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Bitcoin has taken the spotlight in the world of cryptocurrencies. Whether it’s Bitcoin’s name or a little beginner’s luck, this first attempt at cryptocurrency appears to be working and its first-mover advantage is paying off.
It’s acceptance as a viable digital currency seems to be growing every day. Beginning with Overstock.com in January, Bitcoin has seen promising growth in adoption over the past six months. The list of major retailers has grown to include Lord & Taylor, TigerDirect, Expedia, 1-800-Flowers.com, and most recently, the electronics giant Newegg. And it’s not only the retail industry that has adopted the coin–Virgin Galactic, Dish Network, The King’s College, the Bitcoin St. Petersburg Bowl, and the Sacramento Kings have bought in as well. Bitcoin acceptance does not appear to be slowing down anytime soon as eBay, Amazon, and MasterCard all appear to have designs for it.
Moreover, states have recently begun to change, clarify, and create rules regarding virtual currencies. California Governor Jerry Brown signed a bill legalizing digital currencies and the New York State Department of Financial Services has started accepting proposals for regulating virtual currency firms such as Coinbase.
Further contributing to its publicity has been the United States Marshals Service’s auction of bitcoins. Monday, June 30, 2014 marked the end of the U.S. Marshal’s auction of 29,656 bitcoins seized during the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s shutdown of the infamous Silk Road marketplace. Although speculation and accidental emails led many to believe the coins would be bought by multiple investors, it was announced on Wednesday that all of the coins were bought by a single bidder, venture capitalist Tim Draper. Together with California-based Bitcoin exchange Vaurum, Draper expects to use the newly acquired pool of coins as a liquidity source to grow Bitcoin adoption in underserved markets and to enable people to use Bitcoin as a way of securing themselves against weak currencies.
Its increasing acceptance, response from states, and news of the U.S. Marshal’s auction appear to have contributed to an increase in bitcoin value in recent weeks. Although Bitcoin price increases have happened before, Litecoin, an alternative cryptocurrency which has largely tracked Bitcoin’s fluctuations in the past, failed to follow the recent rally. This decoupling may be a signal that the market is settling on Bitcoin as the de facto standard in digital cryptocurrencies.
If this is indeed the case, Bitcoin will continue to be the cryptocurrency buzz word among media outlets and the singular focus by virtual currency startups and major companies, and the digital cryptocurrency may begin to make significant headway into mainstream consumer market. Throughout the process, legal regimes will have to be re-examined and re-shaped in such a way as to account for any new risks posed by cryptocurrency while still allowing avenues for innovation to remain open.
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