Azteco Bitcoin: BTC for the masses

February 13th, 2014

For the last two years, we have been developing our latest project “Azteco”. It is the easiest way to buy Bitcoins, of which we have written some blog posts previously.

Our first Azteco outlet is now open in Shoreditch at 19 Goulston Street. There, you can buy an Azteco voucher and then redeem it at https://www.azte.co immediately. You only have to wait 70 seconds to receive your bitcoins.

Azteco vendor sites can be described as an “ATM-less ATMs”. Another way of putting it is that we have created virtual ATMs in software. This has an obvious advantage over physical ATMs; we do not have to manufacture and ship them. We can set up a new vendor in minutes, no matter where they are in the world. We do not have any physical parts to assemble and maintain, and we can control a vendor’s account in a fine grained way, instantly. Azteco is orders of magnitude more efficient and flexible than any Bitcoin ATM.

The current thinking about bitcoin has been shaped by the first businesses built around it, the exchanges. This has lead directly to Bitcoin being perceived as an investment that is traded on stock exchange style platforms, with all the problems of people staring at graphs, failing to see the wood for the trees. Bitcoin has had an interesting and exiting start, and this situation is bound to become even more exiting as bitcoin spreads through the population.

Bitcoin is not an investment. Bitcoin is not money. The way to think of it, is to say that bitcoin is a non-disposable, recyclable postage box that you can use to send money. It can be thought of as an unforgeable entry in a public ledger. These boxes or ledger entries, because they are scarce, have a utility and value to the people who want to use them. It is important not to mistake the pipe or the box for what it carries, and in order for Bitcoin to be thought of as a way to buy things online, two things need to happen.

Firstly, the software that will help merchants integrate Bitcoin into their shopping carts needs to be developed. This is happening.

The second thing that needs to happen is that the way bitcoins are bought needs to be augmented by a very simple widespread service that has nothing to do with the public interfacing with an exchange. That is what Azteco is.

Azteco allows you to buy bitcoins in the same way that you buy mobile phone credits. You take cash or your credit card to an Azteco agent at any one of our outlets, buy an Azteco voucher and then redeem it at our website. When you redeem your voucher it is sent to the bitcoin address you specify on the Azteco site.

This means that when you want to buy something online, all you need to do is pop round to your local store and then send the bitcoins directly to the merchant or yourself. If you do not want to run the bitcoin client yourself, you do not have to. You can buy things with bitcoins easily, with a minimum of pointless waiting, fuss or technical knowledge; all you have to be able to do is type in a voucher number and copy and paste a bitcoin address. Everyone already knows how to redeem mobile phone top up vouchers, so the learning curve with Azteco is essentially zero.

This has clear applications for sending small amounts of money anywhere in the world to anyone, not just to merchants. Imagine that there has been a disaster somewhere, and people need money to help recovery. All that is needed is for them to display a Bitcoin addres QR code on TV or in a newspaper, and millions of people can send Bitcoin to it. They can send anything from one Pound, Euro or Dollar upwards, all without ever having to interface with a bank or a charity. The implications for charitable donations and servicing the unbanked are huge; now, people without access to the financial system can recieve money from anywhere in the world instantly, in any amount, without the possibility of fraud.

It means that e-commerce, world-wide is going to explode, as the 2.2 billion unbanked get access to Bitcoin. Clearly, anything that slows this adoption down or makes Bitcoin more difficult to use is anti-human, and of course, any country that enacts legislation that affects Bitcoin is going to be excluded from profiting from this revolution. The simpler Bitcoin services are, and the more relaxed the country entrepreneurs are working on, the quicker this transformation can take place, for the benefit of all mankind.

The number of bitcoins that are used in commerce is relatively small right now. We expect this to change dramatically, and we expect to grow along with that increase in adoption of bitcoin. If other blockchains and bitcoin forks become popular, we can easily add them to the Azteco system so that people can buy the Bitcoin variants of their choice.

As we’ve said before, Bitcoin is a breakthrough in software engineering; the “Double Spending Problem” has been solved. Whoever it was that wrote Bitcoin, they built into it a dazzling array of potential applications that have nothing to do with moving money from A to B, and these applications are only now just being imagined and built. Bitcoin the money transporter and SWIFT replacement (or whatever else a developer or entrepreneur comes up with) is just the first of many new ways to use the Blockchain.

Thinking of Bitcoin as a tool to send money on demand, also removes a problem that many people who store their Bitcoin at exchanges are facing. Bitcoin spread out on millions of devices in small amounts is far less vulnerable than the Bitcoin of millions of people stored at a single site. Sites that have millions of accounts are a very attractive target for attacks of every kind, be they legal or hack attacks. A swarming cloud of millions of Droid phones and jailbroken iPhones running stand alone Bitcoin clients is akin to trying to wound fog with a sword. It cannot be done.

We’re looking forward to working on Azteco, rolling out new features and outlets. Follow us on Twitter @Azteco_ for the latest news.

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