I have been experimenting with getting an OTC loan of BTC to be repaid in BTC but also backed with the promise of dollar value. It's an interesting way of seeing how the WoT interacts with the real world, etc.
Anyway, it led me to the general idea that there might be benefit to an easier USD escrow technique. This would be a way to avoid the fees and fixed-referee nature of the commercial bitcoin escrow services: is there a place where USD escrow can be done more in the OTC spirit but in a standard format and backed by a real company?
StickK ( http://www.stickk.com/
) is a site designed to help people achieve personal goals. On it you can pledge to, say, lose weight. You put $X up against this goal and choose your own referees and recipients. If the referee says that you failed, StickK charges your pre-verified credit card and pays out to your designated beneficiary. Of course, that means that one potential downside is that both parties and the referee have to reveal themselves as real people to the site. I don't think that means they have to be revealed to each other, however, as the site uses screen names.
The point is that there is nothing stopping the "goal" being pledged from being the repayment of a loan or the keeping of one's own end of a financial/BTC transaction. A goal might even be written in code (unless someone else reads the T&Cs differently than me...I haven't gone through every word http://www.stickk.com/faq.php#policies
). In fact, the site even encourages people to escrow stakes in support of getting their mortgage payments in on time and so forth. It is implied that the person putting up the stakes/collateral is promising to try to meet his or her commitment, so it might be a violation of the T&Cs to just try to use the site as an easy USD credit-card to credit-card payment service.
It seems that when trying to escrow USD for an OTC bitcoin transaction, the problem is not just the administrative hassle, inability to choose your own referee, and fees. There is also the risk of chargeback, which limits the USD payment methods accepted and scares people away from the convenience and security of using credit card accounts. With StickK, the person who has put up USD stakes/collateral could still theoretically make a chargeback. However, if they did so, they would be ripping off a real company with a real ability to ruin their real-life credit, rather than simply creating a he said/she said situation with a counterparty who may have wanted to remain obscure or anonymous in the first place.