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Author Topic: What about bitcoin containers?  (Read 4000 times)
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December 29, 2011, 12:37:38 AM
 #1

There is an issue with bitcoins, which is that you always need to communicate with someone and recieve an adress before you are able to send them any bitcoins. This is opposed to regular cash where you can leave it somewhere (like under a door mat, or in someones mailbox or wherever depending on the sum and security needed) and have someone pick it up later. In the digital world this would be achieved if we had a standardized way to send someone bitcoins regardless of the way we communicate. We should be able to send bitcoins over e-mail, http, sms, or really any way we want as long as we have some way of sending a message, even if it's just one way communication.

I've seen some ideas to provide this for e-mail through third parties, but I really think such a fundamental service could and should be provided at a more basic level.

There is a way to do this right now though, by creating a new wallet that contains some bitcoins and send it to my friend, but it is really cumbersome at the moment, and intuitively there should be a difference between wallets and spare cash. My idea is to use a new file type, called a bitcoin container with the file ending *.btc. Technically it would be a small wallet with only one key-pair, but once it is opened by a client, the client simply sends the money to the user's wallet and informs the user "X btc added to your wallet."

An example of how neat this could become. Say I want to send my friend some cash, but doesnt have any bitcoin adress of his. Instead, I go into my android btc app that uses the android share api and I press share via e-mail. The android client then creates file.btc, it sends a chosen amount to the new adress, withdraws it from my balance in the app, and enters my e-mail application with the new file attached. So I e-mail my friend who recieves the money and simply opens the file to put it in his own wallet with.

Preferably, you should also be able to protect these containers with a password. That would also provide a fairly easy way to store parts of your own btc outside of the client in a secure manner. Simply create a btc container from the client and choose to save it on a usb drive. If you use an android app you could send it directly to drop box via the share api etc.

Thoughts?
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December 29, 2011, 01:08:47 AM
 #2

Couldn't you just send a private key with an amount assigned via email? QED.

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December 29, 2011, 01:11:43 AM
 #3

Instawallet!

Go to instawallet.org
Send coins to the address shown
Copy the link
Email to person
If they can't or don't take the funds they are not lost, you can get them back easily.

If there is a person you trust or want a 'petty cash' for joint venture it makes a great shared account too.

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December 29, 2011, 01:12:03 AM
 #4

Couldn't you just send a private key with an amount assigned via email? QED.

Exactly.  That is the easiest method.  Create a private key, transfer funds to it.  Now you have a portable digital and physical method of transfering it.  You can print it, encrypt it, email it, put it on a thumb drive, generate a QR code on your phone etc.
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December 29, 2011, 01:17:07 AM
 #5

Couldn't you just send a private key with an amount assigned via email? QED.

Exactly.  That is the easiest method.  Create a private key, transfer funds to it.  Now you have a portable digital and physical method of transfering it.  You can print it, encrypt it, email it, put it on a thumb drive, generate a QR code on your phone etc.

This is better in the sense of not needing a trusted party. But instawallet is the stone cold nuts in convenience. Key passing will probably only get easier though and ultimately be the best way. A URI type thing where your browser can 'see' a key in an email or whatever and do a one click collect would be sick. This kind of possibility is why bitcoin wins.

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December 29, 2011, 01:26:03 AM
 #6

Couldn't you just send a private key with an amount assigned via email? QED.
The question is wether or not the average non-technical user could. Everyone can send an e-mail. Everyone understands a file that is attached to an e-mail. Everyone understands the sentence "X Bitcoins added to your wallet" if they double-click the file. Not everyone understands public key cryptography, and they shouldn't need to either.

A standardized container with bitcoins would also provide a really intuitive way to store your bitcoins outside your wallet as I mentioned. You may only have an android client but doesn't want to keep all your bitcoins on it. Create a password-protected container, name it 100btc.btc and send it to drop box. Problem solved.
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December 29, 2011, 01:26:32 AM
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Couldn't you just send a private key with an amount assigned via email? QED.

Exactly.  That is the easiest method.  Create a private key, transfer funds to it.  Now you have a portable digital and physical method of transfering it.  You can print it, encrypt it, email it, put it on a thumb drive, generate a QR code on your phone etc.

You need to generate a new address, send the coins there, send the private key to someone and delete your copy of private key. The other person needs to import the key and immediately send the funds to a new address in order to guarantee that they are not stolen. So I would say that, above all, we need a smart client integration that allows these features.

