The World’s First Bitcoin Conference

True believers and profiteers meet in the flesh for a two-year checkup on the global cryptocurrency

7 min read
10NW.Bitcoin.jpg
Photo: Nancy Palmieri/The New York Times/Redux

Being at the opening of the world’s first Bitcoin conference was like showing up for the first day of camp—a boys’ camp—and finding that everyone already knew one another in an alternate universe. For a couple of days in August, the Roosevelt Hotel in New York City served as a real-world meeting place for about 50 people who had spent months riffing with one another on the phone, in chat rooms, and over Skype. They came to talk about how Bitcoin could change the world—and how it could make them rich.

Bitcoin is a digital cryptocurrency designed to resolve the discord between the way we move money online and the decentralized nature of the Web. The Internet has already eliminated other barriers to communication and trade, such as time and geography. You can browse Moroccan floor tiles in a virtual showroom at 3 a.m. on Christmas Eve if you feel the urge, but paying for your purchase will inevitably require the cooperation of a third party. The problem is that dollars do not exist on the Internet, only promises of payment that require the backing of trusted and centralized financial surrogates like banks and credit cards.

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