How the Internet Archive is having Great Time with Bitcoin

The Internet Archive jumped into bitcoin in 2011 after many people asked to donate bitcoins— a non-techy set up our wallet (good sign), and we got about $2,000 worth of donations that first year.  In 2012 we got about $6,000 worth— interesting.

I think of it as the local currency of the Internet. I figured out how to do it (then found an easier way), read the key paper, watched a good intro video, loved watching bitcoin in realtime avoid a financial crisis without a bailout.  This is an “anti-fragile” system that is getting debugged.     Feels like linux where exposing bugs are thought of a good thing rather than prosecuted as a crime.

Then the fun began!  We offered employees to get partially paid in our donated bitcoins— 1/3 said yes, now we are buying sushi and beer.  We were written up in Bitcoin Magazine, The Next Web, arstechnica.

Sushi for Bitcoins

Sushi for Bitcoins


We set up an honor based Bitcoin ATM to convert $ to Bitcoin and Bitcoin to $.   Many people now use it.   Hacker space at NY college following, maybe hacker space in SF.

We offer to take Bitcoin to see a movie about Anonymous at the Archive.   5 people pay with bitcoin.

Bitcoin is becoming a day-to-day currency of the Internet Archive with employees using it as a way to settle small debts, like for dinner.

If you want to try it then set up a “thin” bitcoin wallet on your phone or laptop, come to the Internet Archive, convert some money, then go out to lunch,  drink beer and celebrate.

Completely fun, and very very interesting.





50 thoughts on “How the Internet Archive is having Great Time with Bitcoin

  1. AC

    Bravo! It’s use cases like this that underlie BTC’s true value. The more we can support the people and organizations using it as a currency the better off we’ll be in the long run.

    The current speculative market is nearly as terrifying as it is profitable. Thank you for helping to solidify bitcoin as something more than the latest pump-and-dump “stock”.

    1. brewster Post author

      We agree– lets use this to bounce around our neighborhood a few times before someone runs back to MtGox. I hope we can make Sake Sushi happy they are accepting bitcoins. I hope with the honor-based-ATM that also helps keep bitcoins in circulation.

      I just wish there were more places that will take them. The website+iphone app is really working for me.


  2. Just a Pirate

    By the way there are now many alternatives to bitcoin, such as Litecoin wich are gaining more and more in popularity. Litecoin is interesting cause it is easier to mine on CPU.

    I Bet has some unused CPU power on their webservers, why not using it to mine Litecoins ?. 1 Litecoin is worth 5$ on the exchanges. This would not be enough to pay the server costs, but perhaps enough to reduce them greatly for the archive ? also could set up an mining pool for bitcoins and litecoins, so people can mine coins wich are then automaticaly donated to the internet archive. Supporting the archives with unused computing power might be interesting.

    1. btcuser

      I looked at Litecoin and it looks somewhat scammy to me:

      1) Typos on the website

      2) They forked Bitcoin at some point, but their client is now mostly unmaintained. Not even security updates from Bitcoin make it into the source code.

      3) Practically worthless except for speculation. I’d rather see one strong crypto currency, then lots of forks that were only created to make their founders rich.

      1. Henriko

        I see the problem that there are only 21 million bitcoins, to few to be able to build up a real trading system. There is a need for other coins i think.

        1. Boozer

          21 million bitcoins yes, but they have 8 decimal places… and more decimal places can be added if necessary. So you dont have to trade in whole bitcoins. You can trade in bitcents, bitmills, microbits etc… Even if there was only 1 bitcoin, this can be divided up small enough that everyone could use it for daily transactions… however, the price of that single bitcoin would be astronomical 🙂

        2. Petar

          because bitcoin is infinity divisible.
          lost coins (hashes) has no effect (rather than temporary speculative value)
          and YES! eventually a coka-coal cant wikl cost 0.0000001 BTC
          1BTC = 1M
          your salary will be 0.0001 etc.

