More generally, what measures are in place to ensure Bitcoin doesn’t become “corrupted” by the same people in the standard currency trading system who are just out to “make money”?
There are no measures in place to stop people from trading Bitcoins for whatever they like, whether that's buying a nice pair of socks or trying to manipulate the exchange rate to make a profit. There is a grand tradition of wealthy people who manage to bankrupt themselves by trying to monopolise and control a market; they typically either run out of money before they gain control or find that once they gain control and drive up prices people find a substitute for whatever it is they are trying to monopolise.
I do think there will be pretty wild swings in Bitcoin exchange rates for at least the next few years, just because it is such a small, new market.
How is the Bitcoin “economy” going? What is the level of interest among buyers and sellers to use Bitcoins?
Small but steadily growing is how I'd describe it. Using Bitcoins is still “clunky”, although I'm optimistic because there are so many innovative projects using Bitcoins in lots of different ways – everything from youtipit.org, which lets you give small payments to people who's work you think deserves support, to integrating Bitcoin payments into point-of-sale cash-register software so you can use your mobile phone to make a payment at your local store.
You are originally from Melbourne, and I noticed an Australian was prepared to trade a car for Bitcoins. Any other stories like that you can share? Any news on Bitcoin activity in Australia?
Editor’s note: Gavin asked that question on the main Bitcoin forum and it received some timely responses.
While the car didn’t end up selling for Bitcoins, forum member "noagendamarket" has set up Bitcoin.com.au as a resource for Australians interested in Bitcoin. There's also an Australian Bitcoin investor, Cameron Garnham, so there is definitely some local Bitcoin activity.
Is Bitcoin happy to see third-party trading and brokerage portals pop up? You run such a service yourself with Clearcoin.com. Is it in the spirit of Bitcoin to collect fees for Bitcoin transactions?
Charging for useful services is very much in the Bitcoin spirit – there are actually a lot of people who think every Bitcoin transaction should have at least a token fee attached. The idea is that world-wide competition will make fees as small as possible, and will make companies providing services as efficient as possible.
I think in the long run every Bitcoin transaction will have a small fee associated with it, but I also think that consumers may never see those fees — they will be paid by merchants, in the same way credit card transaction fees are hidden in a slightly higher price for things we buy.
So seeing more third-party exchanges and other services pop up is very good news!
The code for the Bitcoin client is distributed under a BSD-like licence. Is the project happy to see people redistribute the code in binary form only? I.e. create “proprietary” distributions of the client?
As long as the distributor is honest about what they are distributing and don't try to defraud people by releasing a client that steals their coins then that is just fine. However, without releasing the source code how could anybody be certain that a binary release would NOT steal your coins? Personally, I wouldn't trust a binary release unless it was from an organisation with a trusted brand-name.
Recently there was a lot of controversy because Compute4Cash is distributing an easier-to-use version of "gpu mining" software (it is not a version of the Bitcoin client, but a version of related open source software for creating Bitcoins using your graphics processor).
Distributing an easier-to-use version is fine, but what caused the controversy is they don't tell their customers that they are generating Bitcoins, and they only pay their customers about half of what the generated Bitcoins are worth. Several people in the Bitcoin community think that is unfair.
Personally, I think what compute4cash is doing is okay. I would rather they mentioned Bitcoins, and it would be nice if they paid their customers more... but if I felt strongly about it then I should create my own, competing service that was more honest and "fair". I think technical people tend to underestimate how difficult and costly it is to do all the marketing and support required to build the kind of business compute4cash has created.