Bitcoin backers have big dreams—dreams of reinventing the financial system based around a currency not issued by governments and not subject to the whims of central banks. But the cryptocurrency’s volatility over the last few months has raised questions about whether most people would want to depend upon it to pay for goods and services.
Despite the wealth of bitcoin-related startups entering the market, even bitcoin’s most avid supporters admit that its volatility might not subside anytime soon. But that might not matter. After all, bitcoin isn’t really a tool for normal consumers; while it may be used by companies to exchange money and avoid transaction costs, there’s little reason for small-time consumers ever to use bitcoins directly.
Two years ago, Google promised to “make your phone your wallet.” But it hasn’t delivered, largely because phone manufacturers and wireless carriers have been wary to sign onto the service, known as Google Wallet.But Google may have just found a creative way into mobile payments that doesn’t require any other companies to cooperate: email.Google announced that it will gradually allow adult Gmail users in the US to attach money to their emails the same way they might attach documents, images, and other files. Transactions are free for users who link their bank accounts directly to Google Wallet; using a credit or debit card costs 2.9%. There’s a limit of $10,000 per transaction.Sending money over email is one of those incredibly simple ideas that hides how profound it could really be.As previously conceived, Google Wallet involved waving certain NFC-enabled Android phones in front of receivers installed at select businesses. Or you can download an app to transfer money, which is how competitors like Venmo and eBay’s PayPal work, too.All of that is downright cumbersome compared to the simplicity of sending an email, which could help introduce many more people to mobile payments. Google is the world’s largest email provider. Think of how SMS-based money transfers allowed mobile payments to spread quickly in the developing world. Gmail is, in a sense, the SMS of developed economies.Google can also help solve another point of friction with mobile payments, which is that both sides of the transaction need to have accounts with the service handling the money. The same is true for Google Wallet transfers, even over email, but having a Google account is way more common than having an account with, say, Venmo or PayPal. Google may be the closest thing the world has to a universal bank.That is, until alternative currencies like bitcoin—which don’t work that way and allow for more seamless transactions—start to gain mainstream adoption.
via Google figures out the simplest, most profound way to send money: over email – Quartz.
Any reflection on the Facebook IPO should probably extend to Silicon Valley itself. Increasingly, it seems, the center of America’s technology innovation has not been living up to the hype. It’s not just the failure of the most high-profile tech IPOs of this era—Facebook, Zynga and Groupon—or the end of Apple’s incredible stock-market run. There is also the disappointment of the venture capital model, which has with very few exceptions failed to deliver adequate returns for many years now, especially given the liquidity premium associated with such investments. The big tech company that is now surging is located in South Korea. And the Internet economy has yet to produce the GDP gains in the U.S. associated with prior technological revolutions. Even the long-trumpeted productivity gains have failed to materialize. The economic benefits of whatever goes on in Silicon Valley, to a certain extent, have remained there. The life lessons offered by the titans of Silicon Valley, like Sandberg and Thiel, are generally well-received and lauded, but often feel like they are coming from some reality-distorted tech dreamworld, where people are paid not to go to college and women get to build nurseries next to their offices.
via Leaning Down: Facebooks Stock At Its IPO Anniversary – Forbes.