          they amazing VIRTUALITY of REALITY 😀

  3. s

    Dear Brewster,

    I have been a fan of your work for decades and that of the Internet Archive for almost as long, but I’m curious if you’d given enough thought to the implications of supporting Bitcoin and, implicitly, the fairly horrible community of extreme libertarians and anarchists that stands to make money if others like you promote it similarly. It’s sometimes hard to separate a new, interesting technology from its social milieu, but for example had PayPal in its early days been backed by the Russian mafia, I would have been disinclined to use it. It is worth reading the volumes of immature and economically reactionary discussion among the “early adopters” at; it has made me, in a position not unlike your own, extremely cautious about becoming an unwitting publicist for Bitcoin’s major holders.

    The technology itself is fascinating. Maybe the Internet Archive could set up an alternative Bitcoin-like block chain with more desirable economic properties and no ties to the awful community of Bitcoin. It would not be difficult for it to do so, and maybe one backed by you would offer greater legitimacy.

    1. Jaime Frontero

      Oh god – teh stoopid, IT BURNS!

      It’s money, fool. Politicizing money is for the idiots who politicize Climate Change and religion. To the detriment of us all.

      Or do you refuse to use US dollars because they are the currency of Mexican drug lords? Ooops.

      Now me, I’m a hard core liberal – not that you’d (obviously, from your authoritarian post) understand that – and I use bitcoin.

      I don’t really care what the people on some bitcoin blog have to say.

      But oddly enough I note that there *is* a political point of intersection with bitcoin. Not with folks like you, you understand – but with those who disagree on other things but can still enjoy the world and each other.


      1. s

        You are an active member of, so your reference to it as “some bitcoin blog” is disingenuous and (presumably intentionally) misleading.

        My objection is not that some objectionable people use it. It is that Brewster is (potentially unwittingly) becoming a marketing agent for a manipulative community of early adopters and Bitcoin speculators who have an objectionable agenda. The common, analogies to the abuses of cash (also presumably intentionally) miss the point. Bitcoin could have all its advantages without the properties that also make it a pump-and-dump scam for a small few.

        1. Jaime Frontero

          “You are an active member of…”

          Everything you’ve said is as valid as that one phrase.

          When was my last post? Look it up. Active?

          1. s

            “active: n. characterized by energetic activity”

            You have made hundreds of posts there (976, to be precise) and clearly know what it is. Why should it matter to my point how recently you posted there? Again, you are simply disingenuously trying to distract people from my main point.

            Moreover, your tone is juvenile, and it is indicative of the typical tone of the Bitcoin scammers.

          2. Jaime Frontero

            It sort of erodes your credibility to mention when my last post was, at bitcointalk, doesn’t it? I suppose that’s why you refuse to mention that it was almost two years ago, in July 2011? Hardly active…

            And you are ridiculous:
            “Again, you are simply disingenuously trying to distract people from my main point.”

            On the contrary, your authoritarian need for power, your desire to control others, is something I’m trying to highlight – not distract from. You are a concern troll. And really, you know very little about bitcoin or the people who use it.

            You’re great with that broad brush though…

          3. S

            It’s hard to have a civil conversation with someone who starts out by writing “Oh god – teh stoopid, IT BURNS!” and then throws up noise, but I’ll try.

            First, I mentioned your involvement at because you disingenuously referred to it as “some bitcoin blog” when clearly you knew what it was. It doesn’t matter when you last posted there; whether you spend time there now is irrelevant to my point.

            Second, you say we shouldn’t “politicize money” as if that’s a rational position that anyone outside radical libertarians accepts. Money is among the most political of topics. We politicize wealth distribution all the time, for good reason – and, in fact, we don’t do it enough. Bitcoin is not progressive in that regard.

            Third, I don’t see why you and the other rabid Bitcoin promoters are so uncritical when it comes to the social effects of the thing you promote. Just because it’s new and interesting doesn’t mean it’s obviously a good thing. The good can be outweighed by the bad, as most sane people who read — the main, originally “official” forum that popularized Bitcoin and still continues to do so in manipulative, pump-and-dump-style ways — conclude.

