of Bitcoin, they have succeeded in creating an online presence where they can sell their organic vegetables directly to the customers. With no fees or middlemen.” This was rendered possible with the help of a web developper who set up a Bitcoin wallet for the Argentinians farmers. They are now totally independant in the way they can sell their products to anyone few kilometers away or in the other hemisphere. The transaction is easy and fast every time.
4. And one last story that can trigger jealousy among all of us. Kristoffer Koch is a lucky 27 years old Norwegian who invested $27 in Bitcoin in 2009 and then simply forgot about it. He discovered the currency while writing his thesis on encryption and bought some Bitcoins to get a better understanding of it. He forgot all about that even the private key that was securing his Bitcoin wallet until the widespread media coverage that Bitcoin received those past months. Eventually, he remembered the password and discovered that he was rich. “It said I had 5,000 bitcoins in there. Measuring that in today’s rates it’s about $886,000. What a pleasant surprise.
And there are a lot of other stories of that kind all over the world. Other Bitcoiners who are using it as an attempt to fight the system, other big and small companies who are accepting Bitcoin payment, other smaller entrepreneurs who are setting up a Bitcoin account to free themselves from the pressure of banks and authority, and other lucky ones who invested in Bitcoin when its price was low and who are now rich. So those real life stories are the proof that Bitcoin is a real thing about to have a strong impact on a system.
Wired – In First Day With Bitcoin, Overstock Does $126,000 in Sales
Bitcoin Baba – Bitcoins: Liberating Organic Farmers
The Guardian – Man buys $27 of bitcoin, forgets about them, finds they’re now worth $886k