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Author Topic: Why bitcoin?  (Read 2535 times)
faustianover
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September 04, 2011, 12:08:32 PM
 #1

I first heard of bitcoin when the silk road website hit the news. I poked around a bit, thought it sounded interesting, but it was way too soon to make any serious judgement. I meant to keep some tabs on it and see what happened, but it fell off my personal radar.

It was brought back to my attention when the link aggregate website I used made a passing reference to the troubles bitcoin has seen over the last month. Double so when the article it linked referenced pattaya- Where I currently live and work. So I've spent two days running through these forums and other new material. I have a lot of personal opinions, but I'm not looking to start a flamewar.

What I have is a single question- one that in two days, I've only seen one website attempt to address, and even then it was given very perfunctory treatment. Why bitcoin? The bitcoin FAQ assumes I understand this, or skips it.

 I'm Joe Average. I buy things online, predominately off Amazon, occasionally Newegg or Ebay. I have a paypal account, but I rarely use it- Really, only for Ebay. Either way, I have never run into a problem with either my bank, or paypal.

It seems like there is no real discussion- It's assumed that the people who read bitcoin websites understand the need for bitcoin. Or there is just no need to explain to others why bitcoin is superior to using a bank/credit/paypal system. There is a phrase I've seen used in probitcoin comments on articles. "Bitcoin will change the world" What I'm asking here is for clarification. Why/How?

On the wiki, there is a short section devoted to the question of Why bitcoin- but the points made feel.. debatable and a touch hastily done. I'm not sure I see the value in irreversible transactions, for instance. I like the idea that if something goes wrong, I can dispute charges relying on something more then the good nature of whatever person now has my money.

So I'm wondering if anyone here would like to explain the benefits for the average member of the public to use bitcoin rather then actual hard currency, or the current paradigm of credit and debt for online purchases?
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faustianover
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September 04, 2011, 12:40:45 PM
 #2

I realize this sounds like trolling or baiting for a reaction, but this is a legitmate question, that I would like to discuss.
defxor
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September 04, 2011, 01:00:36 PM
 #3

I'm Joe Average. I buy things online, predominately off Amazon, occasionally Newegg or Ebay. I have a paypal account, but I rarely use it- Really, only for Ebay. Either way, I have never run into a problem with either my bank, or paypal.

As strictly a consumer you are currently paying a premium (let's say 5% on average) above what the goods could cost if Bitcoin was the payment system used since it does not rely on some of the archaic thinking that has led us to the banking system we have today.

It's similar to how the Internet brought everyone cheap publishing abilities.

If you want to be a small time merchant, there's nothing that comes even close to being able to rival Bitcoin in low startup costs and overhead.
alkhdaniel
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September 04, 2011, 01:11:59 PM
 #4

Decentralized - there is no central authority over bitcoin.

No one can print more bitcoins when the limit of 21mil is hit.
No one can stop you from sending your bitcoins to someone else (wikileaks being a popular example)
No ridiculous fee's (other than 1 cent or whatever (believe it's even lower) for transaction fee) for sending someone money.

There isn't really any big advantage for the regular person other than that there's basically no fee's.

Pretty sure there are other reasons to use bitcoins, but those 3 are probably the most important things.
Lolcust
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September 04, 2011, 01:19:59 PM
 #5

Well, let's see...

1) first and foremost, reversible transactions open up a wonderful new world of petty fraud, especially for companies selling digital, ephemeral products (such as ebooks, or software, or online services) because delivery of those is problematic to prove outside some pretty in-depth interpol investigation.

I can trivially buy a PDF from your online store, rip it, then claim you never delivered. Paypal specifically will nearly always side with the buyer.

As you might guess, that makes people selling digital products and services online very very sad.

Also, if you are a freelance artist, for instance, I could pay you with paypal P2P, then reverse the transaction after I receive your artistic work. Good luck proving act of delivery to Pain Pal.

2) Paypal specifically arbitrarily restricts countries to/from which transactions can be made. Since I am from [REDACTED], that sucks balls.

3) Fees for online payment systems (especially credit card ones) are relatively complex and high. Bitcoin fees are pretty low, especially if you don't need transaction to be confirmed ASAP

4) There are legitimate reasons to be unwilling to expose your personal information to some third party, for instance:
  • some people happen to live in police states you know. Not the kind of police state Americans like to cry about, the "they check your documents on the street, ze horar, ze horar". The kind of where you get arrested and beaten (possibly to the death), then jailed (in case you were not beaten to the death) for running an unlicensed wifi AP
  • After the Sony fiasco, even a legitimate customer of a legitimate business in a fluffy happy free country  should think twice before exposing personal details to said business, especially so if the business is technically not subject to fluffy happy country's jurisdiction

5) Bitcoin is decentralized and thus quite resilient to local outages, be they due to State meddling, criminal agents, or natural events. That's a huge boon.

