Bitcoin virtual currency can now be used to pay for pizza

Pizza being prepared Orders made via the Pizza for Coins website are funnelled to others for preparation and delivery

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Pizza can now be bought using the bitcoin virtual currency.

The Pizza for Coins service has been set up by two programmers as a way to boost use of the digital cash.

The service acts as a middleman and converts bitcoins into US dollars that are used to pay for food. It charges a small fee to do the currency exchange.

Paying via bitcoins can also delay an order, warn the site owners, saying the conversion can mean pizza takes up to 80 minutes to be delivered.

While orders for pizza are placed on the Pizza for Coins site, once payment is made they are funnelled to the website of Domino's pizza to be made and delivered. Links to other pizza companies, such as Pizza Hut and Papa John, would be added soon, said programmers Matt Burkinshaw and Riley Alexander in an explanatory note on the site.

The site, which only works with US addresses, currently offers a limited range of pizzas and toppings. A medium pizza with two toppings costs about 0.71 bitcoins (£12).

Paying via the digital currency also adds a 0.09 bitcoin (£1.50) premium to the price of a pizza to convert the digital money to real dollars. The service's owners said this conversion charge might change as exchange rates for bitcoins had fluctuated widely. If the service proved successful, charges would be reduced, said its creators.

Bitcoins first appeared in 2009 and are closely linked to the global network of computers that supports the currency and its users. Many people generate or "mine" the coins by participating in that network and a growing number of web stores and online firms accept bitcoins as payment.

They have become a very widely used alternative payments system and one bitcoin is currently worth about £17 ($26).

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