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Summary:

The ecommerce platform had already supported BitPay since November, but announced today that its users could start accepting bitcoin via Coinbase, pitting the two payment processors against each other.

HONG KONG - FEBRUARY 28: A worker holds a sign at the first bitcoin retail store open in Hong Kong on February 28, 2014 in Hong Kong. Asia Nexgen, a Hong Kong based bitcoin exchange has launched a physical store enabling customers to purchase bitcoin and store it in their digital bitcoin wallets. Bitcoin Group HK and Hong Kong Bitcoin ATM plan to launch bitcoin 'ATM's machines in the area. in 2008 Bitcoin was launched as an alternative currency, with the commodity boasting the ability to be transferred without the need of the traditional monetary banking system. (Photo by Lam Yik Fei/Getty Images)
photo: Lam Yik Fei/Getty Images

Bitcoin merchant adoption is fast becoming a neck-and-neck race between Coinbase and BitPay, two companies who both offer similar services as a payment processor for merchants. Expedia and Dish Network both use Coinbase, while TigerDirect and Virgin Galactic are partners with BitPay. Shopify used to be squarely in BitPay’s corner, but today it announced that the more than 100,000 businesses on the ecommerce platform can now choose Coinbase to be their payment provider as well.

“We’re not supporting one provider over the other. We want to make sure merchants have the choice because each one has their features and benefits. And we’re just happy to offer that level of choice,” said Louis Kearns, director of payments at Shopify, in a phone interview.

Shopify was early to hop on the bitcoin bandwagon when it teamed up with BitPay in November 2013. Kearns said “thousands” of businesses use BitPay already and it has processed “millions of dollars worth” in bitcoin payments. As of today’s announcement, Shopify merchants LeapMotion, Boosted, Soylent and iOgrapher will begin accepting bitcoin payments via Coinbase.

When it came to adding Coinbase into the mix, Kearns said that it was technically easy for Shopify to add the alternative payment methods.

“It was actually Coinbase who built the plugin themselves so we were able to turn it on without a whole lot of work from ourselves, but we wouldn’t have done that if we didn’t see the overall benefit in adding a provider like Coinbase to our platform,” Kearns said. “We liked their product so we thought why should we restrict shops from choosing which bitcoin acceptance provider to use on their platform when there’s really nothing holding us back.”

Shopify may just be stoking the flames between the two natural, but growing competitors.

BitPay traditionally was solely a payment processor focused on getting businesses on board with bitcoin, while Coinbase was seen as more a universal bitcoin company with a wallet for the everyday user. Coinbase has since lured big names like Expedia to its payment processing side, while BitPay announced it had developed and open-sourced a new multi-signature wallet last week. The service, called Copay, does stick with BitPay’s more business-friendly side and requires multiple people to approve transactions — a feature many businesses have wanted so they don’t give only one person all the keys to their crypto financial kingdom.

“At Coinbase, we are focused on making the bitcoin payment process as simple as possible for merchants and customers alike,” said Adam White, Coinbase’s director of business development and strategy, in an e-mailed statement. “Our integration with Shopify brings new features like a two-click checkout experience, the ability to easily issue refunds to bitcoin customers, and no fees for the first one million dollars of bitcoin transactions to Shopify’s 100,000 stores.” Bitpay did not respond to a request for comment.

As Shopify acknowledged by integrating both processing companies, each have their pros and cons — and, most importantly, now businesses on Shopify have the option to choose. Bitcoin will have a hard time growing its economy if there’s a monopoly. Giving consumers a choice only helps open it up to more people. After all, a little friendly competition never hurt anyone.