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Bitcoin ultimately can replace Wall Street, investor says

Supporters of the digital currency discuss how it could be used in the future.

Dan Farber/CNET
Bitcoin's battle for legitimacy rolls on.

Investors and entrepreneurs who champion the digital currency have been on a mission to evangelize since the press became enamored of Bitcoin earlier this year.

At the TechCrunch Disrupt conference today in San Francisco, Calif., the crypto-currency's most bullish supporters ticked off ways Bitcoin could change the economic landscape of the future -- supporters like twin brothers Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss, known for their early involvement in Facebook's story and who have since become poster boys for Bitcoin investment.--

"What Wall Street does can be done in Bitcoin," crowed Naval Ravikant, founder of the online investment platform Angel List. He said that everything the entire industry does -- putting things in escrow, moving money around -- can be done more easily with what he calls "programmable money."

Balaji Srinivasan, an entrepreneur, said it's helpful to think of the relationship of Bitcoin to money like e-mail is to physical mail.

Still, there have been ups and downs in the quest to convince the public and regulators to embrace the currency. The Winklevoss brothers were subpoenaed recently by the New York State Department of Financial Services. Along with more than 20 other digital currency companies, they were asked to turn over information such as money laundering controls and source of funding. The brothers are trying to start an Exchange Trade Fund, or ETF, for Bitcoins, though it is still under review by the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Also last month, Bitcoin got a win when a federal judge in the US ruled that it is indeed considered a currency. And last week, Bitcoin dealers in the UK gathered to ask the government if it could officially regulate the currency to promote more widespread use of it. The Winklevosses echoed the sentiment on Monday. "We're all for healthy regulation," said Cameron Winklevoss.