Good news, perhaps, for bitcoin owners frustrated by Apple’s recent removal of Blockchain’s wallet app from its stores.
A service just launched promises to let people make bitcoin transactions via email, promoting itself as a solution that “works natively on the iPhone, and can’t be banned by Apple”.
The Tip Bot functions as a standalone system, meaning that once bitcoins are there, they can be transferred around without the need for any wallet software.
Anyone who has experienced the process of giving or receiving bitcoin tips on reddit will be familiar with the way the Tip Bot works, as the transaction process is similar.
How it works
To send some bitcoin, you first need to register your email address by sending an empty message to email@example.com. An auto-generated reply sends you a link to confirm your email address, and provides you with a new bitcoin address. To save time, you can also pre-register email addresses on the site.
Now comes the slightly nerve-wracking part: you then send bitcoin from your own wallet to the address you have been sent. Any amount can be transferred – as much as needed for a purchase, say, or a token amount to test the system.
The system charges 0.0002 BTC (approximately 11 US cents at today’s rate) per transfer (0.0001 for the miners, 0.0001 to the bot), so make sure you allow for that in the amount sent.
Once the transaction details been emailed, send a new email to the person or address you wish to pay – putting the firstname.lastname@example.org address in the ‘CC’ field and the amount (in bitcoin or dollars) in the ‘subject’ field. The email body can contain any message you like.
When their initial email has arrived, the receiver will need to click a link to confirm their email address is correct – a security measure to prevent email address spoofing.
The system will wait until it has the required amount of block chain transactions before the transaction. Then a new bitcoin address will be generated for the receiver, and their funds transferred.
It is also possible to send funds directly to a bitcoin address, by sending the email to [bitcoin address]@emailtipbot.com (while remembering, of course, to add email@example.com to the ‘CC’ field).
For example, to donate to Wikileaks, the email address would look like this: 1HB5XMLmzFVj8ALj6mfBsbifRoD4miY36v@emailtipbot.com.
If all you have is a QR code, merely scan the code and paste the key into the address.
Blockchain has a similar system, which also allows you to send bitcoins via email, SMS or even Facebook.
With this method, a private key is also sent to the user, which they can then use to withdraw to a wallet immediately and without an extra transaction fee. A Blockchain account is necessary to send, but not to receive.
Coinbase also allows users to send to an email address, the only catch being that you have to send from a Coinbase account.
Email Tip Bot’s website provides an HTML button that will auto-generate the required email, if you wanted to place it on your own site. This would make it very simple for people to send you funds.
CoinDesk tried the Email Tip Bot system and can report that it works, although the first time the sending email received an ‘insufficient funds’ message thanks to our not factoring in the 0.0002 BTC transaction fee.
Confirming both email addresses and waiting for block chain confirmations before sending funds is obviously not as elegant as sending directly from a wallet – at least not the first time.
Furthermore, although wallet software is not required to move the bitcoins around once the email account is set up, the sender must have one from which to transfer the initial funds.
The receiver could leave their funds in their Email Tip Bot account, but a dedicated wallet would be advisable as a more secure means of storing their coins.
However, for those times when wallet software is not readily available (hello again, iOS users), it would be handy to have a small stash of coins available to send via email.
Careful with those coins
Naturally, sending bitcoins to an address generated and emailed to you by some nameless Internet bot requires a degree of trust in the system, so it’s worth doing a test run with a small amount of BTC to start with.
Genco himself recommends people do not use the service to store any significant amount of bitcoins.
“Ultimately,” he says, “your primary store of bitcoins shouldn’t be trusted with any third-party provider. They should be stored in an offline, encrypted wallet in your control.”
“You really don’t want to be trusting even the big names in bitcoin with large amounts of your money, Most ‘bitcoin heist’ stories are possible because of improper security implementations on the bitcoin service side, and could be avoided by keeping the majority of your coins yourself.”
The email-based system means users can send coins without needing to log into web-based wallet software, and Genco acknowledges the risk that comes with that.
“This convenience means, of course, that anyone with access to your email can send coins with Email Tip Bot,” he says. “So it’s ultimately only as secure as access to your email account is.”
“Though I have secured Email Tip Bot to the best of my ability, it should be your bitcoin checking account, not your savings account.”
“I would encourage your readers to test it out with a small amount, say, $1 to $10,” he explained, “and try sending money to friends who aren’t on the bitcoin network yet, or making a small purchase from a phone.”
For nervous bitcoin users who are still hesitant to try the system out, Genco says he will be adding dogecoin support “very soon”, and plans to load up every Email Tip Bot account with a couple of hundred doge, just to play with.
The process for transacting in doge or any other digital currencies will be identical to bitcoin method described above.
Disclaimer: This article should not be viewed as an endorsement of Email Tip Bot. Please do your own research before considering spending any funds via this service.
Email image via Shutterstock