Bitcoin Experiment in Real Life

experiment19 Feb 2014 / WSJ – Deep in the unregulated underbelly of the Internet, bitcoin is the crypto-currency of the realm, making as many headlines for its volatile price as it has for its popularity with criminals seeking anonymity.

These are reasons enough to keep most people away. But bitcoin keeps popping up in more places as a way to pay for legal, everyday things. So I spent a week using the virtual currency and my experience surprised me: It was neither anonymous nor shadowy.

Though my hunt for places to spend bitcoin did turn up a questionable massage parlor, it didn’t require venturing into fishy corners of the Internet. I used bitcoin to buy cupcakes and sushi at local shops, and I got a Grumpy Cat sweatshirt at

Bitcoin isn’t ready to replace credit cards or PayPal. It lacks wide acceptance, consumer protections and stability. The currency is in crisis right now, after hacking attacks disabled two of the biggest exchanges, making bitcoin lose a third of its value. During the course of a week, my own bitcoin lost as much as 7% of its value.

But that isn’t stopping me from keeping a small wallet of the first major Internet currency. I’m no speculator, I’m not investing my savings in bitcoin, or recommending that anyone does that. I’m interested in what it might enable—a “tip jar” for online art, or small daily donations to charity. And if you’re intrigued, too, this column will hopefully help you keep from losing your shirt…… Read more

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