Apple clarifies stance on 'virtual currencies,' may pave road to Bitcoin trading apps

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After unexpectedly yanking apps associated with Bitcoin trading in late 2013 and early 2014, Apple on Monday offered a bit more clarity on how it intends to handle virtual currencies in the future.

Following the unveiling of iOS 8 during Apple's Worldwide Developers Conference keynote on Monday, the company issued a revised set of App Store Review Guidelines with a special portion dedicated to virtual currencies. It appears that Apple is ready to accept apps for review that deal in the transmission of these digital funds, at least to a limited degree.

From Apple's review guidelines:

Purchasing and Currencies

11.17 Apps may facilitate transmission of approved virtual currencies provided that they do so in compliance with all state and federal laws for the territories in which the app functions.

As noted by Gliph, maker of the eponymous texting and Bitcoin wallet viewing app, Apple's updated document is one of the first times the company has officially recognized virtual currencies. Apple has traditionally denied app submissions that dealt with Bitcoin trading, though the company never stated a hardline policy against software with such capability.

In February, Apple removed Bitcoin trading and storage app Blockchain from the App Store due to an "unresolved issue," while a similar app called Coinbase was pulled last November. Gliph was allowed to remain in the App Store as long as it disabled the ability to make Bitcoin transactions.

As Bitcoin and other virtual currencies are traded peer-to-peer and exist only in the digital realm, governments around the world have been reticent to acknowledge them as a legitimate form of money. Most trading happens online and users can convert their bitcoins into more traditional paper currencies through specialized exchanges, making it somewhat difficult to regulate.

The impact of Apple's new rule remains unclear as companies like Gliph have yet to submit new apps for review. In addition, Bitcoin itself is not specifically mentioned in the update, meaning the probability of a transaction-capable app passing through the precess to the App Store is unlikely.