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Why BitcoinStore is going to bring an end to a Decade of PayPal (coinabul.tumblr.com)
24 points by Coinabul1 on Feb 27, 2013 | hide | past | web | favorite | 63 comments



Why would a major, established business like Amazon want to deal with Bitcoin? Transaction times of 10 minutes? Questions about how to pay their taxes (yes, believe it or not, a business as enormous as Amazon is not going to fail to pay taxes) and what taxes should be paid on BTC transactions are probably enough to keep them away. Amazon issues lines of credit to their customers, and only a fool would issue a line of credit in a currency that has built-in deflation.

I think it is more likely that Congress will dismantle the military industrial complex.


> Amazon issues lines of credit to their customers

Really? I've always paid with credit card.

> Questions about how to pay their taxes

A "business as enormous as Amazon" probably has a horde of accountants to answer those questions.

> what taxes should be paid on BTC transactions

The same as on any other transactions in non-USD currency perhaps?


When a little startup already has better pricing than a well established billion dollar company, that's something to take note of.

Most Bitcoin Processors give confirmation fairly quickly. The customer doesn't have to wait 10 minutes.

Taxes shouldn't be too big of an issue. They just get reported like accepting any other foreign currency.

As for line of credit... you should check out Ripple.com


"When a little startup already has better pricing than a well established billion dollar company, that's something to take note of."

By selling at a loss. We are not talking about a startup that outprices Amazon by actually doing something technically superior to cut costs, we are talking about a startup that is trying to use a loss leader strategy. Nothing to see here, it's a well known tactic.

"Most Bitcoin Processors give confirmation fairly quickly. The customer doesn't have to wait 10 minutes."

Last I checked, it was 10-30 minutes. More importantly, isn't using a payment processor defeating the whole point here? What advantage does Amazon get from using a BTC payment processor over Visa? Were we trying to avoid convincing Visa to become a Bitcoin processor?

"Taxes shouldn't be too big of an issue. They just get reported like accepting any other foreign currency."

Bitcoin is not a foreign currency. In all likelihood, Amazon would have to report taxes on BTC transactions as if they were barter transactions, which basically means reporting the dollar value of the goods being sold. That means that either Amazon has to adjust the prices of goods on a day-by-day basis to account for Bitcoin prices, or take the risk that they will wind up losing money as Bitcoin fluctuates (and without a futures market on Bitcoin, there are few ways to mitigate that risk, except the immediately convert the BTC they receive back into dollars -- so again, why bother with the extra complication?).

As for lines of credit, the point is this: issuing a loan in a deflationary currency is a massively bad idea. Deflation makes loans harder to repay over time, and at an accelerating rate. Amazon would have to keep adjusting their interest rate on BTC lines of credit to stave off the possibility of a disaster, which would only make the credit more difficult to utilize. This is widely understood by economists, and it is among the more important reasons that governments work hard to prevent their currencies from deflating.


>Transaction times of 10 minutes?

Transaction times would be irrelevant for Amazon as they could tell customers their order is placed with zero confirmations (a few seconds), and then check for more confirmations before shipping. There is already a delay of hours or even days between when a customer orders and when they pay because credit cards are charged when the order ships.

>and what taxes should be paid on BTC transactions

I would guess the same taxes paid on other non-USD transactions. Amazon already deals with many non-USD currencies.

>Amazon issues lines of credit to their customers

I don't think this applies to most orders/customers. Amazon could choose not to offer lines of credit in BTC.


I don't necessarily disagree with you but:

> only a fool would issue a line of credit in a currency that has built-in deflation.

Is backwards. Deflation is bad for borrowers, not creditors. This should be self evident; in periods of deflation, one unit of currency can buy more tomorrow than it can today. As a borrower, you are paying a second interest rate.

Further, deflation and inflation are only damaging when they occur unpredictably. Predictable amounts of either can easily be built into the interest rate of the transaction.


Deflation is bad for creditors for the same reason it is bad for debtors. By making it harder to repay a loan, deflation raises the risk of default i.e. it makes issuing a loan riskier. Out-of-control deflation can lead to disasters where large numbers of loans go into default, ultimately bankrupting creditors.

