Six years after its introduction to the masses, Bitcoin, the decentralized currency known as “cash for the Internet,” is growing in popularity. Yet it still remains largely shrouded in mystery.
From the identity of its mysterious inventor to the head-scratching complexities of how exactly it works, Bitcoin and virtual currencies like it were largely embraced by computer programmers. Now these currencies have since begun to edge into the mainstream. Businesses, both brick-and-mortar and online, have begun accepting it as a form of payment, and GOP presidential candidate Rand Paul has said he would accept campaign donations via Bitcoin. More than 400 Bitcoin ATMs have popped up across the world, and the idea has spawned others like it that have grown in popularity.
These rapidly evolving and volatile currencies haven’t gone unnoticed by the Minnesota Department of Commerce, whose leader this week told potential virtual currency investors to be careful — in part because it’s not controlled or backed by a central government or bank, and therefore is subject to little regulation. That’s not to say it lacks cash value.
As of Thursday, a single Bitcoin was worth more than $415, according to CoinDesk, which tracks its daily value. By