When Blockchain Saves Customer Reviews, All of E-commerce Will Prosper

In the climate of click bait, unreliable journalists and “fake news,” it’s something of an unspoken rule that any you should take any opinion with a pinch of salt.

Professional review writing industries, as well as aggregates, have arguably been irrevocably tainted by financial interests. They are, after all, companies and as such have been formed with requirements (if not objectives) of creating opportunities for revenue generation: to pay the staff, cover overhead investments and ensure the ongoing development of the project.  

Issues that affect professional reviews are, however, are shared in many ways by user reviews as well; including unethical practices from retailers, review writers, product creators, and others. It does appear that our hallowed Blockchain technology could provide a solution to some, if not all of these if given a chance,  but first, it would do well first to consider what needs to be improved upon.

Problem #1: the conflicts of interest

Having an objective customer reviewer is all good and well but unless the website their review is posted on is managed by similarly minded managers & institutional practices, then there is no guarantee that the message will stay the same by the time it is published.

This is because, much like the professional magazines, the largest part of their revenue most often comes from advertisers and sponsors. To these investors, the audience is a valuable target – having established themselves as consumers by virtue of reading the content, to begin with, and as such, they are mostly comprised of those producers and retailers of the very products being covered by the publication.

There is, therefore, a clear conflict of interest between the review-hosting sites’ respective loyalties to their advertisers, and to their readers. The results of this can be manipulation of the review scores post-publication, censorship/omission of negative reviews, and the fabrication of positive reviews by the shop or manufacturer.

Problem  #2: The unreliable reviewers

Shills (Exhibit A)

Shills embody an end result of the aforementioned “conflicts of interest.” These particular individuals often manifest when one party who benefits the sale of a product approaches a reviewer (with either no reputation or with experience/trust-ability from the background) and persuades them to write positively about the product in question in return for a financial inventive or free products themselves.

This can even appear on well-known marketplaces such as Amazon (although compared to the accusations levied against them regarding employee welfare standards, I’d imagine it’s the least of their worries) and contribute to a negative perception of their reviews as being an “untrustworthy measure of quality,” according to Jeff Bercovici at Forbes.

He continues to describe the perpetrators as writers with a “vested interest – a friend, family member, [or] a fan” writing positive reviews” in addition to “notorious “sock puppets” created by novelists skilled in the practice of inventing characters and putting dialogue in their mouths.”

‘Review Bomb’ squads (Exhibit B)

Review bombing is a unique phenomenon which is most frequently associated with video-gaming and nerd culture. “The act of an organized group getting together and tanking the overall user review score.”

It is defined by the collective nature of the “attacks,” often represented by the proximity to which each is posted and to the aftermath of a certain event. They can also be identifiable in their conspiratorial nature, through semi-public announcements made on message-boards such as 4chan.

To clarify: not all instances of contradictory public opinion are examples of review bombs. A recent example presents a dichotomy between audience and reviewer opinions regarding the latest, post-Disney acquisition Star Wars film ‘The Last Jedi.’ It shows that the audience is somewhat active and reasoned in their criticisms.

Although if you were to listen to the politicized pundits, you would believe that everyone here (paying critics, who happen to disagree with their opinions) was a member of an organized “right-wing group.”

The conclusion: a Blockchain solution

A recently launched left-field ICO which appears (or at least claims) to have created a solution based on the Ethereum platform and its Blockchain to these highlighted concerns as well as much more you might not have even thought of. In fact, it is this company and their vision which inspired this piece.

Solution #1: The concern over review scores being manipulated or censored post-publication would be mitigated with Lina’s platform as all information would be stored on the public Blockchain, in addition to being backed up onto a private copy of said information (in a system called a ‘Hybrid Blockchain’). This means that nobody can tamper with it once it’s been submitted without the changes also being a public record.

Solution #2: Lina intents to tackle unreliable reviews by enlisting customers based on skill, experience, and ability. This is before monitoring their progress and customer approval in order to best determine future training/progress paths. With the project being an economy into itself, this allows for a form of compensation which encourages reviewers to contribute, which in turn helps to develop the ecosystem.