"deflation and inflation are only damaging when they occur unpredictably. Predictable amounts of either can easily be built into the interest rate of the transaction."

The problem here is that as the economy expands, the rate of deflation increases if no new currency can be added to the system (as is the case with Bitcoin). As the economy contracts, issuing a loan is risky due to the economic contraction. Expansions and contractions of an economy are basically unpredictable; there are a few vague patterns here and there, but in general predicting economic booms and busts is difficult (if you could do it, you would be very rich very fast).

Issuing a loan in a deflationary currency is asking for trouble.


Good points. I wasn't thinking of the macroeconomic implications of deflation. You're absolutely right; there's a spectre of unpredictability that I fear will preclude any "real" institutional use of the Bitcoin system.

I honestly wish that Nakamoto had consulted an economist before creating Bitcoin. A system with a modest rate of built-in inflation makes far more sense than Bitcoin's deflationary issue scheme.


It may not be too late - the parameters controlling the deflation are independent of bitcoin's cryptosystem, and can (technically very easily) be changed and improved. I think Bitcoin's creator thought a deflationary policy would help generate initial support for bitcoin by encouraging people to become invested. Arguably, without a deflationary policy bitcoin would never have caught on as it has.

Probably the most practical way to actually change the policy is to create an alternate 'bitcoin-2' network with a better (inflationary) policy. You could even allow transactions from the old network into the new one thus allowing people to carry their wealth over. If everyone agreed it was better, it would happen. The challenge is more social than technical.

For now though, it doesn't matter since the current bitcoin 'fiscal policy' is fairly expansionary (bitcoins are still being generated) and will be for years, and anyway the effect of 'fiscal policy' on bitcoin value is currently dwarfed by the effects of speculation and the increasing demand for bitcoins.


First, if deflation makes loans less appealing... is that such a bad thing given recent history?

Second, our economies have always grown so far, but this is not a law of nature. Our population is stabilising, and much recent growth is effectively a loan (a deflationary one?) from the environment that our kids will have to repay. It's possible that our current economic woes may even be "peak economy".

In which case a currency that cannot be inflated whenever a government/populace gets lazy might be just what we need.


Generally you can accept transactions with zero confirmations without a huge issue. For someone like Amazon the small loss you might make from a couple of double-spends is outweighed by the almost instantaneous transaction.

In an ideal circumstance, you'd average five minutes for a confirmation anyway. Blocks are usually generated every 10 minutes or so.


I think you are underestimating the number of double-spend attacks that a business like Amazon would face if they never waited for confirmation. Amazon has plenty of problems with fraud right now; this would just be another way for people to commit fraud. It is not just the losses, either; Amazon could reverse transactions once the double spending is detecting, but they have to worry about their reputation. The last thing they need is to be known as the website for people trying to cheat.

Also, "ideal circumstances" do not happen in the real world. IF you want to convince Amazon to adopt Bitcoin, you need to impress them with typical and realistic circumstances.


Given that double spends are reasonably expensive, you could just use zero confirmations for anything under 25BTC and the standard six confirmations for the rest. If you double spent a transaction under 25BTC, you would have been better off just mining a block yourself.

I'm sure anyone spending more than $750 on amazon is probably happy enough waiting for two or more confirmations.


"I'm sure anyone spending more than $750 on amazon is probably happy enough waiting for two or more confirmations."

Maybe, but if I can do it without waiting by just sticking with credit cards, why wouldn't I?

"Given that double spends are reasonably expensive"

I see this being tossed around quite a bit. I am not entirely sure where this idea came from. Can you prove it, the way that ECDSA (on which Bitcoin is based) can be proved secure as a signature system? When I hear this sort of statement, it sounds a lot like, "Nobody has published any way to double spend cheaply, and I cannot think of one; therefore it must be an expensive thing to do!"

I do not mean to be insulting with that, I really would like to know why people think double spending attacks are necessarily expensive. On top of that, how do we know that a double spending attack would be more expensive than the payoff -- especially when you are dealing with a complex marketplace, where a double spending attack may be just one component of a larger scheme. Maybe the point will just be to deny another person the ability to buy something, by double-spending until the merchant is sold out of the item, or as shills in an auction to try to inflate the price (should Amazon revive its auctions system).

