Will Overstock.com be bitcoin’s great liberator?

patrick_byrneOverstock21 Dec 2013 / LA Times – The bitcoin faithful are ever on the lookout for signs that their virtual currency is as good as cash, more than a speculator’s dream and not merely a device for criminal transactions.

So you can expect them to make a lot out of the announcement that you’ll soon be able to pay for goods at the retail website Overstock.com with bitcoins. Some news reports already have proclaimed Overstock  the first “major” retailer to accept the things.

That may be stretching the term “major” a bit–Salt Lake City-based Overstock mostly sells closeout merchandise for manufacturers looking to liquidate old inventory quickly and cheaply–but let it go. The real question is whether this places bitcoins anywhere near on par with the currencies you’re familiar with, like dollars and euros, or whether it’s mostly a marketing gimmick. A close look suggests it’s the latter.

Overstock Chief Executive Patrick Byrne himself seems fully alive to the marketing aspect of accepting bitcoins. “I think we’ll pick up market share,” he told me, “the market share of people who’d prefer to pay in bitcoin, with an honest currency.” He says customers may be able to do so as soon as four months from now, though the second half of 2014 is his target date.

As we’ve been documenting, bitcoins recently have had a rough ride, in part because the Chinese government effectively shut down the largest bitcoin trader on the planet, BTC China. The value of bitcoins plummeted. Until then, they appeared to have some utility as a means to transfer capital from country to country at low cost and perhaps away from the prying eyes of foreign exchange officials. But with the Chinese action, even that’s in doubt….. Read more


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