Alibaba Nixes Bitcoin; Canada to Demo Gov’t-Backed Digital Currency (Jan. 14, 2014)
Digital currency continued to receive a hot-and-cold reception around the world this week, with Chinese e-commerce provider Alibaba banning Bitcoin payments, just as the Royal Canadian Mint prepared to demo a digital currency of its own.
The decision by Alibaba to bar Bitcoin payments and Bitcoin-related products on its e-commerce platform comes as a result of the Chinese government’s December decree that financial institutions in the country may not use Bitcoin as currency. Alibaba, which operates popular e-commerce sites, including the eBay-like Taobao Marketplace, previously let merchants selling through the site accept Bitcoin and other digital currencies. As of today, such currencies may no longer be accepted as payment, nor may any Bitoin-related products, such as mining software, be sold through the site. Alibaba said in a statement that the decision was made “to more effectively protect the interests of Taobao members” in the wake of the government’s restrictions on Bitcoin.
Meanwhile, the Canadian government will demonstrate its own government-backed digital currency this week at the National Retail Federation’s Annual Convention and Expo in New York City. Plans for the currency, known as MintChip, were unveiled in 2012, when the Canadian government called on the private sector to create payment applications that would bring the currency to the market. Paris-based POS terminal maker Ingenico took the Mint up on its challenge, integrating the currency with its terminals to enable small purchases of around $10 or less. After the demo this week, Ingenico’s MintChip acceptance initiative is set for third-party pilots later this year.