In an announcement, Japanese e-commerce firm Rakuten Inc says that it has begun accepting payments in virtual currency Bitcoin on its US online shopping site. Talking to media professionals a spokeswoman said that the move means Rakuten, seeking to expand overseas, is joining a growing number of online retail leaders, like Amazon.com Inc and Expedia Inc.
Rakuten is a Japanese electronic commerce and Internet company based in Tokyo, Japan. As this e-commerce platform Rakuten Ichiba is the largest e-commerce site in Japan and among the world’s largest by sales, the decision to embrace the digital currency is going to help it expand further by encouraging similar other companies to accept Bitcoin.
When Hiroshi Mikitani founded the company in February 1997 as MDM, Inc., he did not know that someday his company will be accepting virtual currencies as well. The company which was an outcome of the great idea changed its name to Rakuten, Inc. in 1999 – the Japanese word Rakuten means optimism.
The company sites in Germany and Austria will follow the decision to accept Bitcoin payments as well. The company, in a statement announcing the US launch said that no decision had been taken on whether Rakuten plans to accept Bitcoin on its Japanese e-commerce site though. Interestingly, Japanese operations accounts for the bulk of its profit.
Japan has been a major player in Bitcoin ecosystem thanks to non-interventionist approach of the Japanese government. The Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party, has decided that the government won’t regulate Bitcoin and won’t assign any regulatory bodies to oversee the virtual currency ecosystem.
Whereas Mt. Gox, once the world’s largest Bitcoin exchange, collapsed last year and lost customers’ assets worth half a billion dollars, disappointed many, the decision by Rakuten is expected to help many users in Japan. Venture companies welcomed the news; however, executives at larger companies showed their concern.
Users Asking for Government Watchdog to See Digital Currency Transactions
According to the executives at larger companies the move made it difficult for them to start accepting Bitcoin because they want a government agency as a watchdog. They say without government agency watching the Bitcoin transactions they would face trouble should unfavorable incidents occur.
Nonetheless, Rakuten has been open and passionate about Bitcoin’s potential use. For instance, hosting several panel talks dedicated to the subject at a recent financial conference hosted by the company, it showed its great interest in the digital currency.
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