Bitcoin is a payment system invented by Satoshi Nakamoto who released it in 2009 as an open-source software. Claims to the identity of Nakamoto have never been verified, but the Bitcoin has progressed from obscurity to the largest of its kind, a digital asset now being called the ‘cryptocurrency’.
The most significant characteristic of Bitcoin is that unlike conventional and traditional printed currency, it is an electronic payment system that is based on mathematical proof. Traditional currencies have centralized banking systems that control them and in the absence of any single institution controlling it, the US Treasury has termed the Bitcoin a ‘decentralized virtual currency’. The underlying idea behind Bitcoin was to produce a currency entirely independent of any central authority and one that could be transferred electronically and instantly with almost nil transaction fees.
By the end of 2015, the number of merchant traders accepting bitcoin payment gateway for products and services exceeded 100,000. Major banking and financial regulatory authorities such as the European Banking Authority for instance have warned that users of Bitcoin are not protected by chargeback or refund rights, although financial experts in major financial centers accept that Bitcoin can provide legitimate and valid financial services. On the other hand, the increasing use of Bitcoin by criminals has been cited by legislative authorities, law enforcement agencies and financial regulators as a major cause of concern.
The owner of Bitcoin voucher service Azteco, Akin Fernandez comments that there will shortly be an important game-changer in the manner Bitcoin is generated. The rate of Bitcoin generation every day will be literally ‘halved’ and this may alter the perception of Bitcoin completely, although it will be almost impossible to predict how the public at large and the merchants will react to such a move.
Against the backdrop of such a move, the predictions are that the transaction volume of Bitcoin is set to triple this year riding on the back of a probable Donald Trump presidency. Some market commentators are of the view that the price of the digital currency could spike in the event of such a possibility leading to market turmoil globally.
The Panama Papers scandal which broke out in May this year has spurred the European Union to fight against tax avoidance strategies that the rich and powerful use to stash wealth by bringing in new rules. The current rules seek to close the loopholes and among the measures proposed are efforts to end anonymous trading on virtual currency platforms like Bitcoin. A lot more research has to be done by the European Banking Authority and the European Central Bank on the best strategies to deal with digital currencies as currently there is no EU legislation governing them.