Bitcoin was once viewed as a promising alternative to the US dollar and other fiat currencies that are controlled by federal governments or national banks. Bitcoin was appealing and newsworthy because it offers near real-time transfer of value (compared to 1-3 days for a bank settlement), anonymity, and virtually free transactions versus credit card merchant charges of 1-3%.
Bitcoin: The good old days
In its first few years starting from when Bitcoins were first minted (or mined in Bitcoin parlance) in January 2009, the currency had limited practical use, limited to transfer between Bitcoin miners and a few computer geeks. Bitcoin ATMs, which allowed individuals to insert dollars in exchange for a piece of paper – the digital representation of a Bitcoin wallet – began to appear. Robocoin, the first ATM vendor of its kind, installed early Bitcoin ATMs in Vancouver and Austin, starting in October 2013. This allowed non-miners to exchange real currency for Bitcoin currency and participate in the promise of a global currency that knew no international boundaries, had no exchange fees, and could be used universally around the world.
It could be argued that December 2014 was the peak of merchant acceptance of Bitcoin, a major component of that promise. Bitpay, a startup that enabled merchants, including brick and mortar stores, to accept Bitcoin, purchased the rights to rename the St. Petersburg Bowl, an annual NCAA college football postseason game played in St. Petersburg, Florida, to the Bitcoin Bowl. Leading up to the game, Bitpay enabled many local merchants in downtown St. Petersburg and around the stadium to accept Bitcoin. Several Bitcoin ATM vendors also stepped in and installed Bitcoin ATMs.continue reading »