The U.S. has made one possibly fatal mistake, according to experts at Bitcoin London, the first big conference focusing on business startups and investors interested in the virtual currency. TechCrunch’s Mike Butcher reports that the experts believe the U.S. should not have classified bitcoin as a currency so early in its development.

Bitcoin

Bitcoins first attracted interest earlier this year when their value skyrocketed, and since then, regulators have been itching to get their hands on the currency, even shutting down Mt. Gox, the largest bitcoin exchange, temporarily.

How Bitcoins Are Treated And Their True Potential

According to Butcher, it was revealed at the conference that bitcoins are being treated in several ways. Some investors see it as money, while others see it as an asset class. Still others see it as perhaps the first very secure person to person global information exchange, while others view the bitcoin as a technology platform or even as its own startup entity.

Speaking at the conference, Payward General Counsel Constance Choi said there’s “incredible potential” for the virtual currency not as money but rather as a secure network for exchanging information. She said there are too many “competing voices” in terms of jurisdiction because of how many different labels there are for bitcoins.

Bitcoins And Regulation

According to Choi, although U.S. regulators don’t believe bitcoins are a form of money, they say it “acts like money so it’s being treated and regulated in this way.” Regulators in the U.K. don’t know what to make of bitcoins either, calling it neither “fiat” money nor eMoney.

The European Central Bank, contrary to how U.S. regulators see bitcoins, don’t believe they are money or that they must be regulated yet. As a result, this is a major advantage for Europe in terms of attracting bitcoin startups, in Choi’s view. She also believes the U.S. is lagging approximately five years behind the European Union in terms of payment innovation.

Bitcoin Foundation General Counsel Patrick Murck agreed with Choi, saying that there is so much competition among the various regulating bodies in the U.S. that barriers for the bitcoin ecosystem are being built.

At least one bitcoin startup representative told TechCrunch that he doesn’t plan to launch his business in the U.S. because of the precise problems Choi and Murck spoke about. Bits of Gold founder Jonathan Rouch said he sees too many possibilities for intervention by regulators in the U.S.