Coinbase Launches Bitcoin-Based Tips, Micropayments

At the inception of the commercial web, it was arguably a mistake that the industry went down an advertising-based route for supporting content.

Some have speculated that had payments been built into the browser and the web itself, we would have substantially different online properties from search to social networking to online media.

Perhaps that reality can be corrected with Bitcoin.

Coinbase, which is one of the biggest Bitcoin wallets in the world and is backed by Union Square Ventures and Andreessen Horowitz, is launching a micropayments feature.

“The whole Internet has this free tier that is monetized by ads and then there’s this step function up to paid products that requires a bit of a burden,” said Coinbase CEO Brian Armstrong. “From a longer-term point of view, you could think of this as an experiment against advertising. It might be a better monetization method in certain situations.”

More than 30 percent of orders through Coinbase’s network are already $1 or below. The promise of crypto-currencies is that they can facilitate transactions with substantially lower fee structures.

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With a Bitcoin tip button, you’ll be able to receive and make micropayments to any Coinbase user or other Bitcoin wallet. (It’s interoperable because the company wants to promote the overall health of the ecosystem.)

If you’re on the sending side, it works sort of like Facebook Connect where you’ll need to be logged into Coinbase’s network.

The default tip size is 300 bits or about 10 cents, but you can customize that. Coinbase doesn’t charge a fee and doesn’t plan to for the foreseeable future. The company has a number of launch partners from Fred Wilson’s AVC blog to Beacon Reader to Dustin Curtis’ blog.