The same day the world's largest Bitcoin exchange, Tokyo-based Mt. Gox, appeared to be near collapse resulting from a flaw in the software, Microsoft announced conversion tools and charts for the virtual currency on Bing. The search engine rolled it out Monday at the top of the Bing results page, supported by the digital wallet company Coinbase, which lets people use and accept Bitcoin currency. It seems like a mixture between bartering and gold and silver exchanges.
One day following the Bing announcement, San Francisco-based Coinbase Tuesday announced a partnership with services marketplace Fiverr, allowing people to make transactions for services starting at $5. Bing joined partners and merchants like overstock.com, reddit, okcupid, Fancy, Bing, WordPress, and others like Cups and Cakes bakery in San Francisco, which accept this virtual currency as payment.
Believers say the cryptocurrency not only provides frictionless transactions because it's done electronically peer to peer, but also removes traditional banks from the equation and reduces transaction fees, which usually amount to 3%.
And in a roundabout way, the whole scenario made me wonder whether Bing and Google would ever accept Bitcoin in exchange for paid-search, product listing ads, or some other type of online advertising service. (What is Bitcoin and how do people use it?)
In January, Forbes reported that Google was exploring how to integrate Bitcoin into its payment systems. No word on the outcome, but how much more difficult would the fluctuation in Bitcoin's price make it to determine a return on investment for search campaigns?
Then there's the threat to hacking the marketplace and exchanges, the fluctuation in price making the currency unstable, and the inability to develop trading principals in a reasonable amount of time for the cryptocurrency, named for its ability to control the creation and transfer of money. Search on "100 dollars to bitcoin" on Bing and get 0.15 Bitcoins as the conversion price.
A J.P. Morgan analyst tells investors to steer clear. There's no legal recourse to get funds back in the
event of a theft or loss. Aside from the uncertainty, Reuters reports that at least "two dozen
startups have popped up in Israel over the past year with a view to creating tools that will allow the currency to be used in almost any kind of transaction -- from buying shoes to
sending remittances or issuing company stock."
"Gold Coins" photo from Shutterstock.