There is a rumor on the street that eBay's long rumored interest in cryptocurrency is about to become reality. Signs spotted at the recent Consensus conference in New York, if they are real, suggest that eBay will be participating in the crypto marketplace very soon. The only question is how.
Any eBay investment into cryptocurrency would be a huge score for the crypto community. As one of the world's largest online retailers, eBay commands an audience of nearly 180 million active users. Imagine how much coin could potentially trade hands if buyers and sellers were transacting in crypto.
It should be noted that eBay has not officially made any statement about its plans for cryptocurrency. However, the company did recognize cryptocurrency as a viable economic force a few years ago. They just were not ready to get on board at the time. Perhaps that is no longer the case now; maybe eBay is ready to go all in.
Accepting crypto payments
There are two ways in which eBay could get in on the cryptocurrency game. The first option is to begin accepting cryptocurrency payments on both auctions and store sales. This would obviously require merchants to get on board unless eBay is willing to accept the crypto payments straight up before converting the payments to fiat and then transferring the money to merchants.
If they decide to handle the payments themselves, it would theoretically be possible to use crypto to pay for anything on eBay irrespective of whether or not merchants were willing to accept your digital coins. eBay would essentially become an exchange of sorts, converting digital assets and fiat on-the-fly.
Such a proposition would benefit the online giant in a number of ways. First, it would invite more buyers to use the platform by giving them an additional payment method. Second, eBay could charge an exchange fee for processing crypto payments.
Partnering with a payment processor
If eBay did not want to get into payment processing, they could partner with a company that specializes in crypto payments. It turns out that such a partnership may already be in the works. According to CCN, eBay and Bitcoin payment Gateway UTRUST already have some sort of working relationship. UTRUST hired former CEO and PayPal executive Sanja Kon and made her the company's VP of Global Partnerships.
It goes without saying than Kon is very familiar with eBay's core business. Her time with PayPal suggests she knows a thing or two about electronic payments as well. It would be natural for her to strike up a relationship with her former employers in hopes of getting them on board with crypto payments.
Payments direct to merchants
Though it is highly unlikely eBay would accept cryptocurrency payments without getting directly involved, there still is a second option. That option is to simply allow merchants to accept crypto themselves to a separate payment portal. Digital coins would be pushed from the buyer's wallet directly to the sellers without any intermediary.
This scenario is unlikely for the obvious fact that there is nothing financially in it for eBay. It's also hard to imagine very many eBay merchants willing to assume the risk of cryptocurrencies themselves. Some might, but the vast majority probably would not.
Digital assets as collectibles
The second way eBay could get involved in cryptocurrency is to start allowing the sale of digital asset collectibles. Believe it or not, such assets do exist. They have been around for a couple of years now, thanks to the efforts of companies like Cryptokitties.
Cryptokitties is one of the early adopters of digital asset collection. They offer an online game through which you can collect and breed digital kittens. And because the game is built on blockchain, what you are really dabbling in are digital tokens represented as virtual kittens. The kittens do not really exist any more than actual coins in the Bitcoin universe.
This is again speculation, but perhaps eBay will allow sellers to start offering the digital assets in exchange for crypto payments. Such a move would combine the two technologies and give eBay access to a growing marketplace of digital asset collectibles.
A big win for consumers
No matter how you slice it, eBay getting involved with cryptocurrency is a big win for consumers. It is also a big win for the cryptocurrency community. If all the rumors prove to be true, the cryptocurrency marketplace could look drastically different just six months from now.
Here are five ways crypto could change with eBay's involvement:
1. Universal utility
For years there has been an ongoing debate within the cryptocurrency community over utility. In crypto, utility is defined as the main purpose for a digital asset. Take Bitcoin, for example. The original goal of the coin's creator was to give the world an alternative monetary system. General commerce was Bitcoin's intended utility.
That utility never panned out. Instead, Bitcoin became a store of value and an investment asset. That could change overnight if eBay started accepting Bitcoin payments. eBay accepting Bitcoin would instantly provide the utility that was intended from the very start.
2. Greater merchant adoption
The combination of a lack of utility and price volatility has seen slow adoption among merchants. Merchants dealing in ecommerce have long been comfortable with credit and debit card payments as well as electronic payment systems like PayPal. Likewise, they have been nervous about accepting crypto payments.
Assuming eBay finds success in the crypto marketplace, that success could translate to the confidence merchants need to accept crypto payments directly. They would see eBay's involvement as a calming influence that gives digital assets the stability required before merchants are willing to get on board.
3. Amazon involvement
Amazon is the undisputed champion of online sales. In fact, no other companies even come close. According to Web Retailer, eBay's annual volume runs about $94 billion. That is impressive, but it is nowhere near Amazon's $250 billion. But what happens if cryptocurrency comes to eBay?
To suggest that eBay would overcome Amazon by crypto payments alone is to suggest crypto has more power than it really does. But adopting cryptocurrency payments would open up an entirely new audience to eBay. That could be enough to help the company better compete with Amazon - at least in the short term.
We say short term because cryptocurrency success at eBay would likely see Amazon follow suit in fairly short order. Then the pecking order would be realigned and that would be that.
4. Higher cryptocurrency prices
One of the hidden benefits of eBay adopting cryptocurrency payments is the effect that adoption would have on prices. As things now stand, Bitcoin's price is determined mostly by its value as a digital asset. Utility has very little to do with it. As for most of the other digital coins out there, their prices generally track pretty close to Bitcoin.
If you increase utility by opening up a vast marketplace like eBay, you automatically give people a reason to buy coins. Growing interest would mean increased demand that drives the price up. Moreover, higher prices would not apply only to Bitcoin. Any coins eBay decided to accept would see at least a moderate bump in value.
5. Greater government regulation
Last but not least is the specter of more government regulation. Of all the possible effects of eBay getting into cryptocurrency, this is arguably the most negative. The last thing anyone wants is for government to stick its nose into something that cryptocurrency founders wanted desperately to avoid.
Unfortunately, it would be almost impossible for government to resist the temptation of interfering if they saw millions of people paying for eBay purchases with digital coins. That much commerce is just waiting to be regulated. If they find a way to tax it as well, you can bet they will.
There will be the usual concerns over consumer safety, money laundering, and price volatility. All will provide cover for regulators who just want more control over the digital asset universe.
How it affects you
Let us assume eBay does begin accepting cryptocurrency payments alongside fiat. What would that mean to you? That depends on a number of factors. First, do you already use cryptocurrency for other things? Perhaps you play slots online with your bitcoins. Maybe you are an avid shopper who does business with crypto merchants as often as possible.
For you, nothing much will change. Everything you currently do with your coin would likely still be available to you even after eBay got on board. The only real concern is whether or not it would be more expensive to do business on eBay due to higher cryptocurrency transaction fees.
Maybe you do not own any cryptocurrency right now. Perhaps you have never bought or sold with crypto or played MegaMoolah.com at a Bitcoin casino. If so, eBay accepting cryptocurrency payments could open the door to an entirely new experience for you. You would have access to a new way of paying for things without having to use your credit card or bank account.
No one knows for sure what eBay's plans are at this time. But all indications suggest they are seriously considering jumping into the cryptocurrency pool. If they jump, it will be a major score for the cryptocurrency world.