Bitcoin: even your mom has probably heard of it.
The decentralized cryptocurrency has been part of the news cycle for quite some time now. First there were the questionable ties to the Silk Road, the now defunct Deep Web marketplace where users could purchase illicit substances and pay for them with Bitcoin. Then there was the congressional hearing in November that one reporter dubbed “a Bitcoin lovefest” on account of how surprisingly receptive politicians were to the digital money.
Most recently, there was the not-entirely-but-still shocking collapse of Mt. Gox, the largest, most popular, and oldest Bitcoin exchange. The fall of Mt. Gox resulted in the disappearance of more than 744,000 Bitcoins (at today’s prices, that would translate to over $450 million), a 20 percent drop in valuation, and countless uninformed and sensationalized articles asking whether this was the demise of the currency.
Even Jon Stewart felt compelled to chime in.
Spoiler alert: not only did Bitcoin survive the death of Mt. Gox, but it gained what ground it had lost. This “magical Internet money” has proven to be resilient time and time again. Despite this, the media narrative has been focused too much on whether the cryptocurrency is legitimate and not on where it’s going or can go.
It could very well be that all the critics are right and that Bitcoin will fail, but until that happens I’m more interested in finding out what’s currently possible with what many consider the money of the future. With that in mind, I’ve decided to go to the South By Southwest Interactive conference and try to pay for everything using Bitcoin. From March 7 until the eleventh, every meal, every purchase must be paid for with it. That’s right. Instead of giving me a per diem in dollars, Fusion is giving it to me in Bitcoin.
Why SXSW? For starters, the festival brings together thousands of technology-enthusiasts to one of the most progressive cities in the country. Secondly, it’s a great excuse to eat some great barbecue.
I will inevitably face some challenges. The most obvious of these is the fact that Bitcoin hasn’t been fully embraced by local merchants, so walking up to a restaurant, ordering a meal, and then paying with Bitcoin won’t be happening. I’ll have to get creative. There’s also the fact that Bitcoin’s value fluctuates on a daily basis, so I might end up with less money than I originally started out with.
That said, there are many things you can do with the cryptocurrency. For example, if I wanted to pay for my flight using Bitcoin, I could. Sites like BTCTrip and CheapAir.com have started accepting it, so paying for a plane ticket and lodging would have been incredibly easy.
So, five days with nothing but Bitcoin. Can I do it? Keep checking Fusion.net over the next few days to find out.
Fidel Martinez is an editor at Fusion.net. He's also a Texas native and a lifelong El Tri fan.