eBay CEO John Donahoe Is Bullish On Digital Currency, And He’s Keeping Tabs On Bitcoin

There’s no doubt that Bitcoin is getting plenty of attention these days — we’ve seen folks like the Winklevoss Twins and Chamath Palihapitiya throw their financial weight behind Bitcoin in a big way — but despite all that it still hasn’t been embraced by the teeming millions just yet

Arguably, all it would take is the support of one big name to get the ball rolling, and for months Bitcoin aficionados have wondered if eBay would be willing to take up that mantle. It’s not hard to see why — in a brief interview with the Financial Times, eBay president and CEO John Donahoe said that the company was keeping its eye on Bitcoin and that in the months and years to come, digital currency is going to be “a very powerful thing”.

Granted, Donahoe’s admission that eBay is monitoring Bitcoin is far from a ringing endorsement for the cryptocurrency, but this is hardly the first time he’s tackled the Bitcoin question in this way. He told the Wall Street Journal this past April that the company was “watching Bitcoin closely” and that there may be ways to fold eventually fold Bitcoin support into PayPal. And PayPal president David Marcus is perhaps just as fascinated with Bitcoin, as he noted on multiple occasions that the notion of embracing Bitcoin isn’t completely out of the question.

While some argue that warming consumer sentiments toward Bitcoin could reduce the need for services like eBay’s PayPal altogether, a potential tie-up of eBay and Bitcoin up needn’t be so contentious. Official eBay support of Bitcoin could mean (among other things) an expansion of the markets that eBay and Paypal are able to reach, and naturally one more (admittedly massive) place for Bitcoin hoarders to spend their funds. And eBay’s PayPal — with all its experience and support systems geared toward escrow — could conceivably act as a trusted middleman for Bitcoin transactions, a known quantity that may ease the qualms of Bitcoin newbies and facilitate smoother sales between established players.

eBay’s fascination with Bitcoin apparently doesn’t end with its brass either. Back in early September, a post appeared on eBay’s official Deals blog that posed a simple question to readers: “What’s the deal with Bitcoins anyway?” The story itself offered little in the way of answers, but the company apparently thought the subject was weighty enough to warrant embedding a YouTube video featuring what has to be one of the most layman-friendly Bitcoin explanations I’ve ever come seen. That video, which was uploaded by a user named B Sil who doesn’t seem to have ever touched the account again, proclaimed at the end that it was “brought to you by eBay Deals”.

Only time (or a chatty exec) will tell if eBay ever does make a grand overture toward the Bitcoin users of the world, or how strongly those users would react if such a thing ever happened. If eBay can’t be bothered to help legitimize Bitcoin and help itself in the process, the task may come down to startups like Circle which recently raised a $9 million Series A in a bid to make Bitcoin more accessible to consumers and merchants alike.

And as far as virtual currency buffs go, they’ll have to make do with other online shopping outposts and fortunately they have more than a few to choose from. Bitcoin payment processor BitPay recently surged past the 10,000 merchant mark (a vast majority of whom are located in the United States), and those looking for a slightly more eBay-esque shopping experience often turn to sites like Bitmit.