Lina.platform is a token based rating system, an economy whose value (and therefore the developer’s primary concern) is in the publication and promotion of high-quality objective reviews; as well as focusing on the development of popular and consistent writers for both prolific in content as well as audience bond.

Their ICO launched on Jan. 15, and you can read more about their detailed plans either on their website or by reading their whitepaper.


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OpenBazaar, the decentralized marketplace has spread across 183 countries. The announcement was made earlier yesterday by the company on its Twitter channel. The project, started small in a hackathon has now become an international product fueling global e-commerce, in a decentralized fashion.

The OpenBazaar platform has achieved the remarkable success of becoming a global product in less than a month of its launch. The platform was opened for public on the 4th of this month. There has been no turning back for the platform since then.

openbazaar-twitter

While OpenBazaar accepts the only bitcoin as the currency on its platform, its model is unique compared to other bitcoin-only sites that are available on the deep web. OpenBazaar can be better explained as a blend of eBay and BitTorrent that uses bitcoin for transactions. In order to use OpenBazaar, both buyers and merchants have to download and install the OpenBazaar application on their desktop. Once they have the software installed and running, they can create their accounts on the start buying and selling on the platform. Open Bazaar is a complete peer to peer platform that operates without interference from any company or government.

At the same time, there are no fees or additional charges for listing the products, selling and buying on the platform. However, in the case of disputes, OpenBazaar users can make use of moderators for resolving the disputes, in such cases, fees will be payable to the moderator involved in dispute resolution. The platform is able to operate on a zero fee model mainly due to its usage of bitcoin as the mode of transaction. Bitcoin being an open source, decentralized peer to peer transaction protocol is free to integrate and even the transactions happening over the Bitcoin protocol do not carry any transaction fee, except for a small fraction charged by the miners for enabling the transactions.

OpenBazaar was created by Brian Hoffman along with fellow contributors. the project itself is a fork of the DarkMarket project created by Amir Taaki, which was presented at the Toronto Bitcoin Hackathon in 2014. Based out of Washington DC, the project has already raised $1 million in seed funding from Andreessen Horowitz, Union Square Ventures, and William Mougayar.

For those who are new to OpenBazaar, a lot of independent developers and enthusiasts have created documentation and user manuals, most of which are freely available. There are also communities built around the e-commerce platform on Facebook, Reddit and other social media platforms where both buyers and sellers can interact with the OpenBazaar community as well as each other.

By using bitcoin and blockchain technology, OpenBazaar has changed the face of e-commerce, making it easy to use and accessible to everyone irrespective of geographical boundaries. With increased adoption of the digital currency technology, we can expect the boundaries that separate nations to disappear sooner than later.

Ref: OpenBazaar Image Courtesy of NewsBTC All Rights Reserved

A recent Business Intelligence report has touched upon the subject of Bitcoin as one of the disrupters in the payment processing ecosystem. The report received a special mention in an article concerning Bank of America Merchant Services’ plans to expand into Europe later this year.

Also read: Bitcoin Price Watch; Here are Today’s Entries…

Bitcoin will Change Payment Behavior

The primary goal for of any merchant services provider is to come up with new ways to make e-commerce more appealing to both consumer and business. This is one of the areas companies are likely to put their attention on, together with card-present and card-not-present transaction processing in Europe.

But there is more, as this initiative could help facilitate cross-border services, assuming banks can get their clients interested in this prospect. All of these new services could be offered together with all of the existing transaction features.

It comes as quite a surprise to find out their new report also makes mention of Bitcoin and digital currencies. Rather than taking a more negative stance to these potential disrupters in the payments industry, Business Intelligence seems to acknowledge the potential these concepts hold.

The report states the following:

“Devices ranging from refrigerators to smartwatches now feature payment capabilities, which will spur changes in consumer payment behaviors. Likewise, blockchain technology, the protocol that underlies Bitcoin, could one day change how consumer card payments are verified.”

Seeing the mention of blockchain as a utility to verify is not entirely unexpected, considering many leading finance institutions has been experimenting with this technology for quite some time now. Bank of America itself has filed for several blockchain-related patents over the past year and a half, which seems to indicate they have some significant plans for this technology.

