This particular week’s halt, and possible fall, of the Mt. Gox exchange might or may not prove to be the beginning of the finish for Bitcoin – but to borrow Winston Churchill’s phrase, that is definitely the end of the beginning.
Mt. Gox had already lost its place as the leading Bitcoin exchange before the murky chain of events that led the Tokyo-based site in order to shut down. An apparently leaked inner document indicates that the site may have been the victim of a major fraud, in which perhaps more than $300 mil worth of Bitcoin “disappeared” in the exchange’s accounts. I put “disappeared” in quotes because, of course , Bitcoin has no physical manifestation.
Bitcoin is present only as the product of a computer algorithm whose origins are unfamiliar and whose ultimate purpose can be unclear. It has attracted a diverse collection of users, including individuals who want to keep questionable dealings private, people that may want to keep part of their wealth hidden from authorities who have entry to conventional financial accounts, and end-of-the-worlders who think civilized society will be on the highway to hell and that for whatever reason they will be better off owning bitcoins whenever we all arrive there.
Bitcoin fans like to call it a digital currency, or cryptocurrency because of its encrypted nature. But it is clear now, amid the wild fluctuations in Bitcoin’s price, that it must be not a true currency at all. It really is a commodity whose price changes according to its quality and according to supply and demand.
As of this 7 days, there are two grades of Bitcoin. One of the Mt. Gox variety, which usually nobody can access while the web site is down and which may no longer truly exist at all, was worth only about one-sixth of every other bitcoin yesterday.
Some people are always willing to offer value, albeit not very much value, to take a chance on a possibly worthless asset. This is why shares of companies which are obviously about to go bust may trade for a price greater than zero. But at least we know the shares exist, whether in tangible or even intangible form, and there are governing bodies available to vouch for their validity, if not their value. Bitcoin, sponsored by no government and outlawed simply by some, has no such backing. Ask any Mt. For more information in regards to http://bitcoin-superstar.de take a look at our internet site.
Gox user nowadays whether that is a plus, as bitcoin holders have heretofore maintained. (Authorities from Tokyo to New York are already probing the Mt. Gox collapse, and some sort of follow-up action seems likely. )
True money acts two functions: as a store associated with value and as a medium of exchange. Bitcoin thus far gets only fair marks as a medium associated with exchange, since there are only a limited quantity of places where you can freely spend it. You can swap your (non-Mt. Gox) bitcoins for real money, but you can do the same with any other commodity, like diamonds or Hondas. Diamonds and Hondas are worth money, but they usually are money.
Bitcoins utterly flunk your local store of value test because their particular wild price fluctuations do not shop value; depending on blind luck, they will either create or destroy this. Collecting bitcoins is speculating, not saving. There is a big difference.
Bitcoin does address certain real-world issues, such as the sometimes exorbitant cost of exchanging currencies and the cumbersome nature of the contemporary banking system, which is laden with regulation to try to prevent everything from financial distress to money laundering to identity theft. But the regulations exist since insolvency, money laundering and identity theft exist, too. As Mt. Gox vividly illustrates, a system with out such safeguards is prone to create problems much more serious than the types it purports to solve.
The Mt. Gox debacle might or may not permanently undo Bitcoin’s credibility. All of us won’t know before we know so what happened in those computers in Tokyo. The crisis should, however , strip whatever is left from the veneer of safety that Bitcoin’s intended cryptosecurity was supposed to provide. Bitcoin is no more secure than the structure that is built to hold it. Lacking all the backstops that have evolved over time within the traditional financial system, that is not secure whatsoever. Either we recreate those backstops in the Bitcoin world, in which case we have to wonder why we bothered with Bitcoin in the first place, or we live dangerously without them.
There will always be people who don’t trust banks and the government to secure their savings. They used to stuff cash into beds. Maybe some will continue to use Bitcoin instead. My own guess is that Bitcoin’s chance of becoming a mainstream form of payment, like debit cards or PayPal, can be virtually zero. This may not be the beginning of Bitcoin’s end, but we have definitely seen the end of the beginning.