For years, there has been non-stop talk in the community about what “bitcoin’s killer app” will be, but what most fail to realize is that the bitcoin protocol itself is the “killer app”. Transacting online has been cumbersome and risky with legacy payment methods (cc fraud, hackings, etc), and the internet was clearly designed with a payment layer in mind. What is that whole 402 payment required thing for? In essence, the “killer app” is already here. What is lacking though, are many practical uses for bitcoin which are easily within reach for those of us who aren’t hoarders/traders. Yes, anyone can easily download Mycelium and send their friend half of the dinner bill, but those p2p (practical uses) are between current bitcoiners, which offer no new exposure for the technology.
So how do we, as a community, show the world that bitcoin isn’t just for drug dealers, money launderers, the t word and now Wall Street? How do we show the every day person that using bitcoin is not just fun, safe and easy, but also can add value to their everyday lives? As a community, it’s our job to take up this challenge, and creatively bring bitcoin to the masses.
Enter – ChangeTip
When they first entered the bitcoin space as ChangeCoin we were convinced that their innovative service was going to help fill this void. Not only had they developed a genius way to seamlessly transmit micropayments via social media, but the community support behind their effort was incredible. From Tipping Tuesday (within our community) to the semi mainstream acceptance of bitcoins superiority over PayPal via Millionaire Makers, ChangeTip was on fire. In December 2014, with an investment of $3.5 million from Pantera Capital, it seemed like the ChangeTip train was unstoppable.
Fast forward a few months later, and it seems as if the train has slowed considerably, and is in much need of some upgrades. While they are the current market leader, lack of innovation could easily void ChangeTips first mover advantage, as others rush to fill the unmet needs of the world at large.
But how did we get here? Part of the problem may be two situations which can be singled out as having received much negative media attention:
- ChangeTip’s solubility was questioned, to which they promptly responded. We commend the community for doing their due diligence, but as usual, this FUD just created lots of Reddit entertainment.
- Privacy issues were raised about connecting social media accounts with bitcoin addresses. The linked article provides additional insight into some criticisms of ChangeTip. Additional information can be found in this Bitcoin Magazine article.
Some quotes from the above articles:
The first one is the linkage between our social network identities and our Bitcoin addresses. Bitcoin is anonymous but traceable, and it would be invaluable to annotate different wallet addresses with twitter/reddit/facebook/google account names. Well, with your tipping help, they can. And that’s worth something. Before you claim that you’ll create new addresses and tumble your coins or whatever, we all know how lazy people are from the way they install flappy bird apps on their phone with enough privileges to launch nukes. Real people will be readily identifiable.
Second, they have the linkage between multiple social networks. Unless you exercise an enormous amount of online hygiene and maintain a separate changetip account per social channel, ChangeTip can connect your identities across services. For instance, they would know that your gag account on reddit, the one whose username includes a garden vegetable and an anatomical reference, is linked to your Google account. Or the Discus account you use to harass academics who found flaws in Bitcoin is connected to your real identity as, say, a failed academic at, say, the National University of Singapore.
Of course, even assuming that ChangeTip can remain solvent, and stick to its current business plan, and maintain the safety of its accounts, and provide its privacy guarantees as promised, there’s still the possibility that it will get hacked and have its business data leaked. They have taken measures to protect their holdings by partitioning out a cold wallet, but they need to keep all of their valuable business data online for their own operation. This data stores precious information on which accounts are associated with each other, and it needs to be online, where it’s vulnerable.
[from Bitcoin Magazine]
Some users have raised concerns about the amount of personal and social data that ChangeTip is collecting. For example, ChangeTip collects information about every social network where its users send tips. This means that ChangeTip could potentially be able to link a private Facebook profile to a Reddit account or a withdrawal bitcoin address for a user.
In regards to ChangeTip being insolvent. This turned out to clearly just be FUD. In our opinion, ChangeTip gave a better response to this accusation than the “worlds leading bitcoin exchange” (oah wait, they haven’t yet). The privacy concerns though, while they have been transparent (here and here), are real. Anyone who has an understanding of social media, big data, etc, knows that not much information is needed in order for privacy to be compromised. Are we accusing ChangeTip of any such nefarious behavior? No, not at all. The truth is, customers using any service should assume that they have no privacy whatsoever, especially over the internet.
