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Author Topic: Better Alternatives...?  (Read 1876 times)
roy
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May 16, 2011, 04:28:12 AM
 #1

I was speaking to a chinese friend and what he said made me wonder why the fuss over bitcoins.

In china their ebay-like website Taobao uses a service called Alipay that offers an instant, free, escrow-based transaction service.
-it's faster than bitcoins (instant)
-it's cheaper than bitcions (completely free, unless you use it a lot, similar to clearcoin)
-it's easier than bitcions to buy/sell

The only benefit I see with bitcoins is that the transactions can be anonymous. Also perhaps the fact that the currency is limited and controlled by a group rather than a government...

So that leaves me with two questions..
1.) why does the 'western' world seem so far behind?
2.) if this becomes the norm, what would it mean for bitcoins?
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May 16, 2011, 04:36:34 AM
 #2

Paypal *looks like* its free too as long as you are on the *sending* end. 
It is instant, chargeback-able and easy-to-use.

Annoy them in any way however, and you are toast with no recourse.

Bitcoins fundamental advantage in my opinion is that there is no middlemen. 
It is a *free* (in terms of control, not just cost) currency.
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May 16, 2011, 04:53:43 AM
 #3

Alipay, PayPal, etc are just services that merchants pay for. They can be built on top of any currency. The problem is that all good currencies get crushed by tyrannical governments (Liberty dollar, e-gold). Now we have one that can't (hopefully). You can build something like Alipay on top of bitcoin if you want (mybitcoin, clearcoin).

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unk
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May 16, 2011, 04:54:39 AM
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the major difference is decentralisation. bitcoin could be vastly simplified if there were a trusted third party. it is designed on the premise that there is not.

it's not clear that more centralized alternatives are 'better' in the way you suggest, though it's also not clear that they're 'worse'. it will shake out eventually, empirically. decentralisation has costs and benefits, and it's hard to know what will trump what in the future.

the usual analysis of decentralisation is perhaps too shallow. for example, it is not a panacea from a systems-security perspective. bitcoin simply aims to prevent 'one central party' from having control over the currency. it may or may not succeed in that, but even if it does, a group (perhaps a small group) may still be able to exert that control in practice. is that better or worse than a central bank? it's an open, empirical question, and it even depends on potentially controversial notions of what 'better' means.

one thought that isn't emphasized enough in most discussions: the existing market provides pretty good ways to decentralize control over the value that people save and invest. having more options doesn't hurt, but it's not immediately clear what niche those options will end up serving in the future. these questions are harder than i see people assuming in discussions here. for example, is one decentralized currency better than a decentralized group of currencies all managed by 'trusted' third parties who compete? that was the model of e-currency that analysts have been assuming since the 1990s, and to me it's not obviously better or worse than bitcoin.

bitcoin also probably doesn't change as much politically or operationally as people often think. as another example, to say 'inflation is theft and bitcoin prevents inflation' is too simplistic, for nobody is required to hold 'fiat currency' long-term even now. (even being required to pay taxes in it does not meaningfully coerce one into suffering the effects of inflation; indeed, monotonic inflation helps those who store value elsewhere and convert it to 'fiat currency' on the date taxes are due.) what bitcoin adds, specifically, is just decentralization of a single currency instrument. the practical advantages (and disadvantages) of that long-term have yet to be seen.
roy
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May 16, 2011, 05:37:14 AM
 #5

Paypal *looks like* its free too as long as you are on the *sending* end. 
It is instant, chargeback-able and easy-to-use.

Annoy them in any way however, and you are toast with no recourse.

Bitcoins fundamental advantage in my opinion is that there is no middlemen. 
It is a *free* (in terms of control, not just cost) currency.

There are no fees for sending or receiving using alipay.
The transactions can be instantaneous (relatively ofc).
Bitcoins has a middleman (the transaction fee & an escrow like clearcoin is required due to the cashlike nature of it). It doesn't have to, but that would be like doing a bank transfer in most countries. (free, no chargebacks)

Local currencies are a lot more convenient compared to bitcoins as you don't need to pay some service to buy the currency(mtgox 0.65%? 1% LRUSD? 2% EUR?). Local currencies are almost always readily available and at no extra costs...

How popular is the need for an anonymous decentralised currency? How much more are you willing to pay for a product for this priviledge....?
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May 16, 2011, 06:36:39 AM
 #6

How the hell does Alipay make money?

