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EBay eyes Bitcoins

November 4, 2013

E-commerce group eBay is preparing to enlarge the number of digital currencies it accepts, reportedly also considering incorporating Bitcoins. The move could end the Internet currency’s niche existence.

"Bitcoin accepted here" sign at door of bar in Berlin Kreuzberg.Foto: Jens Kalaene/dpa
Image: picture-alliance/dpa

Under efforts to expand its PayPal payment system, eBay was also watching Bitcoins, the e-commerce platform's Chief Executive John Donahoe told British business daily Financial Times.

In an interview published Monday, Donahoe described digital currencies generally as a very powerful thing in future. Initially, however, eBay was focusing on incorporating reward points from retailers' loyalty schemes into its PayPal wallet, he noted.

"There is a limit to how many cards you will carry, or remembering what points you have or don't. But in a digital wallet, you can put 50 different loyalty cards," Donahoe said.

The very same technology could accept digital currencies such as Bitcoins, he added.

Bitcoins, which started circulating in 2009, are a form ofelectronic moneythat is independent of the traditional banking system and central bank oversight. In recent years, Bitcoin has garnered attention from venture capital firms and investors who believe the virtual currency could become the future of online payments. However, Bitcoin has also gained a reputation for facilitating drug deals and money laundering.

Nevertheless, earlier this year Germany became the first country in the world to accept Bitcoin as a private currency, and last week the first Bitcoin ATM was inaugurated in Vancouver, Canada.

World gets its first Bitcoin ATM

EBay has in recent years sought to bring more large retailers on to its e-commerce platform, which started as an auction side for small traders. Therefore, the firm has formed partnerships with loyalty programs, allowing customers to collect points when they spend their money through eBay.

The platform's efforts may raise the possibility that virtual currencies such as Bitcoin may one day move beyond the niche role they currently have.

uhe/mz (dpa, Reuters, AFP)