So, why do we think that the ChangeTip train has stalled? Clearly two small FUD event’s couldn’t have done that much damage. Our opinion – lack of new features which will engage the community, and (especially) those outside of the community.
The introduction of ChangeTip itself was a tremendous success, and clearly showed that their concept worked and was viral. Adding a few new platforms which people can tip on with a small personalized message though? Not the type of innovation the community needs in order for this to go mainstream. Ok, we’ll credit them with some of their other ideas, like paper airplanes too. But outside of being fun, how exactly is this going to help ChangeTip spread as virally as when they first launched? Especially after the shitstorm of FUD ChangeTip has endured, the community as a whole needs to see a revitalization of that energy that appeared in the second half of 2014. Truth be told, their April Fools joke is probably the most creative and innovative thing we have seen since their launch. (video below)
Why are we writing this piece? What can be done?
Within a day or two of the news breaking that ChangeTip was receiving VC money, we e-mailed them inquiring about possible opportunities. To us, the power of the platform was obvious and immense. ChangeTip has the possibility to change how society as a whole uses, and interacts with the internet. To our pleasure, we received a response rather quickly, and begun a series of e-mails (and even had an hour long Skype call) where we shared some of our ideas.
Months later, we have seen a few small advances, but mostly just ChangeTip dying.
Take for instance their integration with Twitch.
ChangeTip made it extremely easy to start accepting BTC tips from Twitch by making it literally as easy as clicking a button. Once logged into ChangeTip—by using any social media that the platform supports, including Twitch—it’s as easy as hitting “ACCEPT” on a page that asks if you want to give ChangeTip permission to access your stream.
The ChangeTip platform then sends a ChangeTip tip bot to watch the chat and viola: integration complete.
From then on any watcher can use a modified ChangeTip tipping format of “!ChangeTip give $1 to @Kyt” in the chat and it will automatically fill the ChangeTip address of the recipient. On Twitch the bang (or “!”) is used often to begin a command to a bot.
This seems remarkably similar to their integration with other platforms. With the amount of Facebook viruses people have had to deal with when they thought they were getting free headphones, does anyone outside of our community really want to deal with this shit? This is not being innovative, and is not helping to bring ChangeTip and bitcoin to the masses. With the negative media spin put on bitcoin, most normies probably scroll past mewn screaming idiots tipping on Twitter (usually to popular media influencers) thinking – “there’s that bitcoin scam thing again”.
We won’t argue that some of this tipping exposure outside of our community is positive, but for someone who isn’t a bitcoiner, we doubt it means much.
Some of our thoughts/ideas that were outlined to ChangeTip (summarized for brevity and privacy):
In order for “tipping” to go mainstream, users need to be able to realize the value of their tip by immediately receiving something tangible that is of value to them. Sure, there will always be people sending bits for funny comments, but Joe Public doesn’t care about a “coffee” that he received when all he actually can do is stare at some numbers on a website. Your average Twitter user is the type of person who brings their monitor into the computer repair shop when it doesn’t work. They certainly aren’t going to take the time to learn about bitcoin/ChangeTip, unless they receive some sort of immediate gratification or “tangible reward” in their eyes. Fortunately, ChangeTip is in the prime position to capitalize on these opportunities.
Obvious integration ideas (to us at least):
- News Site Paywalls – How many times does someone post a link on Reddit that is paywalled? Yeah, someone copies and pastes the content generally, or you can Google the title in most cases, but this isn’t the case for every article, that might appear in every subreddit. Wouldn’t it be great to be able to say – “/u/changetip next 10 views are on me”. Or to send an article view to an individual via a ChangeTip queue, and have a personal link messaged to them?
