It's official: is now the first major online retailer to accept Bitcoin as a payment method. The company made a promise late last year that they would begin accepting the controversial virtual currency within the first half of this year but few expected it would happen so quickly.

CEO Patrick Byrne told Wired that he felt he had tipped his hand by revealing their intentions last month and he didn't want someone else to beat them to the punch.

Byrne said his company struck a deal with San Francisco startup Coinbase last Tuesday to handle Bitcoin payments. Overstock engineers have been working at a feverish pace ever since to get the payment method implemented ASAP. As of earlier today, Overstock started accepting Bitcoins for everything they sell.

It's a strategy he believes will ultimately help Overstock's bottom line but that isn't the only reason he's doing it. The opinionated libertarian is using the decision as a political statement as well as he believes virtual currencies can help free the world from the powers that big banks and big government have enjoyed for years. Or as he puts it, "it helps us fight the machine."

There's little denying that as companies like Overstock and others embrace the currency, its primary role will shift from an investment to a regularly and widely used currency that can be used to buy and sell both goods and services. How long that will ultimately take, however, remains to be seen.