[Wikimedia-l] Let's accept Bitcoin as a donation method

Erik Moeller erik at wikimedia.org
Thu Jan 9 02:06:30 UTC 2014

On Thu, Dec 12, 2013 at 2:54 PM, Steven Walling
<steven.walling at gmail.com> wrote:

> In general, I would personally like it if the WMF avoided accepting
> bitcoin. Today, bitcoin isn't really a functioning currency of exchange --
> it's actually used more as an investment tool to create wealth that
> naturally appreciates in value, like playing the stock market or buying
> gold. Avoiding lots of risky investments is something our very competent
> financial managers already steer clear of, and I see no reason to start
> taking on more risk now.

While this is true, a more pragmatic view is that, as long as BTC has
value to some people, there's no harm in accepting it and transferring
it to USD the moment we receive any, provided legal/financial issues
can be addressed with reasonable effort.

The strongest counter-argument is that we might not actually get a
donation total that makes this worth our time. The Internet Archive
has a single-use Bitcoin address that's received a total of <$30K at
current (insanely high) exchange rates.

But for me, the main reason not do this sooner is that it would have
significantly fueled the Bitcoin speculative bubble, and WMF should
remain neutral on the utility of Bitcoin. At this point though,
whatever WMF does or doesn't do is just a small drop in the bucket of
the overall Bitcoin mania, so I'm personally fine with a decision
being made on pragmatic grounds alone.

My own view is that Bitcoin has significant design flaws (built-in
economic inequality, most rational actors will hoard rather than
spend, doubtful long-term scalability, questionable value as an actual
currency due to crazy volatility, tendency to centralize power with
miners, rampant security attacks against BTC holders, etc.), but as
long as no more severe technical flaws are discovered/exploited, at
least some value will likely attach to BTC for some time to come, even
if it's dramatically less than the current exchange rate.

With that said, I fully defer to our fundraising team on this since
it's a decision that should be made purely on cost/benefit grounds,
perhaps by also comparing with other currencies that see relatively
little use.

The one unambiguous positive that I see coming out of Bitcoin mania is
a renewed interest in peer-to-peer networks; the last time that
happened was about 12 years ago, and it resulted in technologies like
BitTorrent, Tor, various file sharing networks and many others being
developed. Experimenting is, overall, a good thing, and no matter how
this one plays out (and how exhausting a topic it can be given the
idiocy of coverage about it), I'm optimistic that we will see positive
ripple effects for the free culture movement.


[1] https://blockchain.info/address/1Archive1n2C579dMsAu3iC6tWzuQJz8dN
Erik Möller
VP of Engineering and Product Development, Wikimedia Foundation

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