For something that few had heard of a month ago, the online currency Bitcoin tends to elicit pretty strong responses. Depending on whom you ask, Bitcoin is the “future of money,” a “crypto-geek Ponzi scheme,” an “online form of money laundering,” or a tool for “libertarian hipsters and criminals.”
The publicity has not been kind to Bitcoin, which has faced attacks from law enforcement, hackers, and cybercriminals alike. The currency’s value has seen several sharp fluctuations. Early supporters appear to have lost confidence, and U.S. lawmakers are starting to ask tough questions. But shutting down Bitcoin may prove more difficult than its critics hope. And whether or not the experiment succeeds, its rise may herald the emergence of a new form of decentralized currency trading.
Bitcoin’s origins are appropriately mysterious, in keeping with its cyberpunk image. The idea for the currency was first described in a paper in 2009 by Satoshi Nakamoto, supposedly a Japanese programmer whom no one has ever met or communicated with. The name is almost certainly a pseudonym, and many believe “Nakamoto” may not be only one person.