Geist Geld, the experimental cryptocurrency, is ready for yet another SolidCoin collapse Wink

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ovidiusoft
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September 04, 2011, 01:22:04 PM
 #6

Other three simple scenarios that I experienced myself with the current broken banking systems:

* Friend wants to buy some thing online - only 1 left in stock. Friend asked me for some money until his next paycheck - we were not in the same town then, so no cash option for us. Since it was a saturday, he could not buy the item then and had to pay +30% a week later.

* I wanted to send some money to a friend in another country. The fees? 30 EUR + 2%. Time? 2+ working days.

* Since I'm from Romania, my debit cards were not accepted online in a lot of places, so I had to go get a "real" credit card - with more than 4 times the fees.

And so on...
faustianover
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September 04, 2011, 03:39:09 PM
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Well, let's see...

1) first and foremost, reversible transactions open up a wonderful new world of petty fraud, especially for companies selling digital, ephemeral products (such as ebooks, or software, or online services) because delivery of those is problematic to prove outside some pretty in-depth interpol investigation.

I can trivially buy a PDF from your online store, rip it, then claim you never delivered. Paypal specifically will nearly always side with the buyer.

As you might guess, that makes people selling digital products and services online very very sad.

Also, if you are a freelance artist, for instance, I could pay you with paypal P2P, then reverse the transaction after I receive your artistic work. Good luck proving act of delivery to Pain Pal.

2) Paypal specifically arbitrarily restricts countries to/from which transactions can be made. Since I am from [REDACTED], that sucks balls.

3) Fees for online payment systems (especially credit card ones) are relatively complex and high. Bitcoin fees are pretty low, especially if you don't need transaction to be confirmed ASAP

4) There are legitimate reasons to be unwilling to expose your personal information to some third party, for instance:
  • some people happen to live in police states you know. Not the kind of police state Americans like to cry about, the "they check your documents on the street, ze horar, ze horar". The kind of where you get arrested and beaten (possibly to the death), then jailed (in case you were not beaten to the death) for running an unlicensed wifi AP
  • After the Sony fiasco, even a legitimate customer of a legitimate business in a fluffy happy free country  should think twice before exposing personal details to said business, especially so if the business is technically not subject to fluffy happy country's jurisdiction

5) Bitcoin is decentralized and thus quite resilient to local outages, be they due to State meddling, criminal agents, or natural events. That's a huge boon.

I understand that reversing charges can be used for petty fraud- but bitcoin is also vulnerable to fraud, is it not? The difference is who is the victim. With paypal, merchants have to worry about petty fraud, sure. What I'm seeing with bitcoin is the potential for the consumers to be scammed instead. At the same time, Its that much harder to deal with these scams- I'm sure fighting paypal on a reversed charge is an unpleasant, uphill battle, but if I send say, send 3k USD worth of bitcoins to someone for a custom watch that never manifests I have no recourse at all. The problem isn't with PayPal siding with customers, It's in people out to make a dishonest quick buck.

I've never paid a fee for my credit card. I've always paid the balance in full each month. Maybe I've lucked out.

I follow that you don't want others to have your personal information. I can even support that. My problem is not knowing where the money goes once it's gone. If I pay for goods that aren't provided, I want more then a bitcoin address/username to pursue matters with the seller, or to give to a law enforcement/fraud monitoring organization.

 
Other three simple scenarios that I experienced myself with the current broken banking systems:

* Friend wants to buy some thing online - only 1 left in stock. Friend asked me for some money until his next paycheck - we were not in the same town then, so no cash option for us. Since it was a saturday, he could not buy the item then and had to pay +30% a week later.

* I wanted to send some money to a friend in another country. The fees? 30 EUR + 2%. Time? 2+ working days.

I really hadn't considered using bitcoin as an alternate to western union. I could see some potential there, were it not for the fact the people I western union money to can barely be trusted to operate an email account.

I'm Joe Average. I buy things online, predominately off Amazon, occasionally Newegg or Ebay. I have a paypal account, but I rarely use it- Really, only for Ebay. Either way, I have never run into a problem with either my bank, or paypal.

As strictly a consumer you are currently paying a premium (let's say 5% on average) above what the goods could cost if Bitcoin was the payment system used since it does not rely on some of the archaic thinking that has led us to the banking system we have today.