            To address another stray comment, I myself hold a large number of bitcoins. I haven’t “missed” anything — but note how even the suggestion that I have suggests a pump-and-dump-style scam. I was around near the beginning. But I am not sanguine about the way Bitcoin is being marketed to people.

        2. Caleb

          People seem to think that because the cost of mining bitcoins was lower in the old days, it was lower risk. But that’s not the way I do the math. If you were mining (or working on the bitcoin software or writing exchange software) in 2009 it was highly likely that you would lose everything. All of your investment. Everything you contributed would be wasted if bitcoin simply failed, which was highly likely in the early days.

          Now it’s much more unlikely to lose everything. Sure you might be down 85% if you bought at $30. You might be down a significant amount if you spent a bunch of money on mining rigs as difficulty spiked. But the likelihood of losing everything is much, much lower than it was two years ago. Hence it’s lower risk now.

    2. Alex Delmar

      Hi s-

      Here’s what you’re saying:


      Dear Brewster,

      I have been a fan of your work for decades and that of the Internet Archive for almost as long, but I’m curious if you’d given enough thought to the implications of supporting THE INTERNET and, implicitly, the fairly horrible community of extreme libertarians and anarchists that stands to make money if others like you promote it similarly….


      Being afraid of technology because it might benefit people you oppose seems rather shortsighted.

    3. Bill

      Freicoin is a newer blockchain that has properties that some might think as more economically desirable. It uses something called demurrage, which should produce effects similar to inflation. Though, 80% of coins mined in the first 3 years go to the Freicoin Foundation, and it’s yet to be seen how they will manage it.

    4. brewster Post author


      Thank you for your thoughtful note. Culture behind technology does make a difference and shapes the tech as it moves forward. The main culture I am aware of, and this may show my naivete on the subject, is that bitcoin came from the crypto crowd. I know some of this culture through my work with the EFF, and it is a math-y privacy oriented group. When I dipped my toe into it, I found it hard to stay an optimist because it was all about protecting against attacks. But I am glad that that set has vetted and attacked bitcoin to try to get the core to be robust, or even “anti-fragile”– while this currency is still thought of as an experiment, then having it attacked and debated in the open sphere is probably a good thing. It is an experiment to me because even if we make the total possible value of all bitcoins it is less than Groupon’s market capitalization, so I would say we are in the experimental zone– people are kicking the tires and kicking them hard.

      But I believe your point is that we are implicitly endorsing a culture that is not becoming of the Internet Archive. What I hope we are doing in our small way is getting this core tech to be tested by a wider group, but keep letting people know that it is a test and not suggest it as an investment or safe value store. While I do see some of the “don’t trust anyone” aspects (like the negative reactions to our “honor based ATM” interesting– it seemed counter to the bitcoin ethos of assume you can not trust anyone) I hope that does not pervade the upcoming uses of this and other similar decentralized systems.

      But thank you for the warning, I take it seriously, as others should as well.


      1. S

        Dear Brewster –

        Thanks for the response. I actually in many ways appreciate the spirit of the “crypto” community (Bitcoin was presented originally on the historically interesting “cypherpunk” list, and it drew the attention of Hal Finney, whom I’ve long admired). I like that community’s intellectual energy and social concern — and even if, like you, I don’t share their defensiveness, I think they’re interesting and important. I also find the Bitcoin technology fascinating; I read through the code early on and would have been impressed with it even if it had just been a research exercise, much less a system that has been far more robust in the real world than even most experts would have guessed. It is a very good piece of work. Indeed, it’s interesting for lots of reasons that don’t even have anything to do with money; it’s the best implementation of a coordinated, rather than uncoordinated, peer-to-peer system.

        My main social concerns are (1) that most of its promoters specifically promote it for antigovernmental uses (tax evasion, money laundering, and so forth), usually from a philosophically anarchist position, and (2) in context, the way it has been promoted is essentially a get-rich-quick scam which has the potential to cause many victims significant losses.

