Thursday, 27 February 2014

Apple Removes Bitcoin Apps From Store


Apple’s mobile application store has so much to offer consumers.  On Wednesday, Apple took the unprecedented step of removing Blockchain, the last app which transmits bitcoins. 

What are Bitcoins?

Bitcoin – the virtual currency which made its tumultuous entrance onto the Internet, is now being traded at $130 after reaching a high value of $260.  The largest Bitcoin trading exchange just dealt with hacking as well as a malware attack in Europe.  This phenomenon is spreading across Europe through Skype.

Bitcoins are virtual currency and set up to be easy to exchange, no transaction fee involved.  What one needs to know about a bitcoin is that it is a unit of measurement, created by developer Satoshi Nakamoto. The currency is traded and controlled by bitcoin users and completely digital. 

Bitcoins have a finite supply and the algorithm powering bitcoin will generate only 21 million.  Networks track and record each and every transaction – the number in use can be seen at the website blockchain.info.  Bitcoin networks and wallets are monitored by the website. The bitcoin phenomenon got too big too fast – first off, bitcoins have no intrinsic value.  People are willing to pay a particular price and these prices fluctuate. This currency has become very popular in countries where the local currency is losing value and governments are threatening restrictions.  Bitcoin is considered a volatile asset and experts are of the opinion that it is showing signs of being in an economic bubble. 

Many people choose not to invest directly in bitcoins but to ‘mine’ them by using their computers to crunch code for the network.  Many of the problems solved by using individual CPU processing power are shared with the network.   More and more people are buying them on an exchange instead of providing their PCs.

Many retailers don’t accept this virtual currency as the transaction is irreversible.  Not only that, if hackers get access to bitcoin wallets and clear out the account, there is nothing much the owner can do. In the 4 years since its introduction, the code underlying bitcoin has never been compromised. 

Why Apple discontinued use of Bitcoins?

The UK based Blockchain announced on its website that Apple said that they would be discontinuing the use of this “wallet” due to unresolved issues.  Blockchain said that the news came as a surprise as there was no indication of any prior issues. 

Apple could not be reached for comment and all indications are that other mobile applications related to Bitcoin like Coinbase and Gliph have been removed from the AppStore. Blockchain is not very happy with Apple’s actions and called it capricious and anti-competitive.

Quite a few retailers who have adopted this virtual currency as an option for payment are wondering about the implications.  Many countries around the world are looking hard at how Bitcoin fits into their legal and regulatory schemes.  Other bitcoin related mobile applications for iOS like tickers are still available but cannot be used to transfer the currency.

In Australia, the desk top app for OSX was still available for download – there are no indications of how long it would be available.  Blockchain said that its application was made available on Apple’s App Store for over two years and had been downloaded over 120,000 times. 

An online petition is being circulated to convince Apple not to withdraw the bitcoin wallets.  By contrast, Google has not placed any restrictions on developers from creating these wallets for use on the Android mobile platform which could take bitcoin users away from Apple. 

Carrie Miller is an author who writes for PC World in his free time is also working as Mobile Application Developer at Zealous System and his contributions appear in the Business, Finance and Software section. 

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