I'm not an economist, so I don't immediately grasp what you are meaning by archaic thinking that results in higher prices. I'm assuming you don't mean anything related to processing fees for credit cards?
defxor
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September 04, 2011, 03:47:08 PM
 #8

As strictly a consumer you are currently paying a premium (let's say 5% on average) above what the goods could cost if Bitcoin was the payment system used since it does not rely on some of the archaic thinking that has led us to the banking system we have today.

I'm not an economist, so I don't immediately grasp what you are meaning by archaic thinking that results in higher prices. I'm assuming you don't mean anything related to processing fees for credit cards?

I do. Next time you buy something from a local store owner whom you believe own their own business, ask them how much they have to pay in fees to be able to accept credit cards. Do the math on how that affect their profit margins on low cost items.

Those fees are passed on to you, the consumer.
faustianover
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September 04, 2011, 03:54:16 PM
 #9

As strictly a consumer you are currently paying a premium (let's say 5% on average) above what the goods could cost if Bitcoin was the payment system used since it does not rely on some of the archaic thinking that has led us to the banking system we have today.

I'm not an economist, so I don't immediately grasp what you are meaning by archaic thinking that results in higher prices. I'm assuming you don't mean anything related to processing fees for credit cards?

I do. Next time you buy something from a local store owner whom you believe own their own business, ask them how much they have to pay in fees to be able to accept credit cards. Do the math on how that affect their profit margins on low cost items.

Those fees are passed on to you, the consumer.


I am aware of those fees, I've known a couple small business owners. But for those fees to disappear- That would require bitcoin being adopted to a universal standard in which these businesses did not need to process credit cards at all. So me, as a consumer wouldn't see this particular benefit until the 'why bitcoin' question in this thread became a moot point.
indio007
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September 04, 2011, 03:57:28 PM
 #10

Look up Credit Card Merchant fees. Visa and Master Card siphon 2 1/2% out of the economy.
The main reason for BTC is the are basically electronic cash with a transfer network controlled by no one. They are not counterfeitable.
The #2 reason is the BTC is more secure than any other electronic transfer of data bar none.
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September 04, 2011, 04:41:30 PM
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You speak about paypal in your thread.

That alone is a GOOD reason to use bitcoin. Why? Fees, account closing, chargebacks and whatelse...
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September 04, 2011, 04:45:03 PM
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I understand that reversing charges can be used for petty fraud- but bitcoin is also vulnerable to fraud, is it not? The difference is who is the victim. With paypal, merchants have to worry about petty fraud, sure. What I'm seeing with bitcoin is the potential for the consumers to be scammed instead. At the same time, Its that much harder to deal with these scams- I'm sure fighting paypal on a reversed charge is an unpleasant, uphill battle, but if I send say, send 3k USD worth of bitcoins to someone for a custom watch that never manifests I have no recourse at all. The problem isn't with PayPal siding with customers, It's in people out to make a dishonest quick buck.

Technically, giving someone $3000 in Bitcoins isn't different from sending someone them via Western Union - there are still traces for law enforcement to pursue, but more often than not, when your $3000 via Western Union has departed, it is departed as surely as if it was Bitcoin.

Also, assuming you take care and do due diligence (as you would probably do before forking over a large sum in plain dead tree USD cash) the scammer has to invest a lot of effort to build up a profile to deceive you (hard), while a reverse-transaction scam requires the scammer either to have many fake-ID paypal accounts (easy) or do the scams relatively rare (easy).

Basically, think of bitcoins as cash that can be forked over via internet.

Doing something with bitcoins that you would not have done with dead tree dollars is not advisable.

And I am somewhat dubious as to where would losses go if someone scams a person for 3000$ via paypal and those 3000$ are already out of scammer's account by the time fraud complaints are filed (there are ways to rapidly cash paypal out without exposing yourself to LEAs. They cost dearly, but the scammer is likely ready to pay a significant portion of his illegally earned money to pull them out of paypal ASAP)

Would Paypal still reverse it and suck up the damage ?

I've never paid a fee for my credit card. I've always paid the balance in full each month. Maybe I've lucked out.

It might be dependent on how your bank works, but where I live online transactions, even with "propper" credit cards (not debit ones) and not resulting in any overdraft shenanigans, are still subject to a special "card not present risk fee".

Geist Geld, the experimental cryptocurrency, is ready for yet another SolidCoin collapse Wink

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September 04, 2011, 04:55:08 PM
 #13

Sorry for the intrusion. Another newbie here. I originally heard of bitcoin something like a year ago, but I didn't have any money to put into it then. I kind of wish I had. But that's the past. I was reading this thread, and I have to say I've had the same question as the premise, and you guys seem to have some answers, so I figured I'd ask here.

