eBay Inc. is finally going to start experimenting with Bitcoin.
On Monday, eBay announced that Braintree, the company’s payment processor subsidiary, would begin accepting the virtual currency in the “coming months.” According to Braintree CEO Bill Ready, who was speaking at San Francisco’s TechCrunch Disrupt conference, the company has partnered with Bitcoin exchange Coinbase in a move to “embrace” the relatively new form of payment.
While users will not yet see Bitcoin integrations in eBay’s marketplace or on PayPal, Braintree’s customers, which include Airbnb and Uber, will eventually be able to start accepting Bitcoin if they desire. Braintree provides payment processing software for companies and was acquired by eBay last year for about $800 million. The Wall Street Journal first reported that Braintree was exploring Bitcoin integrations last month.
“The reason why we were watching it up to this point is that a lot of things needed to be solved in order for us to have a leading use case,” said Ready. “There were regulatory questions and questions over whether it would be easy for merchants and consumers to use.”
Ready would not give specifics on which Braintree merchants would be integrating Bitcoin into their payment systems nor did he give an exact date on when users could expect beta programs to launch. He did make it clear that eBay was not investing in Coinbase and that it was only partnering with the the San Francisco-based Bitcoin startup, which provides users with online wallets to use the digital currency.
EBay CEO John Donahoe has long voiced his admiration for Bitcoin and other digital currencies, but has typically left experimenting to competitors. Smaller online retailers like Overstock.com and electronics seller Newegg have debuted Bitcoin payment methods on their sites as eBay has waited to enter the field.
“At PayPal, we’re going to have to integrate digital currencies into our wallet,” said Donahoe in a June interview with CNBC.
Braintree’s announcement is a step toward the complete acceptance of Bitcoin in the eBay universe, said Ready, who noted that the company wanted to ensure users’ safety and security before taking the plunge. Braintree also used Monday’s event to make its One Touch mobile payments program publicly available. The program allows applications that employ PayPal to accept user payments with a single tap from their phones, removing the need for username, password or credit card information entry.
“This is a significant change in the mobile buying experience,” said Ready. “Half of e-commerce shopping happens on mobile today, but mobile accounts for only 10 to 15% of sales. We want to bridge that gap.”