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Summary:

Why has Bitcoin has soared from its $50 post-crash low in April to over $200? The rise could reflect increased mainstream interest in the currency that has brought a newfound state of stability. (Or it could be yet another bubble).

Bitcoin
photo: Guardian/Guy Grandjean, James Ball

Bitcoin, the virtual currency beloved by dreamers, speculators and criminals, is on a new upswing as the popular Mt. Gox exchange showed it trading slightly above $200 late Tuesday afternoon ET:

Screen Shot 2013-10-22 at 5.25.39 PM

As the chart shows, Bitcoin is trading on other exchanges at a price closer to $185 (trades on Tokyo-based Mt. Gox come at a premium, possibly due to its recent legal and regulatory troubles). But, by whatever metric you pick, Bitcoin is soaring — up over $60 this month alone. And the current price is up more than $150 from the low of $50 it hit after a spectacular crash in April.

The gains are also notable because Bitcoin has weathered a series of wrenching shocks in the last six months: the FBI’s takedown of Silk Road (a criminal marketplace that relied on Bitcoin); the feds’ seizure of millions from Mt. Gox; an ugly lawsuit that blew up plans for a series of U.S.-based Mt. Gox franchises.

So why has the currency proved so resilient? As with the April crash (and those before it), no one has a definite answer. But the recent steadiness may be the result of support from established investors like Fred Wilson and Second Market, and the efforts by the Bitcoin Foundation to tame political hostility in Washington. And the currency’s October boost may stem from Chinese internet giant Baidu’s decision to accept Bitcoins as payments.

Bitcoin’s resilience may also be due to an ever-growing number of start-ups and developers who are making the currency easier for merchants and for everyday people. These include San Francisco-based Coinbase, which offers both an easy-to-use wallet and an exchange where users can buy and sell small amounts of Bitcoin instantly.

This week, Coinbase introduced an intriguing new payment tool: a widget that lets readers of the massive online news and discussion site Reddit pay each other with Bitcoin at no transaction cost. This means that if someone leaves a clever comment or story, other readers can quickly “tip” them with a trickle of Bitcoins.

Some commentators on the Bitcoin sub-Reddit, where hardcore devotees of the currency gather, expressed skepticism about the Coinbase plan, noting that such technology already exists. Others responded that Coinbase is easier to use and will encourage more people to get Bitcoin wallets.

Correction: an earlier version of this article stated that Coinbase is based in New York, not San Francisco.

  1. /u/bitcointip beat Coinbase to the punch there. I’d personally rather go through it than through Coinbase, since it feels like Coinbase basically copied the idea for the sake of turning it into a marketing tool.

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  2. Coinbase is located in the Bay Area, not New York.

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  3. The first sentence of the summary is not grammatical.

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  4. Coinbase is based in San Francisco, CA. Were you thinking of CoinSetter?

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    1. Thanks for flagging, Rich — you’re right; it slipped my mind that Coinbase is in SF (possibly b/c Union Square’s Fred Wilson is an investor). The story has been updated.

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  5. Good article.

    As for “why has the currency proved so resilient” the answer isn’t so mysterious as you make out, though. Functionally speaking, Bitcoin is superior (in terms of efficiency) to any other Internet payment mechanisms that currently exist. It elegantly reduces fees across the board, which is demonstrable utility. Eventually that facet is going to persistently push Bitcoin forward until something superior emerges, and it is difficult at this time to imagine what exactly could replace it.

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  6. I take issue with being called a criminal just for engaging in some consensual trade. Something that’s voluntary and non violent doesn’t have to be immoral just because the government days so.

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  7. coinbase does not let you buy and sell instantly, they have a week wait before you get your coins

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  8. Bitcoin going to save the global economy, Bitcoins are digital coins transferred from person to person, without using a bank or centralized service.
    Bitcoin is a digital currency that is designed for global commerce in the modern age, with the ease of a credit card but without the high fees. You can acquire Bitcoins by buying or trading for them from local vendors, or accepting them for your business instead of cash or credit.
    CryptoCafe is going to be big in the world of Bitcoin, be sure to sign up for the big release announcement. The website is owned by a public company called Myriad Interactive, the stock symbol is MYRY and its predicted to be very big!

    Myriad Interactive Media Begins Development of Bitcoin Platform CryptoCafe.com

    For more information and to read disclaimers and disclosures: http://finance.yahoo.com/q?s=myry

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