Anyone who’s had to forage between the couch cushions for change to pay the pizza guy knows that the way we pay matters. But the notion that it’s not just about what we buy, but how we buy – and sell – is becoming truer than ever.
With the advent of many new types of contactless and mobile payments, the way we pay for things is becoming increasingly fragmented, moving us inexorably closer towards a cashless society.
This means that businesses have something new to think about – not only how to ring the proverbial cash register, but what to replace it with. Whether it’s something like Interac Flash, Payd, Square or an app like myStarbucks, the type of payment on offer is an increasingly important part of the customer experience, and reflects upon on one’s own brand.
But nowhere is the fragmentation more apparent than in the emerging cryptocurrency marketplace. ‘Cryptos’ are traceless digital currencies that bypass the banks and the middle man allowing people to exchange money anonymously without markup, and without actual physical cash.
The most well-known is Bitcoin – rising to fame along with its valuation, increasing from $13 a year ago to over $800 today. And while Bitcoin remains the standard torchbearer and is the early favourite to go mainstream despite being associated with Silk Road, the online black market busted by the FBI back in October, a number of new contestants have entered the fray.
Many of these digital currencies are increasingly specialized, targetting a particular spender and type of commerce.
Devcoin for example is designed to ‘support open source projects by programmers, hardware developers, writers, musicians, painters, graphic artists and filmmakers worldwide.’
It’s no surprise that ‘Sexcoin’ is aimed at the adult content market and aims to provide ‘consumers, performers and producers a fast, stable and secure method of accepting micro transactions, protecting their customers privacy and progressing adult retail services into the crypto age.’
It’s uniquely built with ‘the purpose of spreading the use of the currency through goodwill and charitable endeavors.’ The Dogecoin community is active and passionate, recently making news for raising $25K on behalf of the Jamaican bobsled team.
On the social sharing site Reddit, users have begun ‘tipping’ eachother in Dogecoin for the creation of good original content (OC) using a friendly bot to streamline the process.
Looking years down the road one can imagine a world where it’s not only about how much money a person has, but how they pay for it. Currencies could one day become similar to private clubs: how long before a crypto emerges that, like the Visa Black card, is only open to those with a certain amount of cash in their bank account? Or currencies that can only be used in one store, like a Wal-coin, or location, like a Vegas-coin.
Looking at the increasingly competitive crypto space brings to mind the first generation of search engines battling it out in the early days of the web. Lycos, AltaVista and Infoseek have been replaced with nascent currency brands like Ripples, Litecoin and Peercoin. Will they be the next big thing or go the way of the dodo? It remains to be seen whether digital currencies will catch on before they’re regulated out of existence, but if you’ve got some spare change buried in your sofa, getting in on Bitcoin (or Dogecoin) might not be the worst idea, especially if you feel like I do, that one of them might just be the next Google (or at least AskJeeves).