The Web's Secret Cash

By Lyons, Dan | Newsweek, June 27, 2011 | Go to article overview
Save to active project

The Web's Secret Cash

Lyons, Dan, Newsweek

Byline: Dan Lyons

A novel version of money is sprouting online, letting people shop in complete anonymity.

What if people could use the Internet to create a new kind of money, one that didn't involve governments and central banks and could be used anonymously, like cash? That is the idea behind Bitcoin, a virtual currency that has caught the attention of computer geeks, financial speculators, and drug dealers. For the first time, you can buy anything online without giving your credit-card number or bank-account information--leaving no trace at all.

Hundreds of merchants accept Bitcoins for things like books, computers, and professional services. The currency trades on a handful of Bitcoin exchanges, where the price of a Bitcoin fluctuates based on demand. Not long ago a single Bitcoin sold for less than a dollar, but in recent months the price climbed to $8, then to $20, then above $30, before falling back to $18, the current level.

What exactly are you buying? A Bitcoin is basically just a little bit of encrypted code that can be zipped over the Internet and stored in a digital wallet. The concept was proposed by a mysterious hacker named Satoshi Nakamoto (no one knows who he is, and the name is believed to be a pseudonym), who published a white paper describing a way in which computers connected over the Internet could be used to create an unregulated "cryptocurrency."

New York Sen. Charles Schumer recently called Bitcoin "an online form of money laundering," after learning about an online warehouse called Silk Road where sellers advertise an astounding array of illegal wares--marijuana, hashish, LSD, ecstasy, cocaine, heroin--and where the only currency accepted is the Bitcoin.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Cite this article

Cited article

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited article

The Web's Secret Cash


Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?