OP suggestion is interesting because it allows for more complex operations than just sending the private key. You can add a password or a personal message for example.
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December 29, 2011, 02:24:41 AM
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Couldn't you just send a private key with an amount assigned via email? QED.

Exactly.  That is the easiest method.  Create a private key, transfer funds to it.  Now you have a portable digital and physical method of transfering it.  You can print it, encrypt it, email it, put it on a thumb drive, generate a QR code on your phone etc.

This is better in the sense of not needing a trusted party. But instawallet is the stone cold nuts in convenience. Key passing will probably only get easier though and ultimately be the best way. A URI type thing where your browser can 'see' a key in an email or whatever and do a one click collect would be sick. This kind of possibility is why bitcoin wins.
Doesn't my suggestion make exactly that possible. You would one-click the file rather than a link, but that's really the only difference, and my proposal create some other possibilities as well. It's also probably easier to make your browser recognize a new file type than a new URI standard, depending on your browser.

This could also be used on sites such as MT. Gox to allow one-click-withdrawals rather than typing in an adress, simply by having them linking to a file.
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December 29, 2011, 02:54:50 AM
 #9

Couldn't you just send a private key with an amount assigned via email? QED.

Exactly.  That is the easiest method.  Create a private key, transfer funds to it.  Now you have a portable digital and physical method of transfering it.  You can print it, encrypt it, email it, put it on a thumb drive, generate a QR code on your phone etc.

This is better in the sense of not needing a trusted party. But instawallet is the stone cold nuts in convenience. Key passing will probably only get easier though and ultimately be the best way. A URI type thing where your browser can 'see' a key in an email or whatever and do a one click collect would be sick. This kind of possibility is why bitcoin wins.
Doesn't my suggestion make exactly that possible. You would one-click the file rather than a link, but that's really the only difference, and my proposal create some other possibilities as well. It's also probably easier to make your browser recognize a new file type than a new URI standard, depending on your browser.

This could also be used on sites such as MT. Gox to allow one-click-withdrawals rather than typing in an adress, simply by having them linking to a file.

Sure, it's just not 1-click yet, it totally could be. Instawallet is pretty damn simple already.

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December 29, 2011, 12:18:03 PM
 #10

I like the idea of .btc files.
As said already, you can encrypt the privkey inside that file as well as add comments, checksums, returnadress or the like.

Files mailed have a better chance to remail intact too. Its too easy to have long strings corrupted in mails, like by different character-encoding or linebreak or auto-smiley-replacement or incomplete marking prior to copy and paste.

Also, a .btc file "feels" more like something substantial, has more "weight" to it, in a haptic way. I think. At least I feel a lot more comfortable having my mom handling .btc files instead of "random" strings..

Now to combine the advantages of both ideas:
Make the .btc file plaintext! Have readable, optional fields in it: "key", "comment", "checksum", "backup" etc. the only absolutely necessary field would be "key". You can open the file in a texteditor and text the key over mobilephone, or print out the whole .btc file or whatnot.

And, as always, all this depends on integration. Alternate clients, official client, exchanges, emailclients. The proposal goes in a similar direction like offlie transactions, which didnt make it into the official client yet. Encryption made it into the official client already, though.

Ente
Stephen Gornick
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December 29, 2011, 12:52:11 PM
 #11

Another third-party method is @PayBitBack -- you send a tweet to your friend and the PayBitBack service creates an intermediary wallet the recipient later can access.
 - http://www.paybitback.com

But as far as a URI scheme to accommodate bitcoin transactions I believe that has already been described here: https://en.bitcoin.it/wiki/URI_Scheme
  The &send=[private key]  is the method for sending coins

I don't know if the key import capability being included in the Bitcoin.org client v0.6 will accommodate this yet though.

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December 29, 2011, 02:13:45 PM
 #12

Another third-party method is @PayBitBack -- you send a tweet to your friend and the PayBitBack service creates an intermediary wallet the recipient later can access.
 - http://www.paybitback.com

But as far as a URI scheme to accommodate bitcoin transactions I believe that has already been described here: https://en.bitcoin.it/wiki/URI_Scheme
  The &send=[private key]  is the method for sending coins

I don't know if the key import capability being included in the Bitcoin.org client v0.6 will accommodate this yet though.

Interesting!

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December 29, 2011, 02:35:42 PM
 #13

This is why a lot of people are suggesting a "sweep" function in the client for private keys (and hopefully mini-pks).

