Some vendors in China, the largest marketplace for bitcoin, have stopped accepting the unregulated digital currency after the government there warned against its use, state media reported.
Baidu, an online search engine and Web services company, said it has temporarily stopped using bitcoin for payment. In a statement, the company said the currency's "recent fluctuations" in price is partly why it has suspended its use.
Bitcoin, the burgeoning currency, has seen its value jump over the past year from a low of about $10 to more than $1,200 in late November. On Monday, it was trading at $903 on the Mt. Gox online exchange, a popular trading platform.
Widespread speculation has helped push the currency's value, prompting more and more vendors to accept it as payment. Last week, however, China's central bank imposed strict restrictions on the currency's use.
Beijing authorities, however, did not outright ban bitcoin; it said vendors could use it at their own risk.
Over the last four years, the currency has been elbowing its way from the digital ether into popular use — simply because people, companies and organizations have decided to believe that it has value as a currency. Indeed, bitcoin is only the most notable of many virtual currencies that have begun to proliferate worldwide.
A university in Cyprus recently announced it would begin accepting tuition payments in bitcoins. A Newport Beach auto dealership said on its blog Wednesday it accepted bitcoins as payment for the first time, in the sale of a Tesla Model S Performance electric car.
Last summer, twins Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss — who settled claims that social network Facebook Inc. was their idea — filed paperwork to launch the first bitcoin-related investment offering on Wall Street. Bank of America Merrill Lynch analysts recently issued their first note on the digital currency. Supporters have formed a political action committee to back bitcoin in Washington.
Times staff writers Andrew Tangel and Chris O'Brien contributed to this report.