WordPress has announced it will begin accepting payment for upgrades via the controversial peer-to-peer currency Bitcoin, a move it promises will break down geographical and corporate boundaries.
While the popular blogging platform is a free service, it does offer paid upgrades such as custom designs and ad-free presentations. However, not everyone has access to those upgrades due to limits on traditional payment networks such as PayPal, which is blocked in more than 60 countries, notes Andy Skelton, code wrangler at WordPress parent Automattic.
"Some are blocked for political reasons, some because of higher fraud rates, and some for other financial reasons," he wrote in a blog post today. "Whatever the reason, we don't think an individual blogger from Haiti, Ethiopia, or Kenya should have diminished access to the blogosphere because of payment issues they can't control. Our goal is to enable people, not block them."
As such, Automattic has decided to accept the online currency through Bitpay.com, although it has opted to forgo the "confirmations" process. This traditional manner of establishing a reputation for trustworthiness among Bitcoin users relies on other users recording transactions and sharing the news with other users.
"Making you wait for confirmations would virtually eliminate our risk, but we're confident that with digital products like ours the risk is already acceptably low," Skelton said.
In another departure from the norm, Skelton said Automattic intends to still honor its refund policy for transactions through Bitcoin.
"If a refund is granted on a purchase made with BTC we will work with BitPay to issue a refund in BTC," he said.
Bitcoin sprang up in 2009 as a peer-to-peer currency that intentionally avoided the prying eyes of law enforcement officials. In order to acquire Bitcoins, users access exchange sites to transfer actual currency, such as U.S. dollars, into the digital option.
In June 2011, the currency attracted the attention of Sens. Charles Schumer of New York and Joe Manchin of West Virginia, who wrote a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder, highlighting the role Bitcoin plays in an online marketplace known as "Silk Road," which allows customers to buy illegal drugs.
The platform has also been the target of frequent thefts, hacks, and scams, with more than 290,000 BTC lost in 10 heists since June 2011, according to tallies on the BitcoinTalk forum. Users of Bitcoin exchange Bitcoinica filed a complaint in August against the trading platform in a San Francisco court, alleging the loss of $460,000 due to poor security and deceitful practices.