        As a result, I (at least personally) very much appreciate the posture that you’re suggesting for the Internet Archive and perhaps for similar nonprofits: to promote it as a fun, interesting technology to study or experiment with, rather than as either an investment or an (anarchistic, or at least extremely politically libertarian) political cause. It’s unfortunate that the two are sometimes so hard to separate.


  4. Mepher

    “Awful community of bitcoin?” Comparisons to the Russian mafia? Where are you getting this stuff, S? Sure, there are shady characters who abuse the semi-anonymity that bitcoin provides, but what currency isn’t abused by a small minority? Some of us started mining as a hobby and found that it could be profitable, and others use it as a convenient means of online payment. Is there something inherently wrong with any of that? The “implications” of supporting something like bitcoin are wonderful – we have a burgeoning e-currency that is not artificially controlled by any one government, is not skimmed by a corporate entity that seems to ansewr to no one(as with something like PayPal) and is accessible even to many who are otherwise economically shackled by oppressive regimes. Why WOULDN’T you want to add to the publicity?

    1. s

      Read, especially the various missives from the early adopters. Only then decide if you’re happy giving them your money.

      1. Dave Terror

        It’s true that a lot of the big holders of bitcoin are reprobates.

        However, think about who the “early adopters” of the dollar were. Slave owners, arms dealers, oil barons. Heck, 99% of the wealth held in the dollar is still held by their descendants.

        You really have no choice.

      2. Anonymous

        Many of the early adopters were involved because of a keen interest in cryptography and privacy, not a desire to make money. Since efficient ‘mining’ requires a great deal of CPU power (later, GPU power), a large number of early adopters also happened to be PC gamers with incredibly expensive purpose-built machines that now had a task to perform in their idle time aside from Folding@Home or SETI. When a whole Internet sub-group collectively changes the benchmarking criteria of their ATIs to Mhash/s instead of 3DMark scores, word spreads quick via the network effect.

        Your broad brush criticism of an Internet forum is laughably shallow. Many of the members are non-US speaking and may struggle communicating in English. Many more are younger. A very, very large proportion, more than likely, have no formal experience in finance or monetary policy.

        So what?

        Your continued harping about the discourse on one Internet forum (an Internet forum!!!) shows you’re not only ignorant, but also an intolerant, authoritarian ass.

        1. Petar

          leave it!
          very narrow, don’t like the people and mentality.
          but I use and cherish the benefit of tech those community brings (atheist, anarchist, ANTIpeople!) not bound to shallowness and narrowness of the average Joe out there.

          since none has the mental capacity to challenge bitcoin technically, they are wasting their effort on demagogy. emotiones etc.

  5. Spathi

    Dear ‘S’,

    You seriously wouldn’t use something that’s incredibly useful just because some people you don’t like are into it?

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  7. Human

    I’m glad people like S will be the last adopters (or left behind, trying to catch up). They remind me of the same people who were creating hysteria and diminishing the revolution of the internet itself back in the early 90s, and then creating paranoia over encryption in the mid 90s. They’re the worst sycophants of corruption. They appease corrupt lawmakers and legislation at every turn.

    They’re the type of people who specifically hate free speech and have low tolerance for human rights when an individual peacefully behaves in any way that contrasts their own narrow ideology.

    People who want to lick the boots of war corporations and oppressive political regimes can have fun with their government monopoly money. And I do mean monopoly. Keep using the currencies of war lords, reckless bankers, and corrupt bureaucrats. I, for one, would rather use a currency that empower people. Bitcoin isn’t perfect. But it is revolutionary. It’s revolutionary for anyone who cares about human rights, freedom, economic empowerment for individuals and communities, and free speech.

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  9. Boris Reitman

    No doubt that anarchism is bad, but so is conservatism. Politics is a separate discussion. I don’t support either. Bitcoin is good because it can not be manipulated by bureaucrats.

