Bitcoin, the sophisticated three-year old digital currency that recently spread from hackers and programmers to a less-technical set, continues to fascinate.
Bitcoin enthusiasts headed to New York this weekend for the first Bitcoin World Conference and Expo in east Midtown, an event comprised of networking; workshops on mining and coding; showcasing of Bitcoin start-ups; announcements of future Bitcoin conferences in Thailand, Amsterdam as well as a Bitcoin cruise in 2013; meals at restaurants that accept Bitcoin; and talks by e-currency luminaries including Gavin Andresen, the technical lead for the Bitcoin project.
About 75 people, all but a handful of them male, gathered this weekend in east Midtown at the Roosevelt Hotel and at the studios of OnlyOneTV, which produces the web show The Bitcoin Show and organized the conference.
Attendees included representatives from Mt. Gox, the largest exchange which is based in Japan; TradeHill, the second-largest exchange; CampBX, a Georgia-based exchange, who lost their luggage on the flight; along with a host of other Bitcoin businesses. About a third of the audience were miners; about a fourth said they’d heard of Bitcoin
before it was cool since November. Attendees wondered if the mysterious Satoshi Nakamoto, the purported and potentially pseudonymous inventor of Bitcoin who last contacted Mr. Andresen by email in April, was among them.
Mr. Andresen, the keynote speaker, talked about the need for volunteers on the Bitcoin project, especially a quality assurance manager, which would be a paid position. He said he hopes that in five years, Bitcoin “will be boring.” As in, no calls from reporters, no hype and no drama. Just a niche currency with a robust community–possibly
administered facilitated by institutions as mainstream as Bank of America.
Highly-active Bitcoin developer Jeff Garzik spoke next on “The State of the Coin,” emphasizing that the economy is still very, very young–about $81 million USD–and that it’s a “start-up currency” that could still fail, but the fundamentals of the Bitcoin economy are strong. He also spoke about the need for a Bitcoin public relations effort, as the complicated e-currency has occasionally been mangled in translation. “I predict there will be a Bitcoin-specific law,” he said. “Hopefully it’s not banning.”
Developer Stefan Thomas, who traveled from Switzerland, spoke next about using node.js to build Bitcoin applications.
The conference came after another eventful week in the land of Bitcoin, with Mt. Gox, the largest Bitcoin exchange, acquiring Bitomat.pl, the third-largest exchange which recently suffered a technical failure that resulted in the permanent erasure of roughly 17,000 Bitcoins, or more than $191,000 USD at this moment’s price of $11.29. Mt. Gox will compensate Bitomat.pl users for their lost deposits in “an effort to restore confidence in the Bitcoin economy.” Additionally, second-largest exchange TradeHill announced the purchase of the domain Bitcoin.com, where it plans to roll out an easy-to-use wallet service, tools for merchants that want to accept Bitcoin, as well as mobile apps.
In less happy news, some users are still out the Bitcoins they had stored at MyBitcoin.com prior to an incident the site is calling a cyber attack but many speculate was a heist. MyBitcoin announced it would be refunding 49 percent of user deposits, but some say they have yet to receive their refunds. (This reporter got hers right away.)
But the biggest news in Bitcoin world is the deluge of Bitcoin start-ups filling in every gap in the nascent economy. BitInstant, a New York-based start-up that provides credit on the spot in order to speed up Bitcoin transactions, is launching this week. At the conference, Betabeat met a representative from Bitspend.eu, a payment processor for merchants that plans to launch integration with Western Union soon.
The official conference t-shirt, “I AM SATOSHI,” was immensely popular. Organizers were kind enough to give Betabeat a small.
UPDATE: Full list of Bitcoin start-ups that were there as vendors:
- Paul from CryptoAnarchy.us & hampdenwireless.com
- Andrew Lee of Mt. Gox
Many other start-ups were in attendance, including the popular bitcoin-otc.com, however Betabeat did not meet them all and hesitates to attempt to compile a comprehensive list.