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Bitcoin of the Realm: The Richmond District Becomes a Fiefdom of New Currency 

Wednesday, Dec 4 2013

At around 3 p.m. last Tuesday, the going rate for Bitcoin — the unregulated electronic currency with increasing hipster cachet — was about $959, and climbing. Brewster Kahle, founder of the Richmond District-based Internet Archive and staunch Bitcoin promoter, seemed exultant.

Earlier that day, he'd announced that the Internet Archive's new affordable-housing complex, Foundation House, would accept Bitcoin rent payments for its apartments on Clement Street. He'd also managed to get a nearby sushi restaurant and some of his employees on board. (In April, Kahle had offered to pay employee salaries in the high-tech currency, and about one-third of them bit.) The neighborhood was poised to become a small Bitcoin fiefdom, he thought. Well, sort of.

"I keep going into the little sandwich places and asking if they take Bitcoin yet," Kahle says, admitting that it's often a hard sell — few mom-and-pop businesses want to gamble on money that can fluctuate by hundreds of dollars in the course of a few days. Even Kahle, a self-styled Bitcoin evangelist, wishes his currency were a little more stable.

"Volatility works against [its] health as a transaction system," he admits, noting that many people use Bitcoin for short-sales and arbitrage, but it hasn't quite caught on in the retail sphere. The few local landlords who accept it as rent payment act on enthusiasm, rather than reason; it is, after all, a form of money that can evaporate if you reformat your computer.

But Kahle seems indomitably optimistic. "It's still being debugged," he insists. "Let's just try it."

About The Author

Rachel Swan

Rachel Swan

Rachel Swan was a staff writer at SF Weekly from 2013 to 2015. In previous lives she was a music editor, IP hack, and tutor of Cal athletes.


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