08/23/2009 05:12 am ET Updated 4 days ago

New Money: Nine Virtual and Alternative Currencies

This interview originally appeared on

No matter how complex and diverse our online communities are, and how sophisticated and evolved the new ways in which we interact with one another seem, buying and selling still remains at the fore of the online world. Though the basic act of commerce has not changed, many entrepreneurial minds have envisioned new ways to facilitate our transactions, and bring business beyond cash and coin.


The Renmibi

In China, the QQ Coin--a currency attached to the massively popular QQ chatting and social networking service--has broken out of the virtual world, and is increasingly used to pay for real-life goods and services. Use of the QQ Coin has become so rampant that it has begun to affect the value of China's official state currency--to the extent that the People's Bank of China is actively seeking to crack down on QQ misuse.


The idea behind the M-Pesa digital currency is to permit branchless banking in the third world--allowing for loans and money transfers in areas where many have no access to a physical bank. M-Pesa enables basic bank transactions executed entirely via mobile phone. The M-Pesa service has carried interesting sociological consequences; one university study has explored the role the service plays in granting women greater financial freedom, as well as allowing their husbands to keep mistresses paid in secret.


A concept by Ashwin Rajan, a student at the Copenhagen Institute of Interaction Design, about a green-loyalty scheme where earned points for environmentally friendly behavior can be used as currency.

...To continue reading this interview, visit