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Bitcoins shaking things up!

Okay, so a guy comes up to you and whispers, “Hey, little girl! Do you want to see my Bitcoins?”  Do you sock him or run away screaming?  Well, if you know what Bitcoins are, you might be more inclined to peek at what he has to offer, because Bitcoins are becoming a big deal.

So, what is Bitcoin?  It’s a virtual and digital version of cash that’s emerging as a global payment platform that can be used through smart phones, tablets, and other devices. Bitcoin is a product of open source intelligence using peer-to-peer technology to operate with no central authority or banks, which gives it the potential to change how millions of people around the world conduct their business. What makes Bitcoin so disruptive and scary to many people is that, unlike other currencies that are contolled by sovereign nations, bitcoins are not controlled by anybody and, unlike US dollars for example, you can’t create a bitcoin out of thin air.  So are bitcoins legal tender, like the dollar?  They are and they are being used more and more to transact business not only on the Internet but for anything you can buy.  In fact, the first bitcoin ATM machine is being installed in Austin, Texas this month and will be followed by hundreds more across the country now that the U.S. Treasury and Justice Department have cleared the digital currency legitimate and viable, but they won’t be letting you use bitcoins to pay for your tax bill or any other government services for now.

Bitcoin works by providing a secure, global payment platform that bypasses traditional banks.  They were invented in 2009 and until recently were limited in their use to techies who wanted to avoid using banks, for legitimate and sometimes illegitimate reasons.  Over the last year, though, the use of bitcoins has grown dramatically, especially in commercial transactions.  Do you know that you can buy tickets to an NBA games with bitcoins? Sir Richard Branson will even let you buy a seat on a Virgin Galatic flight to space!

Bitcoins are unique as a currency because their value is determined by the owners, much like a commodity.  In fact, bitcoins are actively traded on exchanges and rise and shrink in value all the time.  Some people do wonder if bitcoins will be around in the long run, but don’t be surprised next time you buy something online you get an option to pay for your purchase with bitcoins!

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