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The Ups And Downs And Ups Of Bitcoin

What's the Latest Development?

This week, several events illustrated the growing popularity of Bitcoin for both online and real-world transactions. An Alberta man, Taylor More, put a two-bedroom bungalow on the market for US$395,000 or the equivalent in Bitcoins. A technical glitch caused the value of the currency to fall by 23 percent in a one-day "flash crash." And the US Treasury's Financial Crimes Network released a "guidance note" on the use and management of virtual currencies such as Bitcoin. While it may be some time before investors become comfortable enough to use it for large sums, these and other recent developments have them taking notice. 

What's the Big Idea?

As "the digital equivalent of cash," uncontrolled by any bank or government,  Bitcoin transactions are largely anonymous and cannot be easily traced. This same anonymity is why funds that were lost or stolen -- via hacking, for example -- cannot be recovered. In order to prevent a total loss, traders are advised to keep a copy of their account data in some form of tangible non-Internet-dependent storage, which can range from an encrypted USB drive to a piece of paper. As of today, one Bitcoin is worth approximately US$71.

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