This reminds me of the sort of argument I had with Hushmail users back before the infamous DEA incident. Your secret key is sitting there, on their servers; they could read your mail if they wanted to or if someone had a gun to their head. People said it couldn't happen, that the key would only be in RAM for a split second, that using their Java applet solved the problem, etc. Then the DEA turned up in court with a mountain of decrypted email from Hushmail (and then, as if the entire world just wanted to aggravate me, people starting saying that PGP had security problems). Cryptography tends to be black-and-white when it comes to security: you are either secure, or you are not secure, and there is rarely anything in-between (with multiparty computation, that might be changing; people are now talking about the "covert model" and "one-bit leakage" notions of security, which are in that middle area).


Maybe, but if I can do it without waiting by just sticking with credit cards, why wouldn't I?

How can you? If a credit card transaction can be charged back, it effectively never clears (or doesn't clear as long as the chargeback is possible, if there's a time limit on chargeback). So in any situation where you would be willing to take a possibly chargeback-able, you should be willing to take an unconfirmed bitcoin.

"Nobody has published any way to double spend cheaply, and I cannot think of one; therefore it must be an expensive thing to do!"

The fact that nobody published a cheap way to double spend is strong evidence that it's difficult and expensive to double spend.

Also it doesn't really matter if there is some obscure method to cheaply double spend, since because of its obscurity it would only affect a small number of transactions (and presumably once it is used it will be detected and made public, at which point it can be fixed).


"The fact that nobody published a cheap way to double spend is strong evidence that it's difficult and expensive to double spend."

Nonsense. Bitcoin is only a few years old. It is not nearly well-studied enough to claim that there is any good evidence that double spending is costly. Keep in mind that in the first few years of RSA, people thought that 128 bit public keys would be sufficient for centuries. Bitcoin has not received anything close to the attention RSA received from the research community, or even that attention given newer ciphers like AES.

"Also it doesn't really matter if there is some obscure method to cheaply double spend"

That is kind of like saying, "It does not really matter if there is some obscure method to crack RSA quickly."

"since because of its obscurity it would only affect a small number of transactions (and presumably once it is used it will be detected and made public, at which point it can be fixed)."

Or it might turn out that there is no fix and that the attack would work no matter what you did to Bitcoin. Maybe not confirming transactions is an inherently insecure way to do business. It is equally possible that cheap double spending attacks are impossible due to some property of Bitcoin. Right now there is no clear answer; you just have to shrug and hope for the best if you neglect to wait for confirmations.


As dustcoin pointed out, credit cards are charged when the item shipped. Waiting for confirmations isn't an issue.

 > Can you prove it, the way that ECDSA (on which Bitcoin is based) can be proved secure as a signature system?

I'm not experienced in any form of crypto, so not personally, no.


I think you are underestimating the number of double-spend attacks that a business like Amazon would face if they never waited for confirmation

A double-spend is costly, a chargeback has no cost. One would think the number of double-spend frauds would be lower than chargeback frauds simply because these are more difficult.


Amazon could always just wait for confirmations if the order is large enough. Double-spends cost a lot to pull off. So if you're doing a large transaction, you're going to want it "settled" in the blockchain for about an hour.


I think the result of that would be relegating Bitcoin to small orders. Even then, Amazon would probably still face non-trivial problems with double-spending schemes where someone tries to engage in large numbers of very small transactions as part of some larger fraud. The problem here is that neither you nor I can envision every possible way to exploit Amazon failing to confirm transactions of any size.


Amazon charges customers' credit cards when the item ships, not when the order is placed. There is plenty of time to get a few confirmations in before shipping as Amazon doesn't ship instantly after an order is placed.


Bitcoin is not replacing credit card companies. It is replacing the electronic transfer of cash between banks which currently takes several days. A credit card company built upon bitcoin could offer instant transactions with a vastly superior underlying architecture.


Why is bitcoin the one "true" alternative? If payment services like Balanced and Stripe solve most of the problems of PayPal (frozen accounts, pleasant APIs, etc) then why are they less worthy alternatives?


I feel like there are more problems at PayPal than just frozen accounts. The inherent issues I have with PayPal is a: they're a middleman and bump up prices. and b: they facilitate chargebacks which lead to an ever increase amount of fraud.

