The jury is still very much out on whether Bitcoin is a feasible real-world currency. Supporters say it will end banking greed, while opponents claim it is too open to hacking attacks to be a secure form of tender.
London-based founder of Bitcoin exchange Intersango Amir Taaki has nothing but praise. “They are used for preserving your freedom of financial speech,” he insists. “It is the first time we have a currency not controlled by any central bank or central party. We are at the forefront of huge technological change.
“We can create schools and hospitals with Bitcoins. This is not some theoretical concept. It is a billion-dollar economy. It is here now and it’s working.
“In London alone there are over 60 traders,” he continues. “Anyone can go on the internet and start with Bitcoin now, accept payments from anywhere in the world and do business with anyone. It’s just going to grow – it’s growing each day.”
But Pavan Duggal, a cyberlaw specialist in New Delhi, is sceptical. “It has a huge number of legal, policy and regulatory issues,” he says. “Is Bitcoin legal? Can it be enforced in any jurisdiction because no law in the world has been enacted which directly impacts Bitcoin?
“More significantly, in which jurisdiction will a dispute arise should there be a dispute pertaining to payments made by Bitcoin? It brings huge challenges.”
Max Keiser, co-founder of the Hollywood Stock Exchange, which allowed people to trade in virtual currencies such as Moviestocks, Starbonds and Hollywood Dollars, is a big believer in Bitcoin, and with good reason – he is a Bitcoin millionaire. The online whiz who was instrumental in launching internet trading in the mid Nineties is also in the frame as a Satoshi suspect – a claim he denies.
Earlier this year Max told a radio show, “I did not invent Bitcoin. I think the reason people say that is because I did invent the virtual currencies and virtual trading back in 1996.
“I have four US patents covering virtual currencies and virtual trading. So people say, ‘Oh, Max Keiser must be involved in the creation of Bitcoin.’ That’s not the case. I am very excited and very happy that a hacker, or a group of hackers, did launch Bitcoin in 2009. It is taking the globe by storm.”
And of the mysterious Satoshi he said, “He potentially is so much of a game-changer, it’s such a quantum leap away from the federal reserve system that it is killing economies around the world. We are going to have a revelation that finally we are going to escape the nightmare that is the central bank system.”
So what do we know about Satoshi Nakamoto? There is no record of his existence before Bitcoin was created. He first surfaced in November 2008 when he published a paper on the mailing list of an obscure cryptography website in which he described the currency and claimed to have been working on it since 2007. Nobody using the list had heard of him and he gave little away as to his identity.
In an online profile, he said he was male, 37 years old and lived in Japan. His email address was from a free German service.
The nine-page paper described how Bitcoin would work and how coins would be mined