Greg Brockman, CTO of payments solutions provider Stripe, has said that rather than replacing the existing financial infrastructure per se, bitcoin holds promise as a unifying technology capable of bringing these two worlds together.
Stripe offers businesses a suite of APIs that allow them to accept payments for products or services by a variety of means, and across many devices.
As part of the company's vision to provide the greatest possible number of payment options, Stripe started testing bitcoin payments in March of this year.
Speaking in an interview with CoinDesk, Brockman said:
"It really comes down to the the way that we, Stripe, want to be the universal payment infrastructure of the web. As part of that, bitcoin is really interesting as something that helps spread that, that helps connect this archipelago of different financial systems."
He added, "Aside from something that allows consumers to pay, and merchants to accept, it's also something that can help connect the world's financial systems in a way that we cannot today."
Brockman is to speak at the Bitcoin Finance conference in Dublin, which is being held on 3rd-4th July. He plans to outline this vision of bitcoin's potential as part of his speech, he said.
The CTO indicated that his talk will set out what bitcoin's role in the mainstream could look like.
For example, if you look at an average consumer, whether they're aware of bitcoin technology or not, it's not necessarily optimised for them. That's something that will need to change.
"The main thing I'm going to focus on," he said, "is, what would that ecosystem look like, if you wanted something that was well suited for them, well optimised for them? What are the necessary consequences, or at least what's one set of evolutions of that world, and what are the things that we as a community are going to have to build?"
He indicated that there are a lot of pieces of the existing financial system that are accepted just because they exist.
Bitcoin, however, offers exciting potential as the backend for a new financial world because, as an open system without significant barriers to entry, it will surely just keep getting better and better, as opposed to being a closed network that's hard for people to integrate with.
Bitcoin to dominate?
Brockman sees cryptocurrencies as a key component of the financial world in the long term, although whether it is bitcoin that wins, or some other currency, remains to be seen.
"It's obvious that bitcoin has a lot of mindshare and momentum," he said, "but it was designed before we really knew what we needed. I think we're still figuring out what we need. There's a chance that a cryptocurrency will be a winner and it won't be bitcoin."
Don't think the world's existing financial systems are going away anytime soon, however. Brockman envisages a future in which cryptocurrencies are just one connecting part of the financial ecosystem, rather like how the web is to the world's businesses today:
"If you look at the Internet, there are all these various backbones that connect all these disparate providers. These providers have their own technology and their own systems – it's not like anyone supplanted their own office or local area network just because you had a wider Internet. It's just like this additional connectivity boosted the value of the existing ecosystems."
CoinDesk recently reported on comments made by Jason Oxman, CEO of the Electronic Transactions Association (ETA), who suggested that, while bitcoin offers some advantages for the payments industry, the technology is both too insecure and immature for its members to yet adopt.
When this was put to the Stripe CTO, he argued that such an opinion is reasonable, despite bitcoin integration currently being beta tested at his own company.
"Bitcoin's just emerging," he said. "We haven't figured out what it's going to look like yet, and I think, going back to my talk, the kind of vision I'm going to lay out is something that hasn't happened yet. I think it's going to feel completely different for a consumer involved in the system, but at the backend there'll be the same technology – we can build it on top of exactly what we have today."
"[Bitcoin] is very much in a state of rapid discovery and we're learning what works and what doesn't. [...] I think it's a very exciting time, to see how things go and how these systems will work in practice."
Interest in bitcoin
Regarding a launch date for sending bitcoin payments live on Stripe's platform, Brockman couldn't provide a timeline, saying, "We don't have a particular date set for the public launch. We are currently in beta and people are using it successfully."
However, he indicated that the company had seen a lot of demand for bitcoin payments, and this is something that "a lot of people are really interested in and excited about".
"At the end of the day, Stripe is really about enabling people anywhere to pay using their payment instrument of choice. And bitcoin is a really powerful step along that way," he added.