I do have a couple of questions, though. I'm halfway decent at understanding finance, despite being a relative layman, and there are some things I wa wondering about.

Decentralized - there is no central authority over bitcoin.

I agree that bitcoin is supposed to be decentralized in theory, but it really seems to me that a very large amount of traffic and funding is in the hands of a very small number of exchanges. If one goes down (and they have periodically) then the market is shaken, and could easily crash completely. You get enough money into one exchange, and it goes down because of black hats or poor planning or what have you, a lot of people could be ruined.

So it actually seems quite centralized in practice, and that concerns me.

No one can print more bitcoins when the limit of 21mil is hit.

This is another thing. Inflation is a constant thing. It always has been, and without artifical devaluation of currency, it always will be. Without regulatory bodies presiding over bitcoin to artificially control values (which we all know will never happen), then once the limit of 21 million is hit, prices can only go up. It's a system that favors early adopters and wealthy people far too heavily to make me comfortable.

No one can stop you from sending your bitcoins to someone else (wikileaks being a popular example)
No ridiculous fee's (other than 1 cent or whatever (believe it's even lower) for transaction fee) for sending someone money.

This I actually completely agree with. Companies and governments should never be able to tell you how you want to spend your money, so long as it's a legal action. And while I'm sure somewhere out there are people using bitcoin for illegal purposes, that's not a valid indictment of the currency as a whole, as many more people use USD for criminal activities.

The fees are slightly different, usually they are charged because the centralized authority has hundreds of employees to pay living wages. I don't know how the exchanges work, but I'm assuming that they're mostly low-employee operations. Please, correct me on that if I'm wrong.

Anyway, I am interested, but I admit a little wariness, and would like more information before I jump. Thanks!
faustianover
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September 04, 2011, 04:55:36 PM
 #14

I understand that reversing charges can be used for petty fraud- but bitcoin is also vulnerable to fraud, is it not? The difference is who is the victim. With paypal, merchants have to worry about petty fraud, sure. What I'm seeing with bitcoin is the potential for the consumers to be scammed instead. At the same time, Its that much harder to deal with these scams- I'm sure fighting paypal on a reversed charge is an unpleasant, uphill battle, but if I send say, send 3k USD worth of bitcoins to someone for a custom watch that never manifests I have no recourse at all. The problem isn't with PayPal siding with customers, It's in people out to make a dishonest quick buck.

Technically, giving someone $3000 in Bitcoins isn't different from sending someone them via Western Union - there are still traces for law enforcement to pursue, but more often than not, when your $3000 via Western Union has departed, it is departed as surely as if it was Bitcoin.

Also, assuming you take care and do due diligence (as you would probably do before forking over a large sum in plain dead tree USD cash) the scammer has to invest a lot of effort to build up a profile to deceive you (hard), while a reverse-transaction scam requires the scammer either to have many fake-ID paypal accounts (easy) or do the scams relatively rare (easy).

Basically, think of bitcoins as cash that can be forked over via internet.

Doing something with bitcoins that you would not have done with dead tree dollars is not advisable.

And I am somewhat dubious as to where would losses go if someone scams a person for 3000$ via paypal and those 3000$ are already out of scammer's account by the time fraud complaints are filed (there are ways to rapidly cash paypal out without exposing yourself to LEAs. They cost dearly, but the scammer is likely ready to pay a significant portion of his illegally earned money to pull them out of paypal ASAP)

Would Paypal still reverse it and suck up the damage ?

I've never paid a fee for my credit card. I've always paid the balance in full each month. Maybe I've lucked out.

It might be dependent on how your bank works, but where I live online transactions, even with "propper" credit cards (not debit ones) and not resulting in any overdraft shenanigans, are still subject to a special "card not present risk fee".

That's the point- Bitcoins really don't offer any security against scammers. Paypal has flaws, but bitcoins don't offer leaps and bounds of improvements. Also just noting that due diligence is hard in a younger community like bitcoin merchants. Easy to get into, easy to run with a profit.  
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September 04, 2011, 05:00:16 PM
 #15

In addition to the arguments above, here's a little anecdote.

My wife is a banker and having seen the innards of the dominating system, she's always been supportive about the idea of a free method of value transfer (we made an unsuccessful attempt to make use of Ripplepay before). She was very enthusiastic when we first found out about Bitcoin last year, but never had a motive to use the currency herself. Last Friday, she opened a VoIP account and made the transfer using Bitcoin. She was more than impressed, which made me realize again how awesome the system actually is. Since then we've been shopping online and having lots of fun.

