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The Brief History of Bitcoin's Supporting Exchanges

The history of Bitcoin is not just that of the virtual currency and those who use it; it is also the story of the evolution of the supporting infrastructure. While the technology itself has changed only a little over the course of its several years of existence, the surrounding ecosystem has become a vastly different place. In fact, developments on that front are a big reason for why the currency has become so much more accessible.From the outset, it was clear that Bitcoin users would want other avenues for trading the currency than those provided by the technology itself. For one thing, while Bitcoin was easy to use for making online payments, there was no built-in way to exchange hard, conventional currency for the new digital kind.Not long after Bitcoin entered wide usage, then, a number of early exchanges opened their doors. Unfortunately, this first wave of exchanges proved to be a troubled one, with everything from a rash of high-profile thefts to the outright failure of the largest exchange, Mt. Gox, causing some to wonder whether Bitcoin would ever achieve legitimacy.Those early missteps, though, were soon revealed to be little more than teething troubles. In fact, right on the heels of those first few failures, a number of more serious and better-backed exchanges showed that this kind of infrastructure could be done right.One of the first assets the members of this second wave of exchanges provided to users was the ability to more easily and quickly exchange cash for Bitcoin. That took some time to arrive, because the irreversible nature of Bitcoin transactions meant that the exchanges were at risk of being fleeced.Eventually, though, systems were developed that allowed for the secure transfer of Bitcoin and cash, making it far easier for many people to get started. As more information about the likelihood of charge-backs and outright fraud became available, some exchanges even began allowing people to buy bitcoins with credit card transactions. In fact, that kind of purchase is today one of the most common of all, something that could hardly have been imagined when the first Bitcoin exchanges were in the harshest throes of their troubles.