September 15, 2015 – When many people hear the term “Bitcoin,” the mind immediately conjures images of the dark underbelly of the Internet, rife with drug dealers, hackers, smugglers, and money launderers.
But, as a New York Times article points out, the “innovations that helped turn Bitcoin into the most popular virtual currency are now being viewed as a potentially enormous disruptive force” for many industries.
The flame of interest around Bitcoin flared up late last month when Barclays, one of Britain’s largest high-street banks, announced that it would help charities accept Bitcoin payments. This would make the bank the first to support the currency, setting a precedent for banks and other financial institutions to follow.
For some time, banks have been exploring the uses of Bitcoin, trying to determine the possibilities behind digital currency and its underlying blockchain technology. Many financial institutions are discussing how Bitcoin can be used to change foreign currency trading, speed up and lower the cost of consumer payments, and more.
Opponents of the blockchain, a technology that validates transactions made in Bitcoin, believe that Bitcoin could potentially strip financial institutions of their control over the flow of money.
Meanwhile, the cryptocurrency seems to be gaining steam in parts of the world where users don’t often have bank accounts but typically have smartphones and want to shop online, such as developing nations including India, Russia, Brazil, and Indonesia.
It remains to be seen if Bitcoins can become a viable global digital currency trusted by the mainstream financial communities and industries. This first foray by a serious player perhaps signals the “beginning of the beginning” of that transition.
Popper, Nathaniel. “Bitcoin Technology Piques Interest on Wall St.” The New York Times. The New York Times, 28 August 2015. Web. 9 September 2015.