- Video Site Paywalls – Same concept as above, but this could be integrated into both premium sites and free streaming sites. On free sites, users can use their ChangeTip balance to skip all ads, or on Premium sites, users could use their balance to pay in order to view the content. Taking this a step further, wouldn’t it be great for a video creator (or anyone) to post their work to Reddit and say something along the lines of “/u/changetip the first 10 minutes are free for the first 500 views”.
- Streamium Integration – Streamium is already bitcoin only! Any combination of the above ideas into Streamium could easily launch ChangeTip into the stratosphere, and bring back that 2014 rush. Although this is likely to attract current bitcoiners only at first, Streamium is easy enough to use (and everyone loves streaming video) that the sheep will flock to it with enough great content.
- Integration With Coinstar – ChangeTip is trying to promote purchasing bitcoin through their site, but why? There are already enough credible players in the space (Circle, Coinbase, etc), and isn’t ChangeTip (from Wikipedia) – “a micropayment platform built by ChangeCoin, Inc., an American corporation based in San Francisco, California, which specializes in online micropayments using the digital currency bitcoin.” Let’s say ChangeTip really wants their users to have the ability to purchase bitcoin through them. Why not integrate with Coinstar? There is no competition in this space at all, and it would be a great marketing gimmick, where users can “change their change”.
- Integration with paid music providers – Same ideas as above, but for music.
Any of the first three ideas above would allow ChangeTip users the ability to immediately recognize the value of their tip. This value can be easily recognized by anyone who is semi-computer proficient, which will spur their interest in the technology. Because payment would be sent from ChangeTip directly to the paywall provider, users who aren’t current ChangeTip customers won’t even have to sign up for the service in a “/u/changetip the next 10 views are on me for free”. Yet, they will immediately be able to recognize the value of the service that they just used. Some cute wording from the ChangeTip bot would obviously advertise what is happening, and this would likely spur additional interest from non-bitcoiners. Who doesn’t like free shit? Payments could be sent in bulk from ChangeTip to each paywall on a set interval, which could be tracked through the blockchain and verified by all parties. ChangeTip could secure a solid revenue stream, something many startups badly need, through taking a fraction of each micropayment as the middle man (not possible in today’s world).
ChangeTip’s recent integration with Gyft was the motivating factor to finally finish this blog post. Maybe they tried to implement some of our ideas, maybe this was something they had on the table for a year. Who knows, but either way it’s an epic fail. Seriously? From the Coindesk article:
Until now, ChangeTip users could top up their accounts via Coinbase, bitcoin or credit/debit card, however they could only cash out in bitcoin. Following the firm’s announcement yesterday evening, they now have the option to redeem gift cards from Starbucks, iTunes, Xbox and Amazon. They range from $1 all the way up to $2,000.
This is awesome, now I can take my magic internet money and go buy a gift card that I can send to my phone and then use that to buy something in a store (or from an online vendor)? How many 100 bit tips do you have to collect in order to buy a coffee at Starbucks? And how is bitcoin acceptance doing at Gyft? It used to make up 90% of their sales, but now makes up 10%. Seriously though, you probably couldn’t buy a Whole Foods gift card even if you were present for every Tipping Tuesday. Sure, ChangeTip gives out larger tips to promote their company, but how many people get (or accept) those?
Gift cards through Gyft do not give users immediate gratification. They add complicated steps for new bitcoiners, and anyone who is already using bitcoin to buy cards from Gyft is going to use their current method, not ChangeTip.
Where does this leave us?
It is evident that ChangeTip is focusing on attempting to draw developers to their API. It is also evident, that no one is building anything worthwhile or else it would have hit the community already with the impact of the original ChangeCoin. ChangeTip has already proven that their concept works, but there have been no attempts to integrate the technology in a way that individuals outside of the bitcoin community can use to recognize value. If bitcoin is going to be recognized as useful and perceived as valuable by the everyday person, they need to be able to interact with it in a way that actually solves a problem in their life (other than being a highly volatile speculative instrument). ChangeTip has been poised to fill this void, but it seems like they just want to put the “tip” in.
Ps, along that line of thinking: Did anyone actually approve this image for publishing or was it just sent out? Anyone else see something dirty?