Over the past twelve months, the value of a Bitcoin unit has grown from under $ 10,000 to over $ 30,000. Companies including Square and IBM are using blockchain, the technology behind money, to design and improve digital payment methods.
But what can you actually buy with Bitcoin?
Turns out, a lot. What it does is not always easy.
“Bitcoin is not yet the most efficient currency,” said Henry Elder, head of asset management at Wave Financial, a digital asset firm in Los Angeles.
For example, a person can buy from Amazon with Bitcoin, using a third party service called Purse.
The way Purse works is as follows: A customer chooses the items they want to buy on Amazon, then copies the URL and goes back to Purse, where the transaction is processed, using the gift card they got from people who want cryptocurrency.
Purse guarantees its clients a minimum discount of five percent from Amazon’s list price and adds the option to negotiate a fifteen percent discount.
I tried getting a pack of 20 black KN95 masks worth $ 42.99 with the money I put in my Bitcoin wallet, but when it came time to click “order” the total price – with fee – was $ 47.47 and that’s including the eight percent discount. payment proposal.
Since I received a pop-up message from Purse’s customer service representative Eduardo from Buenos Aires asking for technical assistance, I contacted and got an automatic message saying Eduardo “was away”. and typical response times for queries are several hours.
The whole thing feels a lot like ordering from Uber Eats, except that there’s not even a bag of cold food at the end. It’s definitely not the same as buying directly through Amazon with one click.
In 2014, Overstock became one of the first major electronic sellers to accept direct Bitcoin payments. It then continues to develop a number of blockchain related businesses.
In an interview last week, the company’s CEO, Jonathan Johnson, made it clear that there is no clear overlap between the sale of closed sofas and rethinking of major currencies. gender. Bitcoin is not a huge source of income for Overstock.
In the first three quarters of 2020, the site posted nearly $ 2 billion in revenue, according to its earnings report. Mr Johnson says an average of about $ 30,000 to $ 50,000 a week comes from cryptocurrencies. “Our demographics are skewed towards women and Bitcoin buyers tend to be men,” he said. “It’s a different customer segment.”
For the most part, it looks like Bitcoin has become a payment option as its character matches the liberal tendencies of both Mr. Johnson and Patrick Byrne, the founder of Overstock.
But wild fluctuations in Bitcoin’s value sometimes create complexity for Overstock, especially when it comes to returns. Even though Mr. Johnson said the company was always clear at checkout that the refund would match the dollar price of the item (instead of the amount of Bitcoin spent), people complained, sometimes by mistake. mixed, sometimes not.
“We are not going to let people use their sheets as a hedge against Bitcoin’s price drop,” he said. “People would say ‘I bought my yard furniture for 0.1 Bitcoin and now you just refund me 0.08 Bitcoin?’ We are like ‘Yup.’ “
One industry that pioneered Bitcoin’s adoption is pornography. It is the same with prostitution.
Mindgeek, the largest corporation in the industry, accepts cryptocurrencies on its websites. So is Chaturbate.
There are certain overlap between porn movies and cryptocurrencies: Men often hide their consumption of porn; Bitcoin was designed with the idea that it can be used anonymously.
No one’s name is directly tied to the Bitcoin that that person owns. Instead, the holder is given a private key that allows the creation of a password that only that person knows.
Records are maintained through a publicly available, digital ledger, known as a blockchain, managed by an army of volunteers on multiple servers. It re-adjusts in real time as transactions take place between different Bitcoin holders.
That army of volunteers won’t mediate commodity disputes, so “you can’t reverse transactions on cryptocurrency like you can with Visa and Mastercard,” said Lilly Sparks, a joint venture. in Austin, Tex, who founded Afterglow, a website in 2020 that says it means marrying porn and “sexual health”.
And a prominent sign of porn consumption, Sparks notes, is the efforts by its fans to avoid having to pay for it.
Perhaps predictably, Bitcoin’s lack of leadership gives it (and other forms of cryptocurrencies) a certain desire for people to buy and sell contraband goods.
On Discord, the messaging app, I hooked up with a Perc controller user who described, in a phone interview, the history of drug transactions he purchased via Silk Road, a dark web marketplace that was shut down by the FBI in 2013.
After paying vendors through his Bitcoin wallet, Perc stated that goods would be stored inside things like stuffed animals and delivered to a post box he set up. But investors’ growing demand for Bitcoin in the stock market has greatly dampened these relationships, he and others say.
Many retail investors buy Bitcoin today through companies like Coinbase and Bitpay, which act as exchanges, processing transactions between buyers and sellers.
Consequently, the code that was once anonym is becoming anything but. More and more retailers are setting up payment systems that allow Bitcoin transactions.
Among the biggest are Microsoft, AT&T and Home Depot. In addition, apps in the Apple and Android stores make it possible for crypto connoisseurs to pay for air tickets by converting Bitcoin into fiat money in real time.
On Monday, a newsletter posted about a New York doctor named Alexander Goldberg, who will now accept Bitcoin to pay the $ 400 to $ 500 fee he charges to patients who want a test. coronavirus at home.
His son, Mark Goldberg, said in an interview that it seems like a good idea to say Bitcoin is “all news”. Its competitors are also on the rise.
Pepsi and Coca-Cola’s Bitcoin are Ethereum. Many mainstream retailers are engaged in cryptocurrencies offering customers the option to use. (Craigslist has an option for cryptocurrency transactions between individual sellers.)
Mr. Johnson, the chief executive officer of Overstock, said that now, when he goes to church, he will ask questions from “75-year-old ladies who want to know about Bitcoin.”
Last June, Mastercard announced it was introducing a crypto-based debit card in partnership with Bitpay that could be used at more than 3,000 merchants worldwide. In October, PayPal said it would provide customers in the US with the ability to buy, sell, or hold cryptocurrencies on its platforms. Later this year, those customers will also be able to shop with it.
In an interview, Dan Schulman, president and CEO of PayPal, said he sees this as an opportunity to give the cryptocurrency “increased functionality” and provide freedom to its followers. expel it, including those who cannot get credit.
But Mr. Schulman isn’t sure he’s going to use his own Bitcoin (and he has a bunch) to go shopping.
Perhaps it is because many people have spent Bitcoin living regrets.
Discord recalled using two of his Bitcoins in 2013 to buy himself a skateboard. “Back then, it was of no value,” he said. “Like 100 dollars a coin.”
They are now worth more than $ 30,000 each.
Similarly, in 2014, Tyler and Cameron Winklevoss converted thousands of bitcoins into cash to fund a $ 500,000 space fun through Virgin Galactic. As a result they have many, millions less.
Fortunately for the Winklevoss brothers, that’s only a fraction of the total Bitcoin they hold. And more crypto-connected money may be coming to them and their company, Winklevoss Capital.
Later this year, Gemini, a Winklevoss company, plans to introduce a rewarded credit card that rewards not in the form of cashback but in Bitcoin.) In cash, investing in Bitcoin. Cash is rubbish ”.