Overstock.com, one of the larger Internet-based retailers, will begin accepting payments in Bitcoin, the most popular of a growing number of digital currencies. The New York Times reported
this week that the retailer plans to begin accepting the currency by June of this year, and Overstock is currently evaluating third-party Bitcoin transaction facilitators. Overstock plans to have selected a firm to process its Bitcoin payments by the middle of next month.
The move by Overstock may add more legitimacy to Bitcoin, which has seen its value fluctuate considerably in the past year as it grew in popularity and became subject to speculative forces. Observers note that the currency could disrupt the financial hegemony of payment card processors like Visa and MasterCard, but others take note with its volatility and relative newness, as well as the possibility that some other digital currency could usurp Bitcoin in terms of mindshare.
Image via Bloomberg.
Speaking on the issue, Overstock CEO Patrick Byrne said that the decision was based on philosophical reasons. Byrne noted the small portion of online consumers pushing for wider acceptance of the currency, but he expressed interest in the limitations on creating the currency. There is a finite number of Bitcoins that can be made available, and the currency is released at a predetermined pace.
Overstock has been considering taking Bitcoin payments since October, but the company held back on those plans due to regulatory concerns surrounding the currency.
Over the past several months, Bitcoin peaked around $1,137 per unit before dropping to $759 some weeks later. The Chinese government cracked down on Bitcoin trading recently, a move that negatively affected its value. The Indian government also issued a regulatory warning against virtual currencies, noting that Bitcoin users have not gained any regulatory approvals yet, a fact that poses risks to anyone associated with them.
In the United States, the currency has fared better, with respected financial publication Bloomberg testing a price ticker
earlier this year. A federal judge in Texas also recognized Bitcoin as a currency
in August, a move that could allow federal regulators to exert more influence on it, but also further legitimized the digital currency.