More fraud equals more cost. As the conventional alternatives continue to grow they'll face more and more fraud. Bitcoin has no chargeback fraud. It never will.


Bitcoin fluctuates wildly in value. Bitcoin takes quite a while for a transaction to happen, and there are waits and fees involved in exchanging money from USD and back to USD. Bitcoin doesn't allow chargebacks, an important consumer protection mechanism, therefore helping to perpetuate fraud.

No one wants to buy anything with bitcon, and no one wants to go through the trouble of selling anything with bitcoin.


"No one wants to buy anything with bitcon, and no one wants to go through the trouble of selling anything with bitcoin."

You have absolutely no idea what you are talking about.

- There are at the very least 5k+ merchants selling products & services for bitcoins - a small fraction of them is listed on https://en.bitcoin.it/wiki/Trade - and this is increasing every day

- BitPay alone signed up 1500 businesses accepting Bitcoin: http://finance.sfgate.com/hearst.sfgate/news/read/23400142/w...

You are not a Bitcoin user and have no idea how successful it is, that is fine, but do not spread lies. Obviously you have no idea how quickly the number of buyers and sellers using Bitcoin is rising...


Every business I hear about that starts accepting bitcoin does so through a third party exchanger - so companies are still getting paid in USD. That doesn't count as a bitcoin accepting company.


It is irrelevant whether people who spend bitcoins do it through a payment processor or not. You argued that "nobody spends bitcoins", and I wanted to show you why this specific statement is wrong. Payment processor or not, people do spend coins.


Can I pay with bitcoin? Yes. Then it is a bitcoin accepting company. I don't care if they use someone else for the infrastructure and sell the bitcoins immediately.


That's called going through a re-seller. Of course, they also make sure to get a cut.

Still just about anyone not doing business below the table is going to prefer USD, or some other state-backed currency.


It is kind of difficult to determine the rate at which Bitcoin use is growing from your comment. 5000 merchants, 1500 businesses...and in what period of time? How many are still using Bitcoin today e.g. is the EFF among the thousands of Bitcoin businesses you cite?

If you want to tell people that they need to get a clue, you could at least try to give them a clue in the process.


Ok, well, for example one can look at the estimated USD transaction volume maintained by blockchain.info: http://blockchain.info/charts/estimated-transaction-volume-u... which went, over 1 year, from $0.5M to $10M transacted per day (it uses an algorithm to attempt to ignore the change of a transaction, hence "estimated"). A fraction of this volume is from people just moving BTC between their different wallets. It is impossible to estimate how large this fraction is. But the reasonable assumption that people are not artificially trying to game this chart by moving coins around leads to the reasonable conclusion that the volume of real transactions is increasing as well.

You can look at the USD volume traded on the top Bitcoin exchanges which went, over 1 year, from $200-300k to $1.0-2.5M per day: http://blockchain.info/charts/trade-volume

You can look at Silk Road, who went, over 2 years, from zero to $2 million/month of Bitcoin revenues: http://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/2012/08/study-estimates-2...

A Bitcoin casino went, over 6 months, from zero to $0.5 million profits (in bitcoins): http://arstechnica.com/business/2013/01/bitcoin-based-casino...

Bottom line, all the indicators point to increased Bitcoin spending.


> Bitcoin fluctuates wildly in value.

It's been just growing steadily lately, but a seller can always convert to their local currency on the spot using a BTC payment processor.

> Bitcoin takes quite a while for a transaction to happen

100% false. Every time I've used it, transactions take less than a second. Stop spreading FUD aka bullshit.

> and there are waits and fees involved in exchanging money from USD and back to USD

Yep... for now. I think the point is that at some point you won't have all your monetary holdings as USD.

> Bitcoin doesn't allow chargebacks, an important consumer protection mechanism, therefore helping to perpetuate fraud.

That's a funny thing to say, given that chargebacks are the very source of fraud these days. BTC is attractive to merchants precisely because you can't chargeback. If you have a problem with a merchant, bitch about them elsewhere and their reputation will suffer.


Growing steadily? Bitcoin value is wildly speculative, since it's only backed up by make-work, illegal goods trade, and scams.