I guess the main reason we get this liberating feeling is that banks have always been problematic for us. Credit cards getting cancelled for "security" reasons (like having used them "abroad"), passwords getting locked, having to actually travel to the banks for various proofs of identity, ridiculous measures of security (like having to have a mobile phone registered in the coutry where the bank is) and of course account fees, card fees, and whatnot. On top of that, since we are expatriates, letters of credibility are requested which we need to get from banks from where we have citizenship. Paypal is very convenient but you need to have jumped through these hoops before you are able to use it, and then some (like having to open a new paypal account for each different jurisdiction, yet additional fees, etc.). And last, but not the least, transferring money in and out of the country is costly and is a major pain legally.

Not that Bitcoin has helped us do away with all this, but the mere fact that it has the potential to relieve some of this burden is enough.

Granted, I have a good setup where it's pretty convenient for my wife to send/receive money without having to worry about concerns like security. She would probably have done it using an online wallet if I wasn't here, which isn't that exhilarating. You don't really consciously get it but having to trust a third party causes mild amounts of anxiety. That's why I think we need a secondary lightweight network on top of Bitcoin to be used by mobile devices for small transactions, but I digress...

EDIT: Ah, and also, having been in discussions about block generation intervals lately, I told to her apologetically: "It takes a lot of time to confirm doesn't it?". She looked at my face as if I was an idiot.
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September 04, 2011, 05:16:18 PM
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I am aware of those fees, I've known a couple small business owners. But for those fees to disappear- That would require bitcoin being adopted to a universal standard in which these businesses did not need to process credit cards at all.

Yes. What we need is an easy way for consumers to acquire bitcoins and for merchants an easy way to accept payment in bitcoins. For the latter I really like what Bit-Pay are doing, for the former I still think it's too complicated.

When it comes to actual clients I stay away from showing people the Satoshi client completely in favor of Andreas' Bitcoin Wallet for Android. A quick demonstration of how easy payment via the QR code system is and most merchants respond by wanting Bitcoin to replace their current credit card system immediately.

I agree that bitcoin is supposed to be decentralized in theory, but it really seems to me that a very large amount of traffic and funding is in the hands of a very small number of exchanges.

True. I've personally only traded once on MtGox, all my other BTC purchases have been P2P through Bitmarket.eu for that very reason.
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September 04, 2011, 07:15:43 PM
 #17

That's the point- Bitcoins really don't offer any security against scammers. Paypal has flaws, but bitcoins don't offer leaps and bounds of improvements. Also just noting that due diligence is hard in a younger community like bitcoin merchants. Easy to get into, easy to run with a profit. 

Painpal and similar entities not so much "protect" against fraud as shift the damage to almost exclusively the established merchants (since scammers run for cash out pretty fast, they hardly care that much, it's basically them vs. time after you send them a Paypal transfer, and with proper skills and prep, they easily outrun an average person's ability to realize the fact of fraud and file complaints), which strikes me as somewhat perverse (though I could definitely see how some people might find that setup comforting)

As for due diligence, well, we have #bitcoin-police @ freenode. Do check those guys out ( Google  bitcoin police IRC if you don't know what the love Freenode is)


This is another thing. Inflation is a constant thing. It always has been, and without artifical devaluation of currency, it always will be. Without regulatory bodies presiding over bitcoin to artificially control values (which we all know will never happen), then once the limit of 21 million is hit, prices can only go up. It's a system that favors early adopters and wealthy people far too heavily to make me comfortable.

I suspect that deflation does not work like that.

Deflation and different economic schools links can be found here:
https://bitcointalk.org/index.php?topic=11627.0

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September 04, 2011, 07:24:43 PM
 #18

you can use it to become a pioneering entrepreneur I guess

if you even have to ask that question youre probably just a consumer that will eventually be forced to use bitcoins by companies like the ones you mentioned.
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September 04, 2011, 10:24:33 PM
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you can use it to become a pioneering entrepreneur I guess

if you even have to ask that question youre probably just a consumer that will eventually be forced to use bitcoins by companies like the ones you mentioned.

I would say that's a bit of hyperbole, but I get your point. I think a better way to put it is:

Yes, Bitcoin at it's current level of adoption is more of a hassle than a benefit for the completely average person who doesn't do any sort of transaction other than paying bills, buying groceries and gas, buying some stuff off Amazon every once in a while, etc. However, these are also certainly not the "shot callers" of the world, and definitely have a miniscule influence in adoption of new currencies. They go wherever the market pushes them.
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September 04, 2011, 10:54:50 PM
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You speak about paypal in your thread.

That alone is a GOOD reason to use bitcoin. Why? Fees, account closing, chargebacks and whatelse...

Chargebacks exist to protect the consumer. They are a good thing.
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