Why I Built cointipping.com

Problem: owning cryptocurrency is hard.¬†That’s right, just owning it. Most people have no idea where to start. Want to buy bitcoins? Sure, you can sign up for any of the major exchanges. You just need a bank account, a credit card, a phone number. Fill up these forms with black ink and go to the next window. Most people on this planet won’t even bother unless they have a compelling reason. If you own cryptocurrency, have you convinced any friends or family members to even take your crypto-money as a gift? At the very least you’d have to create a “paper wallet” for them, or help them install geeky software that’s easy to screw up (Bitcoin Qt, I’m looking at you).

The idea for cointipping.com came to me a few weeks ago, after having dinner with my friend Sean Grove. He has a habit of insisting on paying for our dinners, and likes to refuse my cash. After sharing some delicious Chinese, I told him I’d send him some Dogecoins for my share of the check. He could refuse my dollar bills, but he’d have to take my crypto-coins.

When I got home, I told Sean to get a Cryptsy account and tried to do an internal transfer of 35k dogecoins. I gave him my referral link, he opened an account, I asked him for his internal trade key (33c21fd675a31442d263dcd923ce974ba71425f1). I made the transfer, and it took about three days for the coins to show up on his Cryptsy account. We never knew exactly why.

I didn’t want to create work for Sean, so the alternative would have been to print out a paper wallet with 35k dogecoins and give it to him. It would look like this:

Dogecoin paper wallet

What would you do if I gave you a piece of paper with that on it? Probably file it in a drawer and forget about it. ¬†Enough is enough, I thought. In the famous words of Samuel L. Jackson, I’d had it with the monkey-fighting bureaucracy in this Monday-to-Friday blockchain. Why couldn’t it be as easy as getting this in front of Sean’s face?

tip-example

Let’s reduce the barrier to entry, shall we? Nobody needs to download software or create a wallet to take your cash. You’ll grab my $20 bill even if you don’t have your wallet with you, or if you can’t look up your bank account number.

So about three weeks ago I went into a coding frenzy and came back to the surface with cointipping.com in its current form. Sure, it’s an MVP. It reeks of Bootstrap, and it lacks some basic usability features (thanks Sean for all your help with the UI, the technical details would make for an interesting post). I try to be security-conscious, and I’m backing up everything hourly. Still, there is no guarantee that the site won’t go up in flames, losing $25 worth of dogecoins in the process (that’s the current amount in the online wallet). Forgive me, I’m just one rusty old hacker.

Still, it serves one purpose: it does make it really easy to put dogecoins in the hands of people who know absolutely nothing about cyptocurrency. Sean can leave his coins on the site and forget about them until it’s worth his time to figure out what to do with them. He could withdraw them whenever, of course. He can always tip other people through the site, some of whom might withdraw them straight to their wallets. Easy breezy beautiful!

Before all my readers rush to deposit their life savings into cointipping.com, let me warn you:

This is a flimsy little site that I developed as a side project. It may get hacked. It may disappear. I respond for all the funds deposited, but I may get hit by a bus. Think of this as some loose change you may carry in your pocket to drop into a tip jar at a coffee shop. Maybe one day it will be a bank, but most likely it won’t. Don’t risk any money that you wouldn’t mind forgetting in the pocket of a shirt that you just took to the laundromat.

With all that out of the way, happy tipping. To the moon, fellow shibes!

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