Imagine this scenario.
Forget Apple Pay (many already do, it seems).
Forgot debit and credit cards. In fact, cut them up. Now, go take all the money you need to live on for a year and convert it into bitcoin. And no cheating. No backup cards and no backup cash. Just bitcoin — for 365 days.
Crazy? Perhaps. And it’s not the first time it’s been done. If you recall, PYMNTS’ Bitcoin Tracker also once featured a story about Austin and Beccy Craig — the newlyweds who spent their first 101 post-honeymoon days living entirely on bitcoin. (Even they admitted that after just 101 days, they were exhausted.)
Now, imagine that 101 days on bitcoin — and triple it. That’s how long Felix Weis, a 28-year-old computer programmer from Luxembourg, lived on the digital currency to fund his life and travels around the world. He found success in 14 countries, giving him the motivation to bank on bitcoin as his currency of choice.
“Now that I know it’s possible to live off bitcoin in 14 countries, why go back to the boring old system?” he told Reuters in an interview.
So why did he do it? According to Weis: “Bitcoin is the most exciting global socioeconomic experiment right now. I really believe in it.”
He’s not the only one, of course. But Weis might not be so quick to jump on the bitcoin bandwagon today, as its price volatility has once again shown its true colors. Bitcoin was trading around $233.50 mid-day Thursday (Aug. 20), and this was after bitcoin dipped 14 percent in a 30-minute period the day prior when a “flash crash” hit the Bitfinex bitcoin exchange.
While his bitcoin journey was longer than the newlyweds’ experience, his encounters were very much the same. Store clerks gave him blank stares when asked if they accepted it. Many had never heard of the digital currency, but they did after Weis gave them the spiel on why he thought bitcoin could be beneficial for their business.
Weis didn’t travel with credit cards (except for one that was cut in half to prove his bitcoin devotion), but he did come equipped with a selfie stick (so he could snap photos of people making their first bitcoin transactions) and a good explanation of the benefits of bitcoin. After all, his trip was also about convincing others to jump on the bitcoin bandwagon, too.
Weis’s bitcoin journey is far from over, as he plans to visit 21 countries before 2015 is over. The 21 figure is significant, as it is symbolic of the 21 million bitcoins that the digital currency was capped at by bitcoin’s creator. To date, Weis has visited around Europe, and made stops in Turkey, Israel and Ukraine.
Throughout his journey he has set guidelines similar to those set by the couple who traveled on bitcoin. Pay whenever possible in bitcoin, and when not possible, he must only exchange bitcoin for physical money through the site localbitcoins.com. No credit or debit card can ever be used.
Weis obviously saw the downsides at times as he had a few days where he couldn’t find food — and instead relied on free continental breakfasts from hotels. But he got lucky in Turkey in May, when he was able to celebrate what’s known as “Bitcoin Pizza Day.”
Yes, that’s actually a thing — celebrating the day in 2010 when the first bitcoin transaction was made in the real world (and made, of course, to buy pizza).
Celebration aside, even Weis admitted that the journey hasn’t been easy. He almost quit when bitcoin’s price started dipping. His budget for living on bitcoin for a year can only work when bitcoin stays around $250, which means he could be in trouble. But for now, he’s traveling in Hong Kong and across Asia, then headed to South America. He’ll wrap up with Berlin — a place he hopes he can learn more about creating a software startup around making bitcoin “easier and safer for the average person,” he said.
Hopefully the bitcoin price stays on the right side of the needle for him — but right now, it’s teetering below.
Bitcoin Tracker Week 87
The Good, The Bad — The Top Bitcoin Stories Of The Week
Mt. Gox Busted Bitcoin Chief In Hot Water — Again
Remember when $500 million worth of bitcoins disappeared from the now defunct Mt. Gox bitcoin exchange? Well, its founder is finally about to have to answer to authorities.
Japanese police are allegedly ready to re-arrest Mark Karpelès, who was already arrested once on the matter when he was accused of manipulating the company’s computer system to inflate his own accounts. He has remained in police custody while the details of the charges get worked out. Sources indicate that the latest changes will center on embezzlement accusations, but one of his lawyers has already denied the accusations.
He has also been accused of misappropriating $2.6 million of deposits from Mt. Gox customers. Still, his legal team has denied such claims against him.
“It’s too much of a stretch to call this embezzlement,” a lawyer told Financial Times.
Another Bitcoin Exchange Crumbles
Yep, another one bites the bitcoin dust.