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May 16, 2011, 06:46:26 AM
 #7

Alipay isn't free. How could it be free? They charge 1% for all amounts exceeding 500 yuan (about $75 USD).

http://www.china-online-marketing.com/blog/online-payment/9-faq-to-learn-how-to-use-alipay/
NghtRppr
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May 16, 2011, 06:51:31 AM
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The only benefit I see with bitcoins is that the transactions can be anonymous. Also perhaps the fact that the currency is limited and controlled by a group rather than a government...

That's the two biggest selling points for me. I have no problem supporting credit cards, SMS, wire, check, etc. Those are all well provided for by many companies. I've dealt with most of the big names though they all seem to get gobbled up by Digital River at some point (which is why I bought stock in them). There are higher fees with those services than with Bitcoins but I pass that cost on to the customers anyways. I get what I want more or less at the end of the day. My issue is that the money I've earned is stolen from me directly, through taxes, and indirectly, through inflation. I look forward to a system that doesn't have these weaknesses. Bitcoin seems to be it.
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May 16, 2011, 07:06:23 AM
 #9

Alipay is an escrow, Bitcoin is an attempt at a store of value, and hopefully a currency. The implications are way different, that's like apples and oranges. As someone said, you can build implement Alipay over Bitcoin. What you have to compare is Bitcoins to Yuans.

bitcoin also probably doesn't change as much politically or operationally as people often think. as another example, to say 'inflation is theft and bitcoin prevents inflation' is too simplistic, for nobody is required to hold 'fiat currency' long-term even now. (even being required to pay taxes in it does not meaningfully coerce one into suffering the effects of inflation; indeed, monotonic inflation helps those who store value elsewhere and convert it to 'fiat currency' on the date taxes are due.) what bitcoin adds, specifically, is just decentralization of a single currency instrument. the practical advantages (and disadvantages) of that long-term have yet to be seen.

I think you omit a point: It is true that one isn't forced hold fiat, but several circumstances work against that. The first one is chronic poor investment. The grand majority of wealth is denominated in fiat, salaries are paid in fiat, dividends are paid in fiat, stocks are traded in fiat. The need to constantly convert increasing amount of fiat injected into the economy, and the fact that fiat forces you to invest, ends up in people investing it poorly, which in itself is detrimental to the economy as a whole.

Next, none of the alternatives to store your value outside of fiat currency is in itself a currency. Not to mention that those alternatives are kept under close watch by the state, like stocks or real estate. Only gold somehow gets away from that surveillance, but it isn't a currency either, and unlike stocks, it isn't electronic. Bitcoin isn't a currency yet, but it holds that potential and is on an electronic support already.

Lastly, whether you like it or not, you have to go through fiat in your daily transactions. The implication is that, since fiat is controlled by the government, it gives too much power to that government, power that a mere store of value cannot take away. On the other hand, a whole new currency that effectively isolates portions of the economy from the government's reach will have a sensible effect on the economy. That's for the political part. But we're not there yet.

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May 16, 2011, 07:08:42 AM
 #10

but just to play devil's advocate, nothing requires even now that you hold for any long-term period currencies that inflate. bitcoin doesn't change that. with regard to your holdings, it just gives you one more savings option. it's not a solution to inflation. it's perhaps a way of transacting easily with something that doesn't inflate, but you'd get that from (say) bullionvault if it implemented a payments system, or from everbank's currency and bullion services if you're in the united states.

and transacting with bitcoin very likely doesn't change your legal tax liability, compared to other transactional systems. whether it makes tax fraud easier is anyone's guess; most income, and certainly most final tax liability, isn't reported by banks or payment systems now anyway. it's self-reported, reported by employers, voluntarily reported, and so on.

when the speculation and musical chairs are over, what will be left is a vehicle for savings and transactions. bitcoin will properly stand or fall on that basis. there is potential irrationality in assuming (1) that the speculation itself is enough, for the speculation isn't productive and simply moves existing money around or (2) that bitcoin's strengths automatically make it optimal. it does have strengths, but it has weaknesses too.
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May 16, 2011, 08:25:33 AM
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but just to play devil's advocate, nothing requires even now that you hold for any long-term period currencies that inflate. bitcoin doesn't change that. with regard to your holdings, it just gives you one more savings option. it's not a solution to inflation. it's perhaps a way of transacting easily with something that doesn't inflate, but you'd get that from (say) bullionvault if it implemented a payments system, or from everbank's currency and bullion services if you're in the united states.

and transacting with bitcoin very likely doesn't change your legal tax liability, compared to other transactional systems. whether it makes tax fraud easier is anyone's guess; most income, and certainly most final tax liability, isn't reported by banks or payment systems now anyway. it's self-reported, reported by employers, voluntarily reported, and so on.

when the speculation and musical chairs are over, what will be left is a vehicle for savings and transactions. bitcoin will properly stand or fall on that basis. there is potential irrationality in assuming (1) that the speculation itself is enough, for the speculation isn't productive and simply moves existing money around or (2) that bitcoin's strengths automatically make it optimal. it does have strengths, but it has weaknesses too.