100% true, at least for vendors, since they'll be waiting for confirmations. Otherwise they're facing double-spend scams and things like that. Fear, uncertainty, and doubt aren't bullshit, but it's cute that you deflect a real argument with an acronym.

There won't be a time where any intelligent person would have all their holdings in Bitcoin, because it is nothing more than a proposal that got out of hand. The guy who came up with it even said it'd be stupid for someone to use it like a real currency. Furthermore there will still be transaction fees, since those are what's planned to support the network operators after coins are mined.

Regarding chargebacks, having a currency forbid them is not the appropriate answer to fraud that involves them. No consumer would have any faith in the system without some basic protection in case their stuff gets stolen. For all the problems caused by banks, it sure is nice to have someone who is regulated provide some kind of security in case I lose my wallet.

So there you have it. Bitcoins are bad for merchants, as well as consumers.

Edit: I love the quip about how a bad merchant's reputation will suffer. That doesn't work. If you want proof, just look at the bitcoin talk forums. Tons of scammers. If they get a scammer tag, they just come back under a different name. Reputations may matter face to face, but they're worthless here.


* No consumer would have any faith in the system without some basic protection in case their stuff gets stolen.*

That's just not true. I wouldn't have any issues buying from a reputable merchant without the option of chargeback. I've never bought anything thinking 'well, if the guy is a scammer I can just chargeback'. So at least some consumers do have faith in the system without chargebacks.

As to bitcoin scams: yes, if you buy from an unknown person because their offer is too good to be true, you should know their offer is probably too good to be true.

Reputations can only help you if you trade with reputable people. But it's much more often the case that it's the seller that's the reputable party, not the buyer.


I'm glad you've never had to do a charge-back, or dispute a charge to your account. Unfortunately, not everyone's had such a pleasant experience.

Your other two points are laughable. First, you employ the whole 'Buyer Beware' mantra, except not all scams come with such dead giveaways. What happens, for example, when an up-til-now reputable seller takes a ton of order money and bails(a pump-and-dump scam)? Second, you go right back to that faulty reputation argument, even going as far as to say that it's the seller who's more trustworthy than the buyer. Why is that? I've never seen anything to back that up.

All of your points put so much control in the hands of businesses. It's almost like you want to absolve them by default if the consumer gets screwed over. Where do they go for help? Bitcourt?

As a fun aside, there actually was a 'bitcourt' of sorts. It was a pretty screwed up system, and only survived up until the point where the judges ruled against the creator of the 'court.' Then he shuttered the entire thing.


I'm glad you've never had to do a charge-back, or dispute a charge to your account. Unfortunately, not everyone's had such a pleasant experience.

That's beside the point. You claimed no one would buy if not for availability of chargebacks. This is simply not true, not because I did not ever do a chargeback, but because I never even considered whether I can chargeback or not before performing a transaction. I doubt I'm in any way special in this, so there definitely are people who would buy even without the chargeback option.

What happens, for example, when an up-til-now reputable seller takes a ton of order money and bails(a pump-and-dump scam)

You lose some money, they must close their business. You and the other screwed customers report the case to the police. Just as in any other fraud case?

it's the seller who's more trustworthy than the buyer. Why is that?

Because a vast majority of transactions are between a user (buying) and a company (selling), not two users. Which one do you think is more trustworthy, a random amazon customer or amazon?

All of your points put so much control in the hands of businesses.

No, they put some control in the hands of the seller, making the situation more fair. A seller and a buyer still can arrange a transaction that's safe for both based on bitcoin. That's simply not possible using paypal, because there is no way to prevent the buyer from taking his money back.

Where do they go for help? Bitcourt?

Where does the seller go for help now when a buyer charges back? Paypalcourt?


"Every time I've used it, transactions take less than a second"

Are you bothering to wait for confirmations? Last I checked, waiting for confirmation of a transaction was a 10 to 30 minute process.


1. Chargebacks are only necessary because of the pull nature of the US banking system. I haven't even heard about chargeback until I came to US from Europe. Bitcoin is push, no chargebacks are necessary because nobody can take your money.

2. For smaller sums of money (e.g. coffee) you can pretty much assume the transaction to be confirmed once you see it on the network. To be really, really sure the transaction is confirmed and money is yours, you have to wait about an hour.

