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WordPress.com Welcomes BitCoin Payments

Max ‘Beast from the East’ Smolaks covers open source, public sector, startups and technology of the future at TechWeekEurope.

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The decentralised virtual currency gets a high-profile supporter

WordPress.com, the world’s favourite blogging platform, has started accepting payments in the BitCoin virtual currency, in an attempt to make online publishing more ‘democratic’.

Website owner Automattic explained that PayPal and credit card companies blacklist payments from countries such as Haiti, Ethiopia and Kenya, due to political and security issues.

The open source-based hosting service has opted for BitCoin because it is untraceable, decentralised and available to anyone with an Internet connection.

BitCoin win

BitCoins, or BTC, make up a decentralised virtual cryptocurrency commonly used online among people interested in keeping their transactions anonymous. It is not tied to any real money, but traded on various electronic exchanges to establish its price. There were an estimated 740,000 BitCoin users worldwide in 2011.

Bitcoin © ppart Shutterstock 2012According to the Internet ratings company Alexa, WordPress.com is the 19th most visited website on the Internet, and has users all around the planet. PayPal is unavailable in over 60 countries, and credit card companies also avoid some regions. Meanwhile, BitCoin is accessible to anyone, and enables instant payments, as opposed to credit card transactions that can take several days.

WordPress.com will become by far the biggest merchant to accept the virtual currency.

Using BitCoins, users will be able to pay for extras like getting rid of advertising or applying custom design templates. The move is expected to improve the reputation of BTC and promote it as a dependable payment method.

The transactions will be processed by a US company BitPay, and will require no additional authorisation, since WordPress decided that the cryptocurrency is sufficiently secure by default. And even though companies which accept BitCoin payments usually don’t allow refunds due to the risk of fraud, WordPress says that usual refund policies will still apply.

WordPress.com will not actually see any of the BitCoins at all – BitPay will receive the virtual money, convert it into US dollars and send it to the website.

People who haven’t previously used BitCoins will find the process really straightforward, says WordPress – they just need to open an online wallet, buy some virtual currency at one of many BitCoin currency exchanges and enter the code into a brand new payment interface.

Even though BitCoins have been around for over a decade, the system still suffers from reliability issues. In August,the Bitcoinica exchange was sued by four former customers, who claimed it owed them $460,457 (£293,080) in funds they previously deposited.

And in September, the largest US BitCoin currency exchange BitFloor stopped trading after a hacker managed to get away with $250,000 (£157,800) in BTC, or almost all of the virtual currency stored on the servers.

There are also companies that work hard to improve the reputation of BitCoins. Earlier this year, the BitInstant exchange announced plans to launch the world’s first officially certified paycard that will function as a standard debit or credit card, but be funded by BitCoins.

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