May 21, 2011 at 13:30 PM EDT
Make.Money.Slow : The Bitcoin Experiment
Bitcoin . Oh, man, where to begin. Its Hype-O-Meter got cranked to 11 this week, and breathless histrionics are everywhere. Death and Taxes called this new currency " a seismic event "; Adam Cohen says it's nothing but a giant scam ; Jason Calacanis calls it " the most dangerous project we've ever seen "; and they're all completely wrong. It's interesting, and innovative, and down the line it might even be important ... but in many crucial ways, Bitcoin is nothing new. Matthew Ingram at GigaOM wrote a good Bitcoin 101 piece, but a summary of that summary, for those too lazy to click: it's an anonymous online currency whose transactions and monetary supply are verified by digital cryptography and maintained by an open-source peer-to-peer network. Computers on the Bitcoin network can also "mine" new bitcoins, which are generated at a fixed rate. And, crucially, no more than 21 million will ever exist. (~7 million are currently extant.) "So what?" you may ask, and not without reason—but Bitcoins are in fact worth something. Right now you can sell them for ~$7 a pop at any of several Bitcoin exchanges. The EFF accepts Bitcoin donations . Creating a secure distributed currency infrastructure is no mean feat; creating one that people actually use is more impressive still. I don't want to understate that accomplishment. But, people, we have been here before, many times.
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