Yes I agree with your point that Bitcoin isn't some sort of magical solution against inflation, nor does it hold a monopoly on it. My point is that it is a proper store of value, that it has the potential of turning into a currency (so far we don't disagree yet) and that it is better at it than other alternatives (point of dissension).

Compared to stocks and real estate, it isn't coped by the government, compared to gold, it is electronic and easier to secure and traded while remaining decentralized, compared to the options you cited, like bullionvault or everbank, it does not require to go through a middle man that might be subject to governmental pressure.

The government can pressure your bank to freeze your assets. Sure you can have most of your wealth in gold, but you lose the convenience. Two of the major reasons the concept of store of value and currency were created are the need for convenience and security. I think you're too quick to discard how Bitcoin offer these properties: even though there exist mediums of exchange that are more convenient than Bitcoin, they are nowhere as secure. Even though there exist mediums of exchange that are more secure than Bitcoin, they are not as convenient.

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May 16, 2011, 08:32:21 AM
 #12

OP is trying to compare apples to oranges.

Alipay is a service.

BTC is a store of value/currency.

End of discussion.
roy
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May 16, 2011, 09:01:57 AM
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How the hell does Alipay make money?

It seems banking services in china work a lot faster than they do here (UK)... The UK has only recently been able to make EFTs in 2 hours or less between most banks, still on average it will take 3 working days.
Also Alipay works as an escrow service for this. They charge nothing for transfers under 5000RMB which is more like $750, and 1% for transactions made over this (like clearcoin, but without any bitcoin transfer fees!)
They make money off other services like alibaba. Even their ebay like service Taobao seems to be relatively free compared to ebay.

Alipay isn't free. How could it be free? They charge 1% for all amounts exceeding 500 yuan (about $75 USD).

http://www.china-online-marketing.com/blog/online-payment/9-faq-to-learn-how-to-use-alipay/
It only charges when over 5000RMB for verified users. Which is a lot of free spending, considering how much stuff costs in china Smiley


With services like this out there.. I think globalisation should be a greater fear for banking related businesses than bitcoin.
roy
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May 16, 2011, 09:20:52 AM
 #14

OP is trying to compare apples to oranges.

Alipay is a service.

BTC is a store of value/currency.

End of discussion.

Sorry, but there's more than just Alipay being compared here. Alipay is like clearcoin, but only because of the banking system provided in china.
They have no transaction fees and transactions are faster than bitcoin. As a consumer being paid in the local currency, bitcoin offers no real advantage for purchasing online (in fact it's worse in this situation..)
Also when dealing with LRUSDs, PPUSDs, DWOLLAs one can describe them as currencies.. so I don't see an issue with alipay being used in this manner.
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May 16, 2011, 09:47:13 AM
 #15

I think you're right roy, dump your coins and move on to something more promising. You can unload any stupid useless bitcoins you have to the address in my sig before you uninstall the client. Smiley

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roy
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May 16, 2011, 10:30:35 AM
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I think you're right roy, dump your coins and move on to something more promising. You can unload any stupid useless bitcoins you have to the address in my sig before you uninstall the client. Smiley
i dont think i have any stupid useless bitcoins, theyre all too inteliigent Cheesy

dont get me wrong, i wish bitcoins success, but i also think it's worth looking at it from different perspectives...
i think bitcoins currently needs:
-more ways of getting btc (exchanges)
-more merchants offering clearcoin
because it will help fund gavin (which i think he deserves), and it provides more confidence/security in the system.
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May 16, 2011, 10:32:29 AM
 #17

I think you're right roy, dump your coins and move on to something more promising. You can unload any stupid useless bitcoins you have to the address in my sig before you uninstall the client. Smiley
i dont think i have any stupid useless bitcoins, theyre all too inteliigent Cheesy

dont get me wrong, i wish bitcoins success, but i also think it's worth looking at it from different perspectives...
i think bitcoins currently needs:
-more ways of getting btc (exchanges)
-more merchants offering clearcoin
because it will help fund gavin (which i think he deserves), and it provides more confidence/security in the system.

I agree. There's a lot to be built for this thing. It's like some sort of new America.

1Q1yKUsSXr4KrxriJ4VRxhs6iS1WqBVL93

For your daily bitcoin updates, all you need are these...
http://thebitcoinsun.com/ and http://bitcoinweekly.com
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