While the deafening buzz around Apple Pay drones on, one of its competitors quietly did something important.
Paypal, the eBay-owned mobile payment system and the world’s second biggest, announced that it would soon let customers pay in bitcoin, the virtual currency. The catch, for the moment, is that merchants will have to agree to accept the use of bitcoin, which for some could be problematic.
Still, the announcement is a major commercial milestone for bitcoin, which has had its ups and downs as backers have fought for acceptance. “Fairly or not,” wrote Wired, “bitcoin still has an image problem. For every VC who extols the innovative power of the digital currency, pop culture still sees it as a way for the paranoid cyber-libertarian to shop for black-tar heroin on the Silk Road. All the more reason, then, that bitcoin fans should rejoice” at the Paypal deal.
In a move announced Monday at Techcrunch’s Disrupt conference, PayPal is supporting the cryptocurrency on its Braintree payments platform. When the Internet’s most mainstream brand for moving money embraces a technology, it’s hard to see that system as a fringe operation.
The open-source online “virtual currency” could soon be used to pay for an Uber taxi ride or that weekend get away booked through AirBnB.
“We’re announcing PayPal’s first foray into bitcoin,” announced Bill Ready, chief of eBay’s Braintree unit, during the Techcrunch’s Disrupt SF conference on Monday, Bloomberg reported. “Over the coming months we’ll allow our merchants to accept bitcoin. On the consumer side it will be a sleek experience.”
A Braintree blog post, the same day of the announcement, said “Goodbye to passwords,” and hello to bitcoin:
While we’re focused on giving people more seamless buying experiences, we’re also fierce advocates of giving merchants — and in turn their customers — flexibility and the freedom of choice. That’s why today, we also announced that we’ll enable our customers to easily accept bitcoin in the coming months via a partnership with Coinbase — a trusted, high quality bitcoin payment processor with 1.6M consumer wallets and 36,000 merchants globally. As we make bitcoin available, our v.zero SDK will make it seamless for developers and merchants to add bitcoin to their existing payment methods and provide an elegant, adaptive user interface for consumers to pay in bitcoin with their Coinbase wallet (request access to the upcoming beta).
Bitcoin was allegedly invented by a mysterious programmer, or group of programmers, known only by the pseudonym Satoshi Nakamoto. It’s run into problems in the past year because of its appeal to assorted hackers, tax-evaders, money-launderers and drug dealers, as well as plain ordinary people.
The elusive and famed bitcoin founder is rumored to have an equally notorious bitcoin fortune stashed away somewhere — estimated by some to be more than one million bitcoins, the equivalent of $460 today, reported Vice.
The “innovative payment network” offers its users a chance to escape the high fees and rates imposed by commercial banks and credit-card processors.
Coinbase — which advertises itself as the most convenient and secure worldwide “Bitcoin wallet” — will be partnering with Paypal in the new initiative, and the company has high hopes that bitcoin is evolving into a widely used and reliable currency for global buying and selling, reported Wired.
Co-founder and chief executive of Coinbase, Brian Armstrong, said the Braintree integration is just the latest step towards that goal: “To build a new efficient payment network for the whole world.”
While the cryptocurrency has been shadowed by its links with online “black market” merchants such as Silk Road, bitcoin appears to be rapidly developing into a popular and increasingly accepted online-payment system.
Bloomberg conducted a poll of financial professionals in July that indicated people were still wary of the digital currency, with 55 percent surveyed agreeing that it trades at “unsustainable, bubble-like prices,” and reported Bitcoin prices have catapulted to as little as $341 this year from highs of $900.