Since Overstock.com began accepting Bitcoin payments earlier this month, the cryptocurrency community has been buzzing with speculation about which tech company will integrate Bitcoin next. o Jarar Malik decided to ask.
“After the whole Overstock thing, I said ‘f–k it,’” says Malik, a Bitcoin early adopter, online marketing manager and musician with a following in Pakistan. “‘Let me email the head guys at a bunch of tech companies and see what they say.’”
He started with Jeff Bezos and Tim Cook, asking if Apple or Amazon had any plans for the cryptocurrency. No response. Then he tried the Google triumvirate Larry Page, Sergey Brin and Eric Schmidt. When they also ignored him, he moved down a rung to Google’s Senior Vice President Vic Gundotra.
To his surprise, Gundotra wrote him back. He also forwarded Malik’s query to another Google staffer and started a series of email exchanges that led to one Googler telling Malik that the company is indeed pondering how it can make use of the world’s first form of decentralized digital cash.
“We are working in the payments team to figure out how to incorporate bitcoin into our plans,” wrote Google Senior VP of Ads and Commerce Sridhar Ramaswamy at one point in the email exchange that Malik forwarded to me. He promised to get back in touch “when we are a little more sure.”
When Malik posted Ramaswamy’s response to the Bitcoin forum on Reddit and immediately got an positive response from the site’s bitcoiners, Google Wallet exec Ariel Bardin followed up by asking Malik to serve as a moderator on a Google survey posing the question “What would I want Google to do with Bitcoin?”
I reached out to Google, and the company responded in a very different tone, but didn’t deny that the comments Malik posted to Reddit were real. “As we continue to work on Google Wallet, we’re grateful for a very wide range of suggestions,” a spokesperson writes. ”While we’re keen to actively engage with Wallet users to help inform and shape the product, there’s no change to our position: we have no current plans regarding Bitcoin.”
Malik isn’t deterred. “They’re not dismissing it,” he says. “Maybe this will force their hand.”
Although it hasn’t adopted Bitcoin into any of its products, Google has been more Bitcoin-friendly than most other major tech firms. While Apple hasn’t allowed a single Bitcoin client into its iOS app store, dozens of Bitcoin wallets are available for Android. And in 2011, Eric Schmidt said at the Mobile World Congress that the company’s co-founders once considered introducing a Bitcoin-like virtual currency called Google Bucks, which he discouraged for regulatory reasons.
But some sort of Bitcoin integration could offer a boost to Google in its digital payments competition with Paypal. And Overstock.com illlustrated the buzz that Bitcoin adoption can generate earlier this month when it received $130,000 worth of Bitcoin sales in its first day accepting the currency, mostly from new customers.
Redditors certainly seemed wild about the idea. “I would love for google to make it possible to pay with bitcoin on most shops I come across,” wrote a user named Sturmhardt. “This is HUGE guys. I’ll move over to Google+ if this turns out to be true… ;-)” wrote a user named maxilllian.
As for Malik himself, he’s holding out hope that Google will make Bitcoin as ubiquitous and easy to use as Gmail. “Google is integrated in every part of our lives,” he says. “I’d like to see them let us send payments back and forth the same way we use email…to incorporate Bitcoin into our daily DNA.”