    1. Henriko

      Anarchism is Good ! Better than being a slave of the state. Thats why we need a completely stateless currency. The Monopolies of the state and big private corporations are destroying our freedom and wealth.

      1. Anonymous

        Bitcoin will destroy all states, and we will see a new dawn of freedom and opportunity. I can’t wait to see the utter destitution of everyone who now suckles the government teat. The end can’t come soon enough.

        1. Andrew Turvey

          What on earth gives you the idea that bitcoin is outside the jurisdiction of states? Believe me, if they chose to tax it (or shut it down for that matter) they would.

          There’s no such thing as the virtual world. The internet is now part of “real life”. Better get used to it.

    2. Sven Slootweg

      It’s likely that you have an incorrect perception of what ‘anarchism’ is.

      Anarchism is the absence of enforced government, not the enforced absence of government. There’s a very big difference.

      1. Petar

        there is nothing enforced. you are free to go on the next island 😛
        but whoever is on this island we all agree on common terms.
        we can all be anarchists 🙂

    3. Petar

      “No doubt that anarchism is bad”
      let me guess, you, like all the rest of the sheeps, are thinking:
      dirty punksters looting TV stores, and you , be coincedence :P, ‘ve seen on a TV :))))

      in fact, if any of the anarchism opponents had spent a minimum time digging in history about the brief moments of anarchy rules in human history. you will find astonishing not fitting in your prejudice mind 🙂

      Adam Smith = Anarchist
      Bakunin = Anarchist
      and from all Anarchists != Anarchists

  10. Rodger dean

    There is way more liquidity in the bitcoin market now, market crash is obviously possible but if people are buying at these prices they are hoping for some massive gains. They wont sell. anyone who had good money in bitcoin most likely would have cashed it by now. Bitcoin it finally getting closer to its true value, because the liquidity is there. It’s a big call, but I really think it could make it to $1000 a bitcoin. I bought at 8.80 last year and never thought it would get to this price (21 times the amount I bought for) Lucky for me I’m still holding. What’s stopping it from going up 20 times its value again. We’ll wait and see.

    1. Andrew Turvey

      Classic bubble behaviour: buy something with no intrinsic value because it costs more today than it did yesterday so it might cost even more tomorrow.

      Play around with this by all means, but please don’t put all your eggs in one basket because you WILL get burnt.

      And no one will have any sympathy. At all.

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  13. Ade

    The way to help ensure Bitcoin’s success is not just to buy, trade and hoard them, but to buy things with them and set up businesses using them.
    The general public are not really interested in what deflation is, decentralised or cryptography, they just want to buy stuff with them, and if it’s cheaper and easier to do that with Bitcoin, then they’ll buy in.
    Bitcoin will succeed if Tens of millions of people come in, and they will only do that if there are businesses out there selling stuff they want.
    The other problem is that people (including myself) have a tendancy to be lazy. Sure, it might be cheaper to buy that Gizmo using Bitcoin, but I got to download that App, find someone who’ll sell me some Bitcoins and I gotta either set up an account at MtGox or meet someone face to face, or, I could simply go to the store like I normally do to buy Gizmos.
    It needs to be easy easy easy, or many wont bother, although a complete collapse might force them to make the effort, but can enough of them make the effort fast enough in a collapse to still have a viable economy once fiat collapses. I don’t know how to attract the public in, I’d suggest giving Bitcoins away, but most of the public would lose them. We need to attract them in, We need to make the effort required to get involved, attractive.
    I think the thing that will attract them in is setting up businesses offering goods and services, that’s the most important issue, and I suggest the exchanges should introduce a tiny fee, half of half a percxent or so, and use that money to either reward existing Bitcoin businesses, help keep them running, AND set up new businesses, that way, the speculators and trading Bots help to set up REAL businesses. In the end, it will benefit the speculators too because bringing in more people will drive the price upwards, so the speculators are not being punished here.

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