The course of bitcoin flies away, the French discover crypto-currencies. Behind this speculative fever exists a community of computer scientists who believe in the future of this economic system.
In 4 months, the soaring course of bitcoin
On the wall, a screen shows in real time the soaring bitcoin: in four months, the course has been multiplied by five! What turn heads. Faced with an audience of a hundred people who is massing in the small room, Manuel Valente, the director of operations, answers multiple questions.
In the first row, a lawyer of about thirty years came to inquire to "diversify (his) investments"; a heritage advisor wants to "anticipate the many questions that (her) clients ask her"; a taxi driver, without really understanding what it is, does not want to "miss a good deal" ... The fever seems to have won all circles.
"It feels like you're going through a revolution"
For the founders of Bitcoin House, it is a commercial success, since it is remunerated with foreign exchange commissions. But it's also an exciting adventure. "We experiment. It feels like a revolution, "breathes Manuel Valente.
Beyond the windfall effect, which may one day make many disappointed, crypto-currencies have, indeed, mobilize hundreds of people who have passionate discussions on forums, exchange advice and information. They cooperate to administer the system.
Running computers and making money
The essential actors are called "minors": they install at home computers that, working in a network, allow this currency to circulate. And for that, they are paid by touching a few bitcoins. Jonathan Druet, for example, has at his home eight computers running in parallel.
This 25-year-old electrician works in a large industrial group in the Paris region and devotes his evenings to crypto-currencies. "I do not hide it: my motivation is to make money. But I like technology. I have been playing video games for a long time. I discovered bitcoin six months ago. "
20 euros per day for an investment of 4,000 euros
Since then, he has trained himself on sites and plans to create his own mining farm, running hundreds of machines. His current installation brings him 20 € per day. With some of his winnings, he plays on the course of different crypto-currencies, to earn a little more. With the rest he repays his investment which amounted to 4 000 € for the computer equipment, and he pays his electricity.
For those who do the mining, the electric bill represents about 30% of the costs. This explains why large mining farms are in countries where electricity is cheap, and where it is easier to cool computers: in China, Russia or Iceland ... The existence of bitcoin is based on these facilities .
Hundreds of virtual currencies
It also relies on developers who continually improve the computer program that administers the system. They are a few hundred, all over the world, and work together on this free software. Decisions to make a change are made by consensus. Nobody directs and the power is in the hands of "the community".
The crazy flight of the courses is recent. "It came from the fact that crypto-currencies come out of the circle of specialists. The general public discovers them, "explains Manuel Valente. Beyond bitcoin, there are several hundred virtual currencies that are called the ethereum, the dash, the zcash, the monero ...
Hackers to attack bitcoin
As demand drives up prices, online sales counters are proliferating. And with them, the scams. Some people propose to buy bitcoins that they never send or dazzle bonuses that do not exist ... So beware. Hackers have also found ways to empty a virtual wallet, which must be learned to protect.
The world of cryptocurrencies is young ... It is subject to multiple abuses. But growing up, it is structured and gives rise also to the creation of real companies. This is the case of Ledger, a French company that has designed a portfolio dedicated to cryptocurrencies. It looks like a USB key, equipped with a screen and command buttons, to allow transactions.
"It's an absolute guarantee against piracy. We have already sold 630,000 in 165 countries, and we plan to sell two million next year, "says Eric Larchevêque, the founder of Ledger. We are moving away from the niche market. In view of orders, he finds that crypto-currencies meet a strong craze in Asia.