Up until recently, if you typed "Greece" and "bitcoin" into Google, you would not get much in return.
It’s amazing what a Greek debt crisis will do for search results.
Last week, PYMNTS' Bitcoin Tracker explored how the crisis had given bitcoin a boost — as prices hit above the mid-200s for the first time in a while. One week later, we see the prices surging – but still struggling to poke through the $300 mark. Thursday afternoon's bitcoin price was worth just over $271.
But really, who could have guessed that the cash-centric Greece (a population that in a poll once revealed how little Greeks knew about bitcoin) would be leading the bitcoin headlines.
Headlines like Bloomberg's piece "Greece's Cash Crisis is Bitcoin's Boost" — delves into the story of Thanos Marinos, an Athens man who helped bring bitcoin to Greece just over a year ago. At the time, his goal wasn't to start a booming business, he said, instead it was about educating people about the technology.
"I didn't see it as much as a business case back then," Marinos said in the interview. "The main reason was to bring awareness about bitcoin and blockchain technology to Greece."
Before the debt crisis became a full-blown Eurozone economic catastrophe, he was bringing in 5-10 customers a day. Now that number has jumped 500 percent in a four-week period to somewhere between 150-200 customers weekly.
But Greece has a long way to go before bitcoin would become remotely popular in a country where the average age is 40 and most have never heard of bitcoin. Its physical infrastructure is in its infancy, too, as there is one lone bitcoin ATM in a small bookstore outside of Athens.
And then there's the stories about how bitcoin may be the best alternative for Greece to embrace as an alternative currency as the speculation wages on over whether the debt crisis will force Greece to leave the euro. Embracing bitcoin, some suggest, would be the best thing for the country that's found itself in financial turmoil.
Garrick Hileman, an economic historian at the London School of Economics, noted that the likelihood of the Greek government actually accepting bitcoin as an official currency was highly unlikely, but he — like others — suggested it could at least encourage more Greeks to turn toward bitcoin.
Highly unlikely? How about ain’t never happening.
"Greeks may understandably lack confidence in a new drachma and seek an alternative," Hileman told CNBC.
That doesn't necessarily mean bitcoin, said Jane Foley, a senior currency strategist at Rabobank. She suggested that Greece "would completely revert to cash, which is already happening, than digital currency."
"If you're a small producer, you're probably going to prefer to see the cash given the uncertainties," Foley added.
Yes, cash is king.
Bitcoin Tracker Week 81
The Good, The Bad — The Top Bitcoin Stories Of The Week
Uber's Bitcoin Rumors Are Back
Let's be clear. Uber does not accept bitcoin — at least not yet. They might at least be working on integrating the digital currency eventually.
Speculation has been swirling for quite some time that Uber would be adding bitcoin as a payment option, but a bitcoin spokesperson squashed that the story that said Uber has added the digital currency onto its platform. And sure, this isn't the first time this rumor has been tossed around, but this story ignited again when a story reported that Uber was "currently making bitcoin work."
That story, like a lot of bitcoin stories, wasn't true. It looks like bitcoin enthusiasts will still have to pay in traditional manners when taking an Uber for now.
Bitcoin Gives MovieTicket Sales A Boost
Apparently some movie enthusiasts also love bitcoin. At least those who choose to book their tickets through MovieTickets.com.
The company enables customers to buy tickets online for more than 900 U.S. theaters, and its CEO Joel Cohen said the company has already seen "several hundred" transactions via bitcoin. Sure, that's not breaking any blockbuster records, but it is notable for a currency that hasn't quite gone mainstream yet.
Not only has bitcoin helped boost sales, it's helped the company boost visibility (isn’t that why all merchants do this - for the PR?) Once word got out that the online movie ticket company was accepting bitcoin, it started getting more publicity. Bitcoin, in fact, was used as part of its promotional tools to attract the tech-savvy audience to use its site to book tickets. (See?)
"I was surprised how well it was embraced and kind of presented in a very positive light. We really got visibility into new audiences," Cohen said in an interview.
Bitcoin is Punk Rock
A Wired piece this week featured Andreas M. Antonopoulos, author of "Mastering Bitcoin."
The cryptocurrency expert gave his take on bitcoin regulation, saying it can't be controlled or centralized. And because of the negative press it's garnered, he says it would be better if renamed "blockchain" so more of the general public opts to accept the digital currency. Bitcoin is widely misunderstood — so much, in fact, he said he constantly has to update his book to keep it relevant.
"Bitcoin is not just a minor incremental change, it's not a payments network. Bitcoin is one of the most fundamental transformations on the basis of money," he told Wired.
How Bitcoin Miners Lost $50,000
Another report about lost bitcoins has surfaced in the cryptocurrency world. Over the weekend, reports indicated that a group of bitcoin miners lost close to $50,000 when the bitcoin network was impacted by what's known as a "fork" in the blockchain.
Talk about a fork in the road for bitcoin. So what does that exactly involve? Well, as CoinTelegraph phrased it, the form created invalid blocks on the blockchain, which in turn created the appearance of two separate versions of the blockchain. During the glitch, those versions of the blockchain were repeatedly generated and accepted by the network.
The problem has since been fixed, but several miners lost $50,000 worth of bitcoin as a result of this glitch.
Gambling Sites Get Hacked — Bitcoin Ransom Surfaces
A New Jersey Internet gambling site was hacked and guess what the hackers demanded as ransom? Bitcoin.
"The attack was followed by the threat of a more powerful and sustained attack to be initiated 24 hours later unless a bitcoin ransom was paid," said David Rebuck of the New Jersey Gaming Enforcement Division, about the attack. "This follow-up attack had the potential to not only negatively impact the targeted casinos, but also all business in Atlantic City" that share the same Internet provider.
No ransom was paid, however, so the cybercriminals never got their bitcoin.
Hacking Team Traces Bitcoin Transactions
A new report from CSO indicated that Italy-based spyware firm Hacking Team has created a program that enables bitcoin transactions to be tracked.
The security leak was discovered after a file that was stolen from Hacking Team was released. Among the programs stolen from the hacking company include monitoring programs that would enable hackers to view those bitcoin transactions.
Get Cash Back With...Bitcoin?
HotelGo24.com, a recently launched online booking platform, announced it would be offering cash back for rooms booked with bitcoin.
The company has launched a 5 percent bitcoin cash-back service that is available to users who want to book via bitcoin. HotelGo24.com works with users who book rooms using Visa and MasterCard at more than 130,000 hotels across 198 countries. But those credit card users won't get the same cash-back reward.
“Bitcoin cash back is [sent] within 7 days of user checkout from the booked hotel. The amount of Bitcoin cash back that client will receive depends on the reservation value and BTC exchange rate on the day of booking," the company explained in its promotion.