The march of Bitcoin continues with the addition of a high profile fan: Bill Gates. The virtual currency is ‘better’ than the hard cash kind, the billionaire Microsoft founder said in an interview with Bloomberg yesterday.
But before anyone rushes out to a Shoreditch Bitcoin ATM, he didn’t recommend we ditch quids and greenbacks wholesale just yet. Gates thinks the cryptocurrency is ‘exciting’ because it makes moving money ‘cheap’.
‘Bitcoin is better than currency in that you don't have to be physically in the same place, and of course for large transactions currency can get pretty inconvenient,’ he said in the interview at Sibos, a finance conference in Boston where he spoke on his foundation’s efforts to bring financial services to the world’s poor.
Gates, who has previously called Bitcoin a ‘technological tour de force’, did nod to the cryptocurrency’s image issues.
‘The customers we’re talking about aren’t trying to be anonymous, they’re willing to be known,’ he said. ‘So the Bitcoin technology is key, and you could add to it, or you could build a similar technology where there’s enough attribution that people feel comfortable this is nothing to do with terrorism or any type of money laundering.’
The virtual currency crashed from a high of $1,147 (£713) in December 2013, to as low as $360 in April this year, after online drugs marketplace Silk Road, which accepted it as payment, was shut down and Bitcoin exchange Mt Gox filed for bankruptcy. It’s now trading at $374.
Any entirely new invention or innovation is bound to have teething problems, particularly when it is upending something that seemed so immutable. But with Bill Gates on board and George Osborne spearheading a review into its uses in the UK, it doesn’t seem to be going anywhere just yet.