Like a reliable Swiss watch, Bitcoin takes a licking and keeps on ticking.
Scandals, high profile hacks and wild price swings continue to take a toll on the world's most popular digital currency. Chief among these was the collapse of Mt. Gox, the world's largest Bitcoin exchange, in late February which was forced to suspend trading, shut its website and file for bankruptcy in a tangled web of theft, fraud and mismanagement. This and the resulting loss of close to half a billion dollars pushed the virtual currency's price to $360 in April. Bitcoin has since rebounded and is trading in a much healthier $650 range as of June 6.
Dish Network provided a huge vote of confidence for the virtual currency by announcing in late May that its 14 million subscribers will be able to pay for their satellite TV services with Bitcoin by the third quarter of 2014. Overstock.com is already accepting roughly $30,000 in Bitcoin transactions. This represents about 1 percent of its $3.6 million daily sales, according to TechCrunch, which adds that by the holidays Overstock might be taking in more than $100,000 worth of Bitcoin business. Even American rapper 50 Cent (Curtis Jackson) will allow his fans to buy his newly-released album “Animal Ambition” with Bitcoin.
Consumers are also showing signs of acceptance to using the e-money. A recent PricewaterhouseCoopers survey found that 42 percent of online shoppers were aware of Bitcoin. Furthermore, 38 percent of the 1,000 respondents surveyed reported their interest in using Bitcoin for downloading or streaming TV shows or movies, and 39 percent said they would like to use it to purchase tickets to movies or sporting events.
Bitcoin ATM machines continues to appeal to Canadian residents. In early May, Saskatoon was the latest city in Canada to provide ATM access to the digital currency joining Vancouver, Toronto, Winnipeg, Ottawa, Montreal and Halifax.
That appeal is also evident in venture capital firms, as almost $10.5 million has been invested in Bitcoin in Canada, putting it behind the United States' $68.1 million and just ahead of China's $8 million, according to a report from the Montreal Economic Institute issued on May 29th.
The report notes that the success of the digital currency in Canada depends on how Bitcoin is taxed and regulated. The Canada Revenue Agency points out that businesses have to declare sales in Bitcoin, and the currency falls under capital gains taxes if they are bought or sold for investment or speculation. In February, the federal government said it plans to update anti-money laundering measures and anti-terrorist financing regulations to counteract any risks presented by virtual currencies.
Despite the doubters, there continues to be a wave of entrepreneurs who are eager to see Bitcoin thrive. On June 2, Canadian startup YesToBitcoins.com opened a service that allows Bitcoin users to purchase gift cards to some popular retailers including Apple, Starbucks, Amazon, Roots and Monocle.com. The site's founder, Darwin Ramon said the premise is simple: Why shouldn't I be able to spend Bitcoin to purchase items from my favourite stores? The other big brands will catch up eventually.