Mark Lennihan, Associated Press
There's a new digital currency in town, but this one doesn't seem interested in playing nice.
Darkcoin, a "little-known Bitcoin alternative," is quickly replacing Bitcoin as the go-to anonymous digital currency, according to Wired.
"Darkcoin offers far greater anonymity than Bitcoin," Wired's Andy Greenberg wrote on Wednesday. "Though few have yet to accept that more-anonymous coin for actual goods and services, the promise of Darkcoin’s privacy features seems to have sparked a miniature boom."
While naysayers such as The Atlantic's Matthew O'Brien have dismissed the notion that digital currency has any real future (O'Brien famously called Bitcoin the "Segway of currency") digital currencies seem to have remained resilient, even through hacking scandals and unpredictable fluctuations in value.
"Bitcoin is in the early stages of mainstreaming today," tech pioneer Marc Andreessen told The Washington Post's Brian Fung. "You've got big companies that are not yet doing a lot with it, but are looking very seriously at it. So every big bank has people that are trying to figure out what to do with Bitcoin; every big e-commerce company has people that are trying to figure out Bitcoin."
So what makes these crypto-currencies so appealing? As O'Brien argued last November, people are weary of buying into "something so inherently ridiculous, no matter how technically impressive it might be," so what explains the resilience?
According to a more recent article in the Atlantic by Lana Swartz and Bill Maurer, the trend toward modern digital currency has to do primarily with a healthy mix of imagination and convenience.
"In the 1950s, the 'cashless society' was as much a part of an idealized modern future as the jetpack and the flying car," Swartz and Maurer write. "Most of today’s dreams of a future without money harken back to a time when money was a commodity in the form of gold or silver—not a government promise."
"This history helps reorient what future money might look like," they continue. "It might be a future of multiple moneys or money-like things interacting with one another, private currencies challenging the state’s monopoly on money."
But while imagination, historical impulses and the constant trend toward convenience are all well and good, the rise of Darkcoin may have a more sinister motivation.
"Of course, the simplest theory explaining Darkcoin’s growth is ... It may be becoming a convenient tool for the black market," according to Greenberg.
In other words, as Bitcoin continues toward the mainstream, those who valued the digital money's vulnerability to misuse have used the same principles to create something ... darker.