Overstock.com officially began accepting Bitcoins as payment for its thousands of products on January 9, 2014. This is wonderful news for the entire Bitcoin community because to date, most online stores accepting Bitcoins have been noticeably small or otherwise less than perfect. Overstock.com, on the other hand, is a very large retailer that sells everything from keyboards to mattresses to toothbrushes. The company is even traded on the New York Stock Exchange. This should bring great benefits to cryptocurrency as a whole and I suspect that others, perhaps Amazon, will follow much sooner than people might think.
There could be a long list of perks that arise as a result of this news but I think most of them can be summed up in two ways. The first is simply that people have a new and exciting place to spend their Bitcoins. Overstock.com sells all kinds of things and for many, it will now be much easier spend their cryptocurrency directly rather than suffer the extra hassles and expenses of exchanging it for dollars first. Even those who have fiat currency available might prefer to use Bitcoins just for the fun of it. Others might want to avoid the security risks associated with using a credit card online. Regardless of the exact reasons, many people will benefit simply by having a large and reputable place to use their coin.
The other way that this news will advance the Bitcoin community is by generating new interest in the currency. Overstock.com reaches thousands of consumers and that Bitcoin logo on the checkout page should catch the eyes of many of them. Some might Google it just out of curiosity. One very common question in casual Bitcoin conversation is, "What can you do with it?" And now, a meaningful answer to that question can be, "Well, Overstock.com accepts it!" This could cause many who previously would have dismissed the idea cryptocurrency to consider it somewhat more legitimate. Ultimately this should spread the word and lead to even more Bitcoin adoption by both consumers and retailers.
In fact, the Chairman and CEO of Overstock.com, Patrick M. Byrne himself said, "Other online companies will have to follow suit soon." Personally, I believe that Amazon has no reason whatsoever not to jump on the Bitcoin train as soon as possible. Let's face it, the two companies are big competitors and we know that there are lots of people dying to spend their Bitcoins at Amazon. The stores sell many of the same products so if Amazon sits on the sidelines, they will likely lose many potential customers.
In addition, Bitcoin is extremely easy to integrate with an online store. Many shops can begin accepting Bitcoin in minutes with a payment processor like BitPay. Even if they do not trust the currency at all, BitPay can convert the funds into fiat instantly, so a retailer never has to touch a Bitcoin if it does not want to. Sure, it might be a little more complicated for Amazon simply because of their gigantic range of products and customers, but I am sure they can figure it out. They might have a complicated set of subscription services like Amazon Prime, micropayment products like eBooks, music, and apps, and customers from all over the world, but that also means they should be able to figure out how to accept Bitcoins without too many problems.
One other interesting note is that Overstock.com chose to use Coinbase as their payment processor. This is not at all a bad thing, but it did surprise me given the recent growth of BitPay. It will be interesting to watch the two payment processors compete for big names in the future.