Philippines-based website Bitstars.ph has developed a novel way to get bitcoins into thousands of new hands, and demonstrate the network's utility for micropayments and tipping, with a worldwide 'selfie' competition.
The site, which launched in alpha mode on 1st June, already has over 1,100 registered users who have submitted over 10,000 photos. Of themselves.
A 'selfie', in case you hadn't heard, is a photographic self portrait - often taken specifically to be uploaded to a social network. Upload them to Bitstars.ph as well and you have the chance to earn bitcoin tips in addition to all those 'likes'.
Miguel Cuneta, Co-founder and CCO of Bitstars.ph's parent company Satoshi Citadel Industries (SCI), told CoinDesk the project has a dual purpose. He said:
"The main concept was to find a way to monetize 'likes' using bitcoin and make people get to know about the concept of bitcoin using a familiar medium - social media."
How it works
The site has a daily competition for the most popular selfies, with popularity being gauged by the number of 'likes' an image receives.
Prizes depend on the number of user submissions over the course of a day, and range from about 200 pesos ($5) to 500 pesos ($12), which Cuneta said was around the median daily wage for a Philippines-based 9-5 worker. The winnings are paid out in bitcoin, of course.
Additionally, winners can opt to donate their prize money to a charity or their choice.
Further encouraging bitcoin use, members of the site can also leave small tips in the digital currency for pictures that grab their attention, which average around 8 mBTC each.
To encourage active participation, users may now also earn small amounts of bitcoin by liking and voting as well.
Bitstars.ph is open to anyone in the world with an Instagram or Facebook account, with users able to log in using those credentials.
Topping the 'most popular' lists are selfies which are funny, creative, silly, colorful, and adventurous. No particular theme or style dominates the winner lists - of course, being attractive always helps but it's no guarantee of success.
The 'selfiest' city in the world
It's not surprising Bitstars.ph was born in the Philippines - locals simply love taking selfies. Makati City, part of the greater Metro Manila area, was recently ranked number one in TIME Magazine's 'Selfiest Cities in the World' analysis. Manhattan and Miami were second and third respectively. Cebu City, also in Philippines, came in in ninth place.
The analysis was based on the number of times the #selfie tag was applied to over 400,000 photos uploaded to Instagram.
The Philippines population is now around 100 million, with 40% having Internet access, and one in four owning a smartphone. Facebook gets more eyeball-hours than TV in the country with 30 million active users.
"Filipinos are very social people. We use social networking to communicate with friends, get news about everyday events, news about our loved ones here and abroad (geographically, the Philippines is spread out over many islands, and globally, 10% of the population work abroad), and as a way to connect professionally and recreationally."
Mission to promote bitcoin awareness, usage
Parent company Satoshi Citadel Industries calls itself a "provider of bitcoin solutions" and manages a range of different digital currency services and sites.
It also manages merchant services site Bitmarket, in-beta exchange Coinage, and remittance service ReBit. SCI is also rolling out pre-loaded bitcoin cards as another fast way to get bitcoin into newcomers' wallets.
Cuneta explained that local awareness and adoption of bitcoin remained SCI's main focus for now. Given that the Philippines is probably the world's largest social media market, it seemed natural to integrate bitcoin somehow.
"By making bitcoin accessible in fun and familiar way, we also eliminate that barrier of bitcoin being perceived as too techy or complicated for the average user. Bitstars.ph is our innovative take on the concept of a bitcoin faucet. It's fun, it's easy, it's simple, and you can win some money while doing something you would normally do for free."
Cuneta said he hoped as the concept became more popular, users could earn good money from their photos, a concept that could then expand to cover music, art, and other media.
Selfie images courtesy Bitstars.ph