3. Indeed, Bitcoin fluctuates, you need to peg it to your expenses which is usually your local currency. That doesn't mean you must convert it to that currency. You can incorporate this into your payment button. But yes, this is a downside.


Well, I'm not from the US either, but as far as I know, chargebacks are used in other situations too, like dealing with a merchant that ends up not delivering the goods.


> Bitcoin doesn't allow chargebacks, an important consumer protection mechanism, therefore helping to perpetuate fraud.

Chargebacks enable WAY more fraud than they stop.


Downvoted for a blanket statement with no facts/source to back it up


"Why is bitcoin the one "true" alternative?"

It is not, who said that it is? We have known how to make secure digital cash systems since the 1980s.


It's got a good name and that's about it.


Until the value of Bitcoin is more stable and technology illiterate people start to use it, there is no way that something like this can replace PayPal.


It's not the price stability, which is still a serious concern, but the fact that you're talking about a system designed by crypto-anarchists.

There is no way Bitcoin will ever displace Paypal without serious, fundamental changes.


It's funny you should mention that, since Paypal was also founded by crypto-anarchists.


Paypal is also an entity with a head office, where the people involved in creating it are widely known. Although you might disagree with their policies or ethics, at least they're a legitimate concern.

Bitcoin was created by "some guy" that, if anybody knows them, nobody's talking. Illegal, underground money lenders are more above-board than this.


That was ad hominem and lacking a proper argument against bitcoin or crypto-currencies.


I have no problem with crypto-currencies in general, but one where you have literally no idea who wrote it? That's more than a little worrying.

Would you place much trust in a platform when you have absolutely no idea where it came from or what the motivations behind it might be?


The creator of Truecrypt is anonymous.

But third parties can still verify is security.


Another favorite geek service that touted as the end of something that regular folks use. Do folks around her realize yet that we're not regular folks and our interest, desires and accommodations are often not connected at all with those of the average non-geek person?


I'm pretty sure average non-geek persons will receive with open arms a currency that can't be manipulated by the government, among other benefits, once they are sure it's safe and not a scam, like some people even here in HN sometimes suggest.


So, geeks and Birchers? :p


What do you mean by "bircher"? I found this: http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=bircher


Not at all. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Birch_Society , the Ron Paul fans, and anyone else against the Fed.


It seems to me that the beauty (and probably the downfall) of bitcoin is that it is equivalent to cash. If you're careful, you can use it anonymously. No charge-backs - just like cash.

You need to use the same care with bitcoin as we used to use with cash. Credit cards are far more forgiving, thanks mainly to the charge-back mechanism (which incidentally is a US thing - in most countries it is un-heard of).

My biggest fear for bitcoin is that governments will kill it, because they have no control over it. They've been delighted to see cash fading away, but I predict that if bitcoin ever does get traction with the general public, we'll see a deluge of "bitcoin is the currency of the terrorists and child-molesters" propaganda which will make copyright scaremongering seem quaint.


Not a single mention of fraud prevention, AKA why no-one else has successfully challenged PayPal to date.

Buyers can perform fraud. Sellers can perform fraud. Sometimes they're the same person. None of this is easy. But articles like this pretend it is.


If you want to know why PayPal has been around for a decade with no competitors, you should read this:

http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=5295236


Exactly. They've stacked the deck against any startup. I recall that one startup in California, facecash or something, that couldn't get licensing even though they're entirely qualified.

That's the beautiful thing about Bitcoin, it isn't just any startup, it's an open source project. If one exchange can't get a banking license, another one will. Everyone can use it and no one can shut it down at a centralized location.


I run FaceCash. I would advise talking to a lawyer. (I am not a lawyer.)

I would also advise, to anyone who can make it, going to Sacramento on March 11:

http://abnk.assembly.ca.gov/hearings


I've talked with lawyers! I don't advise running an exchange anywhere near the United States. (But yes, I'm not a lawyer either.)

If I didn't have jury duty I would be there. I hope you can shed some light on these guys. Can I expect another post with updates? :)


Am I missing something obvious? Where's the link to PayPal in the article? Is that up next in the series?




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