Mt. Gox put bitcoin on the map — but not in a way some would have hoped. The Tokyo-based bitcoin exchange launched in 2010 and three years later was handling roughly 70 percent of all cryptocurrency transactions in the world. The site was founded by Jed McCaleb, who later went on to found crypto projects Ripple and Stellar. But he later sold before it went under.
The site experienced its first of multiple hacks in 2011, when bitcoin reached a price milestone of $1. It was later effectively frozen out of the U.S. banking system for regulatory issues, and by 2013 stopped trading, closed its website and filed for bankruptcy protection.
Silk Road was another smudge on bitcoin’s reputation. The dark web marketplace facilitated transactions for guns, drugs and other illicit goods, mostly with bitcoin. It became known as the currency of choice for criminals, which is still how it’s categorized by those who doubt bitcoin’s place in modern finance.
The digital currency plunged after U.S. law enforcement officials shut down Silk Road. In 2015 its creator Ross Ulbricht was sentenced to life in prison. Many expected demand to dry up after the website was closed. But in the following years, the opposite seemed to happen.
For some, the government seizures in those years presented an opportunity to buy. Venture Capitalist Tim Draper was among those who bought bitcoin in government auctions after Mt. Gox closed down, and has since called it “the greatest technology since the internet.” Tyler and Cameron Winklevoss, who famously battled Mark Zuckerberg over the origins of Facebook, bought the cryptocurrency in 2013. Bitcoin made it to almost $1,000 that year but it took until 2017 to actually break that price threshold.
Cryptocurrency exchange Coinbase, recently valued at $8 billion, was founded around the same time in 2012. BitPay, the largest merchant services provider, started in 2011 and opened up a space for merchants to start accepting bitcoin.
The currency made its way from the digital to physical world with the first-ever bitcoin ATM at a Vancouver coffee shop by 2013. But aside from gimmicks, bitcoin’s use as a real currency hasn’t truly caught on. A key part of that is volatility, since the cryptocurrency’s value is known to whiplash by hundreds of dollars in a single day.
Still, Overstock.com, Newegg, Expedia, Microsoft, Dish Network, OKCupid, CheapAir and Etsy are among the companies that have historically accepted bitcoin for certain payments.