Bitcoin seems to be everywhere these days. What was once anesoteric topic discussed only by mathematicians, cryptographers,end-of-the-world doomsday predictors, and the occasional conspiracytheorist has grabbed front-page headlines around the world andbecome a leading topic presented at financial services industryevents. Regulators, journalists, bankers, consultants, and venturecapitalists have poured time, money, and energy into understandingwhat a bitcoin is and trying to determine how the virtual currencyfits into the global payments landscape.

The bitcoin payment mechanism emerged in 2008 under extremelymysterious circumstances. The term “bitcoin” was supposedly coinedby someone named Satoshi Nakamoto, who wrote a paper titled“Bitcoin: APeer-to-Peer Electronic Cash System.” As of this writing, noknown individual, organization, agency, or government has evermaintained that it created the bitcoin infrastructure or technologyplatform. Various theories have been floated, and a few mainstreampublications—including The New York Times and FastCompany—have launched serious investigations, but so far noone really knows how bitcoin payments got their start.

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