There’s a love-fest going on across the Web this week and the token of affection of choice is bitcoin.
Spurred by an explosion in adoption of and engagement with ChangeTip, the bitcoin micro-payments and tipping-focused platform, users on Reddit, Twitter, YouTube, and third party publisher sites are giving away free bitcoin to one another in enormous volume as a way to express their gratitude and simultaneously evangelize the currency.
ChangeTip isn’t new, but it’s found new life this week following seemingly unremarkable proposal of “Tipping Tuesday.” The Reddit bitcoin community subsequently created a giveaway subreddit /r/FreeBits that has become ground zero for the love fest, attracting more than 16,500 comments as of this morning. The tipping love has spread in force to a number of other subreddits like /r/beermoney, /r/art, and /r/argentina, where the tipping thread is now the most popular post ever in the six year old community.
Just two days later, a user going by the name of “President-of-Bitcoin” dubbed November 6th “Bitcoin Tip Day” and encouraged members of the community to begin spreading the love beyond the digital walls of Reddit, writing:
We need an EXPLOSION of tips here and OUTSIDE of Reddit!
Willing to drop $ 20 on a family member for any other holiday? Drop $ 10 for 10 strangers, and spread the love using bitcoin tips!!
November 6th is the day to tip!!
Link to changetip: https://www.changetip.com/faq
You can tip on… Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Github, GooglePlus, Tumblr, StockTwits, and Reddit!
ChangeTip, which this week launched its Tip.me embeddable publisher widget, has also spurred adoption by giving away $ 10 worth of free bitcoin to attendees of Stocktoberfest, Money 20/20, and other finance and technology focused conferences of late. The company also delivered a $ 50 tip to a reddit user who spotted a bug in its platform.
In a sign of the sheer volume of tipping activity, the /u/Changetip bot actually crumbled, briefly, under the strain. It’s one of those classic “good problems,” but was a problem nonetheless. The company announced late last night that its issues have been fixed.
Online tipping and micro-payments aren’t a new concept. Beenz.com and Flooz attempted to promote the idea, albeit unsuccessfully, during the first dot-com wave. TipJoy resurrected the idea in 2008 and received backing from Y Combinator, among others. But all of these platforms were pre-bitcoin, and thus lacked the financial rails to make distributing micro-payments economically feasible and efficient. ChangeTip, along with competitors, Cheers, and the creatively named Bitcoin Tip, among others, are once again trying to prove that tipping can be a mainstream behavior online.
What’s unclear at this point is whether ChangeTip and bitcoin tipping in general are spreading because those already bullish on bitcoin are gravitating toward it as a way to promote adoption, and thus drive up price (and sustainability) of the virtual currency, or whether mainstream Internet users have finally grokked the concept and this behavior could prove lasting.
There’s evidence to support the former, such as comments like those by reddit user /u/weatherman35, who said, “changetip brought me [to the /r/bitcoin subreddit] three days ago! I’m glad it walked me through the steps to collect and what to do.” Weatherman35 then received more than a dozen tips from enthusiastic users eager to make his first experience a positive one.
It’s been just a few days since bitcoin tipping took off to a meaningful degree. It will take far longer before we can declare this behavior as a trend, but there’s no doubt that the world is getting a glimpse this week of what the Internet would be like with a ubiquitous, free-flowing currency and a culture of spending freely online.
[illustration by Brad Jonas for Pando]