This time, the news is about North American bitcoin exchange Harborly, which announced it was shutting down due to a shift in the market. As too many companies enter the market it’s made it more difficult for the smaller bitcoin exchanges to make names for themselves.
“When we first launched Harborly just over a year ago, we had the vision of giving our users the simplest, quickest, and safest way to buy and sell bitcoin globally using their local currency,” a farewell post on the company’s blog read. “Our team has had an incredible and exhilarating journey as a provider within the Bitcoin ecosystem as it experienced highs, lows, and everything in between.”
Why The Dark Web Still Dominates Bitcoin
It’s stories like this that give the reputable bitcoin exchanges a bad name.
A new research report finds that the Dark Web is more popular than BitPay — a major bitcoin startup — for processing bitcoin transactions. Researchers from Carnegie Mellon University reported that the Dark Web sales volume last year easily topped $650,000 in sales volume daily. That’s quite a bit above BitPay’s reported total of an average of $435,000 a day.
“In the short four years since the development of the original Silk Road, total volumes have reached up to $650,000 daily (averaged over 30-day windows) and are generally stable around $300,000–$500,000 a day, far exceeding what had been previously reported,” the report reads.
Bitcoin’s Identity Crisis
Bitcoin is totally forked.
Or at least it will be soon, as two high-profile developers have announced plans to fork the code that undergirds the network.
The new fork — Bitcoin XT — can handle more transactions per hour but requires more memory to maintain a database of the blockchain. Its current backers are Mike Hearn and Gavin Andresen — two BTC senior developers. Andresen is the chief scientist of the Bitcoin Foundation; Hearn was once the chairman of the foundation’s law and policy committee.
“I feel sad that it’s come to this, but there is no other way. The Bitcoin Core project has drifted so far from the principles myself and many others feel are important, that a fork is the only way to fix things,” Hearn wrote in a post to the bitcoin developer mailing list.
Bitcoin Core — the original bitcoin, so to speak — deals in much smaller blocks than XT will. (Blocks are the transaction groups formed every 10 minutes or so). The current max block size is 1mb. XT will increase those blocks to a much larger 8mb, which supporters of the fork say is necessary for the currency’s continued development.
“As bitcoin spreads via word of mouth, we will reach the limit of the current system some time next year, or by 2017 at the absolute latest,” Hearn writes. “So it is now time to raise the limit or remove it entirely.”
Greece’s Debt Crisis Is A Win For Bitcoin
Seemingly teetering from one financial crisis to another, Greece could be in line to receive as many 1,000 bitcoin ATMs, which stems from a partnership between two entities: the digital currency exchange BTCGreece and the cryptocurrency service provider known as Cubits.
The movement to embrace the ATMs shows increasing interest in the cryptocurrency in an age of whipsaw debt and currency movements. As reported by IBT, bitcoin represents a way for at least some Greek citizens to get around capital controls that have been a hallmark of the financial system since June. As part of those controls, cash withdrawals at ATMs are limited to €60 daily, and no money can be moved from foreign bank accounts.
“We are creating the ecosystem of bitcoin and blockchain solutions in the Greek market.” said Thanos Marinos, Founder of BTCGreece, in an interview. The rollout will include the positioning of 1,000 ATMs and solutions geared toward the eCommerce and tourism industry.
Oh, Canada…Actually Has A Bitcoin Embassy
If you’re ever in Montreal, be sure to be on the lookout for the words “Bitcoin Embassy.”
No, Canada does not have its own government-run bitcoin organization. Instead, there’s an actual organization (one with paid employees and some free interns) that works to promote bitcoin and essentially do exactly what its name suggests: be an ambassador for bitcoin.
So what exactly is the point of the embassy?
Mathieu Gagnon, the Embassy’s COO, called the organization “a cooperation of entrepreneurs, volunteers, industry members, who come together for one specific purpose.” But it’s also about helping bitcoin gain a better name in the currency ecosystem and working with the government to get bitcoin on the mainstream track.
“Bitcoiners were persecuted by the banking system, and the Embassy provides a safe haven of sort. We were persecuted both in terms of mindset — everything thought that [bitcoin] just wasn’t going to work — and practically. We were blacklisted: if you had any kind of bitcoin business, it was impossible to open a bank account. Now, it’s no longer fashionable to bash bitcoin, even in financial circles,” Gagnon said.
“Regulators need to talk to someone — let’s say, this bank wants to use bitcoin, or this payment processor wants to use bitcoin, they need to talk to some people. They could individually go on forums, or they could come to us, talk to us.”