New clout for bitcoin as currency firm joins Web lobby

A major bitcoin servicer is joining the ranks of Facebook, Google and Yahoo by joining the Internet Association, the major lobbying group for Internet companies.

The trade group on Wednesday announced that Coinbase is joining its ranks, in what appears to be a gradual shift to integrate digital currency companies with mainstream digital and finance firms. 

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“Bitcoin is currency built for the Internet,” John Collins, a former Senate aide who is now Coinbase’s head of government affairs, said in a statement. “Our vision for bitcoin as a free and open, global payments system aligns with IA's own commitment to online freedom and innovation, and we look forward to furthering that mission as a member.”

Internet Association head Michael Beckerman called Coinbase “a leader in the field of digital currency” and pointed to a track record of “expansion and innovation makes them an exciting and welcome addition to the Internet Association.”

Bitcoin is a digital currency that only exists online but can be used as an investment, exchanged for cash or to buy goods and services at a growing number of retailers. While it has suffered some bad press in the past due to associations with money launders and poor financial management, supporters say it has the potential to revolutionize the way people buy things and send money in the digital age.

Coinbase has major backing from the New York Stock Exchange and other investors. It has created 2.5 million digital wallets for people to keep their bitcoins, and is also used by thousands of developers and merchants around the world.