Then you could write it on a paper leave it under the door mat.  They find it, sweep it into their client/wallet and throw the paper away.  You can do this now with 3rd party tools but if you don't know what you are doing it can be risky.

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December 29, 2011, 04:55:05 PM
 #14

I really like this idea.  It's a nice and open way to enable people to send bitcoins via email.  If you also used asymmetric encryption for the bitcoin private key, you would only need to store some protocol/address and their public key (for communications) for any given person.  You could send bitcoins via email or any of a number of other protocols (a p2p file transfer protocol would be an interesting option to add and build into wallet software…the p2p nature of the transfer would serve to conceal the sender and recipient).  The sender can also monitor whether sent coins have been claimed and even set a deadline for them to be claimed or else they're recovered back into the sender's wallet.  In terms of the bitcoin block chain, the privacy aspects are fully preserved for the recipient (the recipient's wallet can generate a brand new bitcoin address(s) to sweep the coins into or they can reuse old addresses as they see fit).

P.S. The transaction that funds the private key used in the transfer need not include any transaction fee…the recipient can choose to add a fee to the sweep transaction depending on how important and transaction is (miners would include both transactions in order to claim the fee on the sweep transaction).  Assuming a private file transfer method is used, this enables the recipient of the funds to control both the privacy and the cost of the transaction.

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December 29, 2011, 06:17:48 PM
 #15

Good idea, but for now I use instawallet also. I loaded btc in IW's for xmas gifts and send the url to the lucky recipient ... boom done boom!

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December 30, 2011, 08:34:19 AM
 #16

Good idea, but for now I use instawallet also. I loaded btc in IW's for xmas gifts and send the url to the lucky recipient ... boom done boom!

technically, this works, of course.
But that cant be all of it.. Trusting a single company/project/website, its availability, accessability, honesty and all. Went wrong too often already. Yes, I use Instawallet too. But the future *must* be p2p-exchange, OTC-exchange, mixing cascades, and, consequently, direct import/export of single keys to transfer bitcoins "offline".
Else, we could keep using bankaccounts, papermoney and paypal, not? :-P

Ente
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December 30, 2011, 02:06:26 PM
 #17

Creating an incentive for people to click on files in emails or opening email attachemnts does not seem a good idea at all, it is just a way of helping phish by email and hack by email people sucker people into opening email attachments or clicking on links in emails.

The world probably needs less opening of email attachments and clicking on links in emails, not more.

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December 30, 2011, 02:20:57 PM
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Creating an incentive for people to click on files in emails or opening email attachemnts does not seem a good idea at all, it is just a way of helping phish by email and hack by email people sucker people into opening email attachments or clicking on links in emails.

The world probably needs less opening of email attachments and clicking on links in emails, not more.

-MarkM-

What about a text friendly format that can be copy and pasted?  Like:
Code:
-----BEGIN BITCOIN CONTAINER-----
Version: Bitcoin 0.51

mQGiBDXaayARBADDLdW4aij9O8HqLS/WxTYbGKUF6skz0NANFq7SSrAyF4cOj6OQ
AMo1KqrI+1KpZa7Os/AaZXrlu6vcsmVjCR/x15g0XePRDseMYw0dMqu5fE0VEbmx
UuHTOk9ocTYPr8cdT5h7aDpdTVtfQOgIngeNHtOkVohggvt3MiS0PUWwJQCg/ytm
CzTxPuockcXQi12w5R+wLGcEAKpsAEhQQT0Lm7N/LWETGbIFAYg5yPqIpm7JQV9u
7IOk/i8uzeXp2y27WTOYwrnlmdLL3eSTThd308CUxyPg46eGITv2jb1jDb2/bp9D
c1+mESXOYcyvj9havINwhx+OsEp64PlhmBlVtFGvS1XddiLhJv4VaYYqZlELqwo5
-----END BITCOIN CONTAINER-----


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December 30, 2011, 02:43:34 PM
 #19

Does that already exist as a private key?  The only thing "missing" is a good/easy and user friendly import or sweep option in the client.
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December 30, 2011, 06:56:38 PM
 #20

The Bitcoin container should contain not only the private key but also the funding transaction output. This allows the receiving client to create a transaction that sends to its own wallet without scanning the entire block chain. Scanning the block chain is a long and painful task and is not going to be less painful going forward.

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