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Bitcoin converter Circle opens to the public worldwide

The company's service allows consumers to swap established currencies for the digital kind without the speculating inherent in trading exchanges.


Circle, a startup focused on enabling average folks to convert hard currencies into the digital kind, has officially launched across the globe.

The Bitcoin-focused service, which was available only in testing over the past year, is now open to the public worldwide in seven languages, including English, Chinese, Japanese and Spanish, Circle announced Monday. The company's language support means it can accommodate 40 percent of the world's population, Circle said.

Circle was founded in 2013 and emerged from stealth mode earlier this year. Its service is designed to offer the average consumer confidence in the Bitcoin platform. Circle argues that its service will be the first to make Bitcoin mainstream.

"Our goal is to make it easy for consumers to deposit and convert currency into a digital form that they can then use globally and instantly, not offer a trading exchange where they can bet on a speculative asset," Circle CEO Jeremy Allaire wrote in a blog post earlier this year.

The fact that Circle is not a trading exchange is what sets it apart from many other Bitcoin services on the Web. Circle does not operate by offering users the option to buy into the cryptocurrency at a specific rate with hopes of trading it for more. Instead, the company simply provides a service in which users can deposit local currency in return for Bitcoin. Upon withdrawal, Bitcoin is converted to local currency. No fees are incurred for the service.

Circle's launch comes at an important time for Bitcoin. The digital currency has become an acceptable option for payment for online goods on several websites, including tech retailer NewEgg. In addition, some governments are starting to warm to the idea of accepting Bitcoin, with the US Federal Election Commission saying last spring that it would allow political action committees to accept donations in Bitcoin. Still, there is no official government consensus on Bitcoin. The US Securities and Exchange Commission has said consumers shouldn't be so quick to trust Bitcoin.

There's also the issue of Mt. Gox. Last year, the exchange, which was the world's largest at the time, was hacked, allowing attackers to steal hundreds of millions of dollars worth of Bitcoin. Most of that has not been recovered and many users were burned by the hack.

In addition to announcing the international launch, Circle is trying to allay some security fears by offering insurance. In the event of theft, 100 percent of a user's Bitcoin deposit value will be covered by the insurance.