Online payments leader PayPal held an introduction to bitcoin event as part of its monthly TechXploration speaker series yesterday, packing hundreds into its Town Hall auditorium in San Jose, California.
Attendees gathered for a deep, yet entertaining, session on how bitcoin works, overseen by the digital payments innovator that took the industry by storm in its early days with email-based money transfers.
Leading the talk was Lorne Lantz, a developer and technical contributor for Andreas Antonopoulos' book 'Mastering Bitcoin'.
While known principally as a payments solution, however, Lantz told the audience that is a small part of what bitcoin's greater technology and potential.
"Money is just the first app for bitcoin. Just like email was the first app for the Internet."
The PayPal TechXploration event was held in part to promote the O'Reilly Bitcoin and Blockchain conference being held 27th January in San Francisco. Lantz is an organizer for the one-day affair, which will feature speakers such as Reid Hoffman of Greylock Partners, Balaji Srinivasan of Andreessen Horowitz and Andreas Antonopoulos.
Positives and negatives
The presentation began with Lantz playing a video of various media clips often falsely portraying bitcoin, including one of famed investor Warren Buffet saying bitcoin is "a mirage, basically".
How bitcoin transactions are confirmed and how cryptography plays a part were important aspects discussed during the session.
The presentation also dived deep into bitcoin's open-sourced ledger.
"The power behind bitcoin is the blockchain."
He did not gloss over the fact that bitcoin has its drawbacks, though he did promote bitcoin as a great merchant tool that has lower fees and cash-like properties.
Lantz went on to note that although bitcoin could be a great tool for the unbanked, there are fewer consumer protections.
PayPal and bitcoin
As a company always keeping close watch the on digital payments industry, PayPal has already integrated online bitcoin payments via its Payments Hub.
That PayPal offers educational content on bitcoin could perhaps be indicative of the digital currency's liftoff. That Lantz said he sees bitcoin innovating online payments – PayPal's core business – is a promising indicator for enthusiasts of bitcoin and its wider adoption.
"Online is actually taking off. It's got some nice traction," he said.
However, Lantz added:
"There's a series of things that add up making it difficult for merchants to accept bitcoin offline."
One of the big problems Lantz pointed out was the often difficult integration of bitcoin into the existing point-of-sale systems used by bricks-and-mortar businesses.
Images via Dan Cawrey for CoinDesk