Edit: seriously, that's an incredibly solid reason why they wouldn't accept it. I considered making one briefly until I realized this. I'm not even remotely surprised this happened.
It would also make it much harder to send Bitcoins to other devices/people. With a native app you could for example detect other Bitcoin clients in near proximity via BT/same Wifi to make it much easier to transfer money, with the web you're stuck typing a long cryptic address.
This is because it needs to verify the block chain history, in order to provide cryptographically secure transactions.
You don't even need to know the current block to send transactions, if I remember right (haven't dived in deeply enough yet to be 100% certain). The block solver (miner) is the only one who needs to know the chain, as they choose what transactions to include, and your transaction may not even be included (ie, if fees are too low), but may in a later block.
In other words, you need to know the current block chain in order to be sure you really did just receive 100BTC from Website X, and that it wasn't just a trick.
You can never technically be completely certain a transaction isn't fake. You could be looking at a non-standard branch of the network, and you have no way of knowing it. So randomize your connections, wait for a few more blocks at reasonable difficulties, and you can be sure enough without having to work from the origin.
And (again, not 100% certain) I think you only need to store the hashes of each block to prove the chain is valid, and demonstrate a certain amount of work has been done (the difficulty of each). Each block solution builds only on the previous hash. That's just relatively tiny numbers, the entire list of block solutions would likely fit within 5MB with room to spare.
Where Bitcoin might run into trouble is the trading of bitcoins for dollars or commodities. Depending on how bitcoins are classified legally, there may be additional regulations that sellers or buyers of bitcoins need to adhere to. However, because bitcoins are so different to any existing currency or commodity, I think we'll need to wait for a court to decide whether they fall under any existing regulation, if at all.
egold plead guilty to "operation of an unlicensed money transmitting business". While I'm not familiar enough to say definitively if bitcoin could avoid this same statute in the US, I'd guess not.
Even more so than Napster, E-Gold was very centralized, and thus an easy target. Bitcoins are an entirely decentralized network like Bittorrent or Gnutella, which have not been declared illegal.
But even if trading was made clearly illegal in the U.S. all that we need is a company abroad under benign legislation that allows you to buy/sell bitcoins and that accepts credit cards.
You're right that you obviously can't make it illegal to perform mathematical calculations over big numbers. Also, you can't make it illegal to interpret the result of the calculations or giving them a context.
But I think you can't make it illegal to trade bitcoins either: if everything else fails we can always have bitcoin trading parties where the participants can exchange bitcoins to money and money to bitcoins with no third party in the middle.
Look at E-Gold's fall:
E-Gold was a private organization that allowed people to open anonymous accounts backed by gold. I can see how this could be construed as a bank.
Bitcoins are not backed by anything, and are not managed or owned by any organization. I don't think you could classify the Bitcoin network as a "bank", any more than you could classify any random crowd of people as a bank.
E-Gold was a commercial enterprise with only 20 employees and no legal team. Very easy to take down. It will be hard for the feds to take down a P2P network, although very easy for them to police e-commerce sites that accept it.
While "best practice" is to generate a new btc address for each transaction, there are still ways to attempt to profile users even if they use that rule. For instance, if someone knows you like an esoteric thing, and they know you have a lot of bitcoin, they can look at people buying things from public addresses (most shops or established bodies have permanent addresses for receiving) that are associated with esoteric thing, and say it's likely that you were purchasing at least some of that. They can do other filtration and process-of-elimination things to find out who is using what, or where something comes from.
Additionally, if the wallet of one who you've traded with in the past is compromised, even if they were using single-transaction addresses, the attacker may be able to fill in some missing links in the chain, especially if the wallet's owner has recorded anywhere a translation from btc address to useful memo/accounting data. Imagine if UBL used btc and the Feds got his wallet; everyone downstream would be hunted with some serious prejudice.
I should clarify that in bitcoin, the entire transaction chain from the time the block is generated until the last time it is used is recorded forever. Once you send from an address to another address, that transaction is ingrained in btc for the remainder of its existence, and every coin you receive has a long history that shows all of that. While the names are long hashes and not things like "TERRORIST KINGPIN -> INNOCENT BUT NOW SUSPECT GUY", there are some ways to put something like that together, and they're not all obvious.
One argument would be that bitcoin is an illegal pyramid scheme.
Another would be that bitcoin is means circumvent the tax system (all barter and local currency systems, for example, have to pay taxes).
I'm sure many other arguments could be found.
Like, "Bitcoin is anti-American" or "Bitcoin will be used by heroin dealers who will sell your daughters into prostitution"
If bitcoin is a means to circumvent the tax system, then we'd have to apply whatever tax regulation that results to all other forms of currency. Social Security is an illegal pyramid scheme because it wasn't sold to the American public that way.
Let's start applying the law equitably before we stomp on innovation.
That is, any "money" is both a medium of exchange and a store of value. It's OK to compete with the dollar as a medium of exchange but if you compete as a store of value, then you've wandered into some heavily guarded turf...
Bitcoins are probably most at risk from being classified as a type of security, which would put them under the scope of a large number of financial regulations. It wouldn't make them illegal, but it would make them more difficult to trade.
However, in general I'm optimistic about Bitcoin's chances. I certainly don't believe it is inevitable that they will be regulated out of existence.
Regulation does not necessarily mean "make it completely illegal". Food is regulated, but that doesn't mean the government has made it illegal (or even difficult) to eat.
