A website that swaps real-world currencies for decentralised virtual bitcoins has been granted the status of a bank.
Bitcoin-Central made a deal with French financial companies Aqoba and Credit Mutuel to grant it the status of a "payment services provider". This makes it easier for its customers to use bitcoins, and gives the exchange a series of protections.
The website will now be able to issue debit cards and carry out real-time transfers to and from other banks.
Bitcoin is a peer-to-peer currency that first emerged around 2009 and began to gain popularity in 2011. Its distributed, decentralised structure is designed to be both resilient and reliable, and its supply completely predictable. At the time of writing, a bitcoin is worth around £8.
Customers of the exchange will now be able to transact with their bitcoin accounts like a regular bank account, and will also be able to apply for compensation in certain circumstances.
The editor of Bitcoin magazine, Vitalik Buterin, told the BBC that the move could encourage more businesses to accept bitcoins.
"The more we see governments and banks being willing to deal with Bitcoin, the more comfortable a lot of organisations are going to be making the step forward themselves," he said.
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