Bitcoin has only been available to the public for about five years. But in half a decade, the crypto-currency has made headlines across the world; some positive, some negative, all inquisitive. What used to be a hobby for the technologically adept and business-minded is now creating massive space for anyone to get involved. Despite government efforts to slow down and regulate the virtual currency, bitcoin and its community show no signs of giving in.
The innovation even has its own documentary, with the premiere today in Manhattan, New York at Tribeca Film Festival. The film is entitled The Rise and Rise of Bitcoin, and covers much ground that both bitcoin enthusiasts and newcomers will surely appreciate. Nicholas Mross, the director of the film, mentions that viewers can expect to see “highlights [of] some of the early entrepreneurs and enthusiasts in the space that helped paved the way.” While the documentary has not been slated for a public release yet, the level of enthusiasm from the bitcoin community appears fervent enough to bring this opportunity to pass at some point.
The digital currency has experienced value fluctuations in the hundreds of dollars throughout very short periods of time, news outlets bashing it amid stories of corruption and the general public’s reluctance to approach and interact with it. But bitcoin traders and tech developers have kept a cool head in the midst of such aesthetic flurries, because they understand that it takes a while for emerging technology to be embraced by old systems.
The Silk Road incident, being covered by various news outlets last October, was a bit of a tough affair for the bitcoin community to wade through. Silk Road was a black market website that existed through the Deep Web and only accepted bitcoins as payment for goods or services. The Deep Web is a network of websites and links, searchable through the Tor browser, which allows owners or moderators of websites to hide their work from the public and surface-level sites. Tor is an Internet browser that anonymizes the user.
The FBI was responsible for identifying and effectively seizing all Silk Road operations last year, and charged Ross William Ulbricht, the site’s alleged founder and administrator, with narcotics trading, money laundering, computer hacking and attempted murder. Those who heard about these events began to rapidly view bitcoins as synonymous with Silk Road’s newly uncovered reputation. But the bitcoin community recognized this incident for what it was, and consequently show no signs of allowing their expansion to slow down. Veterans of the bitcoin market understood that while it was unfortunate that Silk Road had selected bitcoin as its currency of choice, the capabilities that the black market had because of bitcoin was a perfect example of how the virtual currency was intended to thrive.
One of the primary reasons bitcoin was launched was from a desire to have a decentralized currency. There is no internal committee or board that issues regulations regarding bitcoin, and funds can be sent and received entirely anonymously. This means that there is no such need for something like a credit check in the bitcoin world. As long as users possess sufficient funds for whatever purchase they intend to make, there is no prerequisite for a background check.
Bitcoin was also created to be an open-source and collaborative commodity, much like WordPress in many ways. This allows it to be unhackable, largely meaning it cannot be destroyed or functionally diverted. There are more young people hopping on the bitcoin boat in record numbers, whether they are tech gurus, aspiring entrepreneurs or just interested in bitcoin, and this is a sure sign that the digital currency has built a platform that will stand the test of time.
The younger ones in this emerging bubble of technology, financial reform and business development are the ones who are likely to be most familiar and comfortable with it, meaning that they will probably wield the most power in a few years. Ross William Ulbricht, the supposed operator of Silk Road, is only about 29 years old himself. This says a lot about how bitcoin will continue breaking into the pre-established spheres and markets of the 21st century world. So even though it may be a few more years before you can pay with bitcoin at your local grocery store or restaurant, the growth of bitcoin shows no signs of slowing down, and will only widen the convenience of purchasing power for individuals across the world.
Opinion By Brad Johnson