The government hates it because it's difficult to track the money; they'll claim it's used for terrorism, money laundering, and other forms of illegal funding, and as you know, once such a claim is solidified in the public psyche it doesn't really matter what statute the actual legal charge is based on. They'll also hate it because it makes taxation much more difficult. You may argue that cash does the same, but cash still originates and terminates in the government's officially sponsored banking system and it bears official government markings that are used to track its movement. Cash has also been (intentionally) corralled into disuse by the major financial players (governments, banks, huge businesses).
The banks will hate it because it cuts them out of their usual money-shifting shenanigans, which are both obscenely profitable and generally amoral, if not in principle, then in practice due to gouging and misrepresentation.
Bitcoin allows easy and practically free e-commerce. Bitcoin allows for extremely innovative new banking interfaces and practices. Bitcoin is at least practically if not technically unbound by the onerous regulations and rules that bankers have installed for themselves to help control which people are allowed to play with them. Banks aren't going to like that kind of competition at all.
Bitcoin is in for it as soon as any kind of normal usage begins to occur. It is silly to pretend otherwise. I have extremely high doubts that btc will be allowed to stand; the only way I can see that happening is intervention from US intelligence services, requesting that btc be allowed to continue to operate without molestation because of that agency's specific plans for the platform.
I also really dislike the fatalistic attitude that those in power will always get their way, and that we should never try to change the status quo because we will always fail.
Bitcoins are not inherently anonymous, and in some ways it makes things easier for law enforcement, because all transactions are public and accessible without the need for a warrant. The hard part would be matching a Bitcoin address to an individual or organization, but maintaining anonymity against a determined investigator is hard, and requires a high degree of technical expertise to pull off. I don't think Bitcoins actually make things any harder to find criminals.
As far as alternative currencies go, my understanding is that they're illegal under US law but you can get away with them on a small scale. The moment they reach a large scale or start getting used for money laundering, though, expect to start having legal problems, because the US Federal Government has reserved to itself the right to print currency.
Apple is wise to stay out of it, with the potential for legal trouble outweighing the potential profit from app sales.
Well, there's only one solution then—we need to get more geeks in office.
Edit: Real geeks, not the "I own an iPad" that passes for geekery in Washington.
If they choose to make BitCoin illegal, due to anti-laundering laws, etc, should your iPhone game not be allowed to use credits either, even though it's so small nobody would bother abusing it?
"Precisely how far from the end of my nose does your right to swing a fist end?"
Although the US system is far from perfect, I think Jefferson, Hamilton and Madison did a pretty darn good job of all that.
Then people would complain that it wasn't fair, because they intended to stop at 1 cm, but actually stopped at 0.99 cm and that should be close enough. And then someone would try to drag relativity into play and question what reference frame we should be measuring that 1 cm in and things would go downhill from there.
And, yes, while IANAL, I know a lot of the law turns on the intentions behind a given act rather than the act-in-itself. This seems counter intuitive to geeks but its not likely to change soon.
I know it's totally utterly contrary to human nature, but if everyone got up tomorrow and left their wallets at home and took things from stores with the consent of the owner and went to work, but received no pay, and stood in line at the soup kitchen and did not take from stores if they felt they had not contributed to the society, would that be illegal too?
Think about it for a while. Sometimes we lose sight of what money actually is.
Not sure why you were downvoted, but you nail it. It's all an illusion.
Edit: of course, you could say the same about other digital transmission of currency, but it seems different due to bitcoin not being tied directly to any "real currency". Then again, IANAL.
With this message, I hereby transfer to jnhnum the sum of $12.54 out of my checking account.
(Translation, since that's probably a bit subtle to just throw out there: In the process of abstracting money transfers as "just sending messages" your abstraction has leaked critically important details. There's more to money transfers than "just messages", and it is precisely those differences that are why you will not be finding $12.54 from my bank account in your account as a result of this "message" that I have just sent. Your abstraction is not a good one for any purpose, practical or rhetorical.)
If you had liberty dollars then you'd have money.
To directly answer your question, money becomes currency when you transfer representations of value instead of value.
(eg. A piece of paper obliging the barer to receive something of value)
Pennies, especially pre-2000 pennies would be considered money as the store of value is the metal not the face value.
"Money is any object or record, that is generally accepted as payment for goods and services and repayment of debts in a given country or socio-economic context."
This is in line with most actual usage of the word. Bottom line, you're just playing silly semantic games. It is useful to understand the differences between different types of money, but claiming that something is "not really money" based on your own private definition of money does not add to the discussion.
Most people think that playing the lottery is an investment strategy for retirement, I would not trust what most people think when it comes to economics. Little semantic games are hugely important to people. Look how pissed everyone gets when MS describe the MSPL as 'open source'.
Actually, my own private definition does add to the discussion, when enough people connote a word to have a different meaning it changes the definition of a word, all based on their own little private definitions of words.
Your views on semantic contexts are 'fantastic'. I'd suggest you look that one up on the OED if you want to understand the definition I'm using, most people would get it wrong.
I was thinking of Mondonet and mesh networks today. What if they could reject such mesh network apps from their stores because the Government asked them behind the scenes to do so? That wouln't be very good for us.
Frankly, I think that's actually the best way to do things. Have a curated/censored app store for the normal folks/applications, and a method to install arbitrary apps that Google may not want to advertise in the Market. Now if AT&T would allow sideloading, it would be perfect, but every other Android phone I've seen has had this level of freedom.
Cmon Apple, you can do better than that.