Why Bitcoin Cash needs recurring payments and a roadmap that goes beyond protocol features
The world's most famous Porn site, Pornhub, has recently received some well-deserved bad press for not reacting properly when people upload illegal content to its site. As a reaction to this, major payment providers Mastercard and Visa banned Pornhub from using them as a payment option. They are following the example of the number one online payment service PayPal, who already made the same decision in 2019.
This effectively destroys Pornhub's chances to keep their business alive in an already very difficult time. They certainly made big mistakes, but I am sure many will agree that they do not deserve to have to close shop over this.
These news made me wonder why companies like Pornhub don't put more focus on supporting and advertising payments via cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin (BTC) or Bitcoin Cash (BCH) in the past. On first glance, there seems to be clear benefits of paying with cryptocurrencies:
No chargeback risk: PayPal and credit cards make it easy for customers to get their money back, e.g. if they claim to their angry wife that they totally didn't pay for a subscription
Secret payments that don't show up: I imagine most Pornhub subscribers do not want the charges visible on their bank or credit card statement. Paying with a cryptocurrency doesn't have this issue.
Anonymous payments: celebrities, politicians, pastors and paranoid users would probably refrain from subscribing using PayPal, bank transfers or credit cards anyways because they link the payment to their real name. Cryptocurrencies allow you to stay anonymous, some more so than others.
Nobody can stop you from using it: Migrating from a payment provider because your services were deemed negative for their reputation is very expensive. You may lose active subscriptions. With cryptocurrencies, you can receive payments without the need for a 3rd party.
On the flipside, typical arguments against accepting cryptocurrency payments are:
lack of adoption: while many people have heard of Bitcoin (BTC), not many use it yet. Even fewer have heard of Bitcoin Cash, which is arguably a major upgrade from Bitcoin while sticking to its original values.
expensive fees: the "biggest" cryptocurrencies Bitcoin (BTC) and Ethereum can have fees of up to $10 per transaction. This makes them unsuitable for most day-to-day payments like a $7.99 Pornhub subscription. It was the reason why the game store Steam stopped accepting Bitcoin in 2017. .
they don't scale well enough: For some reason many crypto developers think that companies are holding back from accepting crypto because their transaction capacity limit is too low.
While some of these arguments are valid against other cryptocurrencies, I think that they would not stop us in convincing a company like Pornhub to build their business on Bitcoin Cash:
User adoption will follow if companies like Pornhub clearly maket the benefits of Bitcoin Cash.
Bitcoin Cash has fixed the fee issue. By increasing the size of the blocks storing the transaction whenever necessary, transactions only cost a cent. It is mostly held back by the bad reputation Bitcoin (BTC) has caused by keeping their blocks small intentionally.
The scaling issue is a fallacy. Companies understand that processing and storage gets cheaper every day and that today's artificial limits can easily be increased if the usage justifies it. Today, Bitcoin Cash is at 0.3% of its capacity (100KB average blocks out of 32MB possible) with proven easy steps to increase it much further (scalenet).
When we think about increasing adoption today, too many people are focusing on protocol features. SLP, block size increase, pre-consensus and new OP codes for reversing the byte order are certainly nice implementation details but ultimately I highly doubt a potential business user would be asking for any of them. They obviously still have merit but they are not what is stopping Bitcoin Cash from taking over the world.
I believe that real businesses care much more about actual use cases like the ability to collect recurring payments. Getting a customer to perform a payment is hard enough once, but to do it monthly is pretty much impossible because people are lazy or forgetful. As a business, you want to convince the customer to enter his payment details once and then not to worry about it again for recurring payments if he enjoys your service.
That is the reason why so many companies offer "almost free" $1 trials. Once the payment method is established, the lazyness works in the company's favor: many people just keep the service running because canceling would take a few clicks and they might just use it again next month.
This is why the Bitcoin Cash community must put recurring payments at the top of their priority list. It would be a huge unique selling point for Bitcoin Cash. Large subscription companies like Amazon Prime, Netflix, Disney Plus, HBO Max etc. will never adopt cryptocurrencies without that capability. Neither will any gym or sports club or other companies charging monthly fees.
The first step is writing down requirements for such a service. While I am not a crypto developer, I can write a rough first draft of what such a feature would require to be successful for a business perspective:
No "top up" needed: bank transfer work as long as you have money in the bank account. Credit card payments sometimes even work if you have no money in the account. Either way, as long as the user has funds in their wallet, the subscription payment should keep coming.
No need to be online: remember, companies want their users to forget about the service. If you need to launch your wallet or open a website for the next payment to be made, too many payments would be forgotten.
Amounts to be paid can be specified in a real world currency (probably requires what developers call an "oracle" for reliably converting the amount into BCH)
The pre-Authorization should allow for amounts you don't have a balance for yet: If you sign up for a service, they will not ask you how much money you have in your bank account. If you have it available or will add the funds later, the system should still work
A change of rates after a given period should be possible with pre-given consent. This is needed to allow for a free or cheaper first period followed by the full subscription.
The feature must be widely available for users of that cryptocurrency: if only some obscure wallets support such a feature, the company will have to do too much education. It must be something that users of this cryptocurrency get easily get familiar with.
Obviously, these requirements should be refined by talking to the right people at these companies, for example starting with Pornhub. Not only will this give invaluable feedback, they may also be interested in helping to build it or to at least use it once it is available.
Which leads us to the biggest challenge here: to actually build it. Someone has to transfer these requirements into a technical proposal that then has to be manifested in code. Jason Dreyzehner already wrote a detailed technical proposal called "CashChannels" that covers some of the listed requirements. He could start a flipstarter for it, or we could set a bounty for whoever implements the refined requirements and adopts the first major merchant.
Another path would be to get Roger Ver and Bitcoin.com to collaborate with Pornhub on such a feature. Surely they have a painful need and Roger's team is known to implement new ideas quickly.
When I originally came to these conclusions, I was wondering why this feature doesn't show up on the ABC roadmap. Surely it was not an original idea. By a quick google search I did find the CashChannels proposal mentioned above. But even as a daily visitor of /r/btc I had not come across this idea before. I think the reason is that we still think too much of Bitcoin Cash as a protocol as opposed to a solution and an ecosystem. Another indicator of this is how little the topics marketing and branding are discussed in the community or included in any roadmaps. We also don't talk enough with real businesses and try to understand their needs. Surely there are crypto supporters in these large companies that could tell us or internally ask what it would take to adopt Bitcoin Cash as a payment option. We need to reach them.
I have a lot of work experience in tech companies. Releasing only a tech or feature roadmap like the one originally written by Bitcoin ABC is a bad idea if it is not derived from a company roadmap and vision that justifies it. In our case, that would be a community roadmap and community vision, which obviously is a bit harder to come up with in a collaborative way. I think Amaury never understood that part. Maybe he had a vision in his head, but he never shared it. We should not ask
1) "what do we build?"
Instead, the right process is:
1)"what do we want to accomplish?" (vision)
2) "what are the steps to accomplish that?" (marketing, branding, strategy, technology, features) and only then do
3) "how should the marketing look like", "how should our branding be", "how do we build the technology?", "which features do we implement first"
The good thing is that most other cryptocurrencies don't seem to have this either. At least none of the Bitcoin derivates. So it is a huge chance for us to overtake them if we find ways to discuss and decide upon these things in a collaborative manner.
I don't have all the answers. I have a very busy life already and even my time for writing articles like this is unfortunately quite limited. But I want to start a discussion. I want to encourage others to get involved in this process. If more people with a business background get involved, even if they just write articles and take part in discussions, I believe we can generate a lot of buzz and a lot of value together.