This week in bitcoin: Visualizing cryptocurrency

In this week’s bitcoin review, we take a look at how bitcoin explainers and visuals are starting to creep into the news cycle.

How do you visualize cryptocurrency?

Bitcoin is a technology has the potential to revolutionize everything, but it’s hard to explain to an average person what a blockchain is. Bitcoin already has a marketing problem and its complexity is a huge barrier for entry for many people. Adding to the difficulty is that bitcoin does not exist in the physical world — so how do we make sense of (and explain) bitcoin? This week brought us several interesting examples as bitcoin was tracked on Twitter and seen on both the small screen and the big screen.
Vox had already done a 19-card explainer on bitcoin, but Ezra Klein’s two-minute video on how bitcoin is like internet in the 1980s that was released this week is worth watching to get a good understanding of the cryptocurrency. (For those curious as to what a blockchain is, the answer is around the 25 second mark.)

Bitcoin also made its debut on the big screen this week at the Tribeca Film Festival with “The Rise and Rise of Bitcoin.” The documentary follows Dan, a 35-year-old computer programmer in Pittsburgh, as he discovers and then follows the rabbit hole down into the deep world of bitcoin and ends as Newsweek “exposes” Dorian Nakamoto as the creator. Reviews of the film, which also brings the Winklevoss twins into the fold, were largely positive although Coindesk noted that it’s not a film for rookies to the cryptocurrency space. (For those people, watch the video above).

Gigaom reporter Derrick Harris also did his own visual analysis of bitcoin based on more than a million tweets. He was able to track everything from who the most prolific bitcoin tweeters are to what timezones they’re tweeting from. To give you an idea of how global bitcoin is, this map below from Derrick’s analysis shows where all of the location-identified tweets were coming from.

The market this week

Bitcoin had a pretty stable week, only fluctuating from a low of $470 to a high of just over $510. The market closed at $500.26 on Thursday, but had fallen to $452 at 10:20 a.m. PST amid more rumors of a Chinese crackdown on the currency.
Bitcoin price through 424
For background on why we’re using Coindesk’s Bitcoin Price Index, see note at bottom of the post. 
In other news we covered this week:

  • Xapo, a bitcoin underground vault and wallet company, announced that it’s introducing a new bitcoin debit card. While it initially said the card was paired with Mastercard, Xapo later retracted its statement and said it’s still looking for major banking partners.

Here are some of the best reads from around the web this week:

  • Since MtGox’s fall, Mark Karpeles has been driving around Tokyo in his Honda Civic late at night to relieve stress, according to a fascinating Reuters profile on the exchange’s ‘geek’ CEO who wanted both control and escape.
  • Dorian Nakamoto, Newsweek’s alleged bitcoin creator, appeared in a YouTube video to thank the community for sending him more than $20,000 worth of bitcoin and to once again deny that he is Satoshi Nakamoto, the creator of the cryptocurrency.
  • Coindesk released its State of Bitcoin Q1 2014 report. The report covers many facets of bitcoin from VC investment (Europe is lagging behind) to where bitcoin is accepted right now (majority goes to food establishments).
  • Could we see a bitcoin 2.0 soon? Two well-known names in the crypto world, Austin Hill and Adam Back, are building a new stealth start-up that will create a sort-of Blockchain 2.0 that focuses on sidechains. TechCrunch has a good explainer on how it’s different than bitcoin as we know it.

Bitcoin in 2014

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The history of bitcoin’s price

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A note on our data: We use CoinDesk’s Bitcoin Price Index to obtain both a historical and current reflection of the Bitcoin market. The BPI is an average of the three Bitcoin exchanges which meet their criteria: Bitstamp, BTC-e and Bitfinex. To see the criteria for inclusion or for price updates by the minute, visit CoinDesk. Since the market never closes, the “closing price” as noted in the graphics is based on end of day Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) or British Summer Time (BST). 
Feature image from Flickr/BTCkeychain