Bitcoin has reached a new milestone in recent days: over 10,000 different merchants are accepting the coin as payment. From the very beginning, Bitcoin’s viability as a cryptocurrency has been questioned due to the fact that few businesses will accept it as payment. While 10,000 merchants is still a small number in a world filled with millions of businesses, it does point to the growing momentum behind the Bitcoin movement.
The news broke in a press release by BitPay, one of the most popular payment service providers for Bitcoin. The company helps merchants handle Bitcoin denominated sales. Recently, the company built a system to allow business owners using the popular Quickbooks accounting software to easily integrate Bitcoin payments with their software.
BitPay has also pointed out that the number of merchants accepting Bitcoin has grown from 1,000 to 10,000 in only a year’s time. So while the number of merchants signing up for Bitcoin remains low, momentum is growing. Further, BitPay has pointed out that merchants around the world are now accepting Bitcoin. Only 50% of transactions are taking place in North America, with another 25% coming from Europe and 25% for the rest of the world. If Bitcoin’s acceptance continues to rise, the currency will only gain in strength and popularity.
Bitpay also recorded over 6.4 million dollars in sales in August alone, and nearly 35 million for the year to date. While this amount remains small in the multi-billion dollar online sales industry, it does suggest that Bitcoin is being taken seriously by online merchants and purchasers. Still, Bitcoin is not yet directly accepted by any major retailer.
Other companies such as Bitcoin 4 Amazon, however, are working to provide payment solutions via Bitcoin for companies that do not directly accept the currency. Basically, you go to Amazon, find the product you want to buy, and then submit an order to Bitcoin 4 Amazon. While the system remains crude, it is an important step forward for Bitcoin and such activities may eventually encourage online retailers to cut out the middle men and accept Bitcoins directly.
Offline retailers are also increasingly accepting Bitcoin as payment. Last spring, EVR became the first bar in New York City to accept Bitcoins as payment. Basically, users will scan a barcode with their smart phone, and costs of their drinks are deducted from their Bitcoin accounts. If more brick and mortar businesses start to accept Bitcoin, it could become a popular way to connect the online and offline worlds.
While these developments certainly represent breakthroughs, Bitcoin fans should remain cautious. So far only a small number of stores and restaurants are accepting Bitcoin and every major retailers has thus far shunned the currency. Fast and dramatically fluctuating exchange rates, the lack of government oversight, and numerous other things still make Bitcoin’s use as an actual currency problematic, to say the least. Still, if momentum continues to build, these worries could quickly be swept aside.