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Netscape Creator: 'Bitcoin Matters'

Wed, 03/26/2014 - 1:09am
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Today, two of the biggest venture capitalists that stand behind bitcoin shot back at the cryptocurrency’s skeptic. Marc Andreessen, creator of ‘90s browser Netscape, and Balaji Srinivasan, who just joined the firm Berkshire Hathaway, spoke at the Coin Summit conference in San Francisco.

The two weren’t phased by the recent collapse of bitcoin exchange Mt. Gox nor the Silk Road drug bazaar scandal.

“I think the relevant comparison point for Bitcoin is 1993 or 1994 for the consumer Internet,” said Andreessen. ”It arrived with fringe politics and fringe characteristics. But you just have to go through a maturation process, and along the way, the fringe characters can get alienated.”

Andreessen penned an op-ed for the New York Times that thoroughly laid out why he believed in bitcoin.

“Bitcoin gives us, for the first time, a way for one Internet user to transfer a unique piece of digital property to another Internet user,” he wrote, “such that the transfer is guaranteed to be safe and secure, everyone knows that the transfer has taken place, and nobody can challenge the legitimacy of the transfer. The consequences of this breakthrough are hard to overstate.”

The talk from Andreessen and Srinivasan comes after Warren Buffett scoffed at the potential of bitcoin, several governments have banned the virtual currency and a letter last month from U.S. Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia calling for federal regulators to ban bitcoin.

“The very features that make Bitcoin attractive to some also attract criminals who are able to disguise their actions from law enforcement,” Manchin wrote. “Due to Bitcoin’s anonymity, the virtual market has been extremely susceptible to hackers and scam artists stealing millions from Bitcoins users. Anonymity combined with Bitcoin’s ability to finalize transactions quickly, makes it very difficult, if not impossible, to reverse fraudulent transactions.”

Manchin used the Silk Road black market as the most glaring offense.

“Bitcoin has also become a haven for individuals to buy black market items,” Manchin contended. “Individuals are able to anonymously purchase items such as drugs and weapons illegally.”

Andreessen fired back at the discussion today, saying that the same argument could be used against what everyone accepts as legal tender.

“Speaking of anonymous currency,” Andreessen quipped, “the U.S. $100 dollar bill can be transported all over the world and is used to buy drugs and guns at about 1 million times the level that Bitcoin is.”

Both VCs are putting millions behind the currency, so at least the press assertion that bitcoin is officially “dead” after the Mt. Gox collapse is not true.

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