Cross-border payments are another exciting area where both Bitcoin and the blockchain can make a major impact. Not only is it far cheaper and quicker to send payments with Bitcoin to anyone in the world, but the digital currency also removes the middleman from the equation. Moreover, the blockchain is available to everyone in the world, and can be used to create a financial ecosystem outside of the banking infrastructure.

Source: Business Insider

Header image courtesy of Business Insider UK

It is no secret that Visa and Mastercard will do everything they can to keep a firm grip on the payments industry all over the world. Credit cards are one of the most often used payment methods, even though the medium is not all that secure. Visa’s new project, called Visa Checkout, is getting a lot of attention from established brands who focus on online and mobile commerce.

also read: Ascribe Enables Users to Track their Digital Content on the Web Using the Blockchain

Visa Checkout Offers Interesting Services

When it comes to tackling the payment industry right now, businesses are exploring options in both the mobile and online world. Some countries, such as India, are seeing a major boom in mobile commerce, whereas the Western world sticks e-commerce for the time being. Visa Checkout offers a solution that can cater to both worlds while having a powerful brand processing the payments.

The main goal of any business is to attract more customers, which will, in turn, lead to an increase in sale numbers. Visa Checkout is – allegedly – more effective when it comes to conversion. Customers who start the checkout process through this solution are more inclined to complete the payment compared to alternative options.

Part of this success can be attributed to how Visa Checkout is active in 16 countries around the world, serving over 10 million consumer accounts. With a joint focus on both e-commerce and m-commerce, the feature created by Visa allows for easy and convenient purchases regardless of which device is being used.

In fact, Visa is one of the very first companies realizing how important the digitized aspect of our society has become in recent years. While traditional financial institutions are only now exploring the boundaries of mobile services, Visa Checkout has been available to businesses and consumers for slightly over 18 months now.

Other major brands – such as Starbucks, Match, and even NFL Shop – have inked a deal to take advantages of the features offered by Visa Checkout. Furthermore, Walmart.com has unveiled their plans to support Visa Checkout at a later stage this year. But at the same time, various companies in the Bitcoin sector are targeting these major brands as well and offer customers discounts of up to 20% to boot.

Enjoy Discounts At Starbucks With Bitcoin And Fold

There is no better feeling than enjoying a convenient method at your favorite store or coffee place. Starbucks’ customers have been able to pay with Bitcoin in various countries around the world for quite some time now. The best thing about this solution is how there is no additional hardware or software infrastructure required. Consumers simply have to install the Fold application on their mobile device.

Truth be told, the Fold app works in an ingenious way that makes it easy for everyone to understand. Top up the generated Bitcoin wallet with a certain amount of funds one wants to spend, and once the transaction is confirmed by the network, Fold will grant the user a Starbucks gift card for that specific balance. Or to be more precise, Fold will offer them that gift card value at a 20% discount.

This digital gift card can then be scanned by the cashier at Starbucks, and funds are debited from the account. Any unspent funds remaining behind will be reclaimed by Fold, and the user can then get their leftover Bitcoin balance back. All in all, this creates a very pleasant experience for the consumer and another frictionless transaction for Starbucks.

Offering such a large discount is one of the areas where Bitcoin will always have a leg up over its competitors. Accepting credit card payments can become cheaper, but customers will never see a discount of up to 20% by any means. Bitcoin, on the other hand, costs nothing to accept, as transaction fees are paid by the sender. This allows businesses to offer a discount if they so choose, or let an intermediary like Fold handle that part of the business for them indirectly.

Merchants have no excuse not to accept Bitcoin payments, as there is no cost involved for them to do so. Even though the popular digital currency has not become a mainstream trend just yet, any business should be prepared for the change that is coming to the financial world.  Every additional customer is beneficial to a business, and Bitcoin is the way a lot of us prefer to pay.

Source: Visa PR

Ebay is exploring the digital wallets niche and soon may be integrating bitcoin. Recently, Ebay has been trying to obtain a larger number of retailer clients on to its e-commerce platform, and now the company is looking to expand the number of digital currencies it accepts.

In an interview with the Financial Times, John Donahoe, chief executive at eBay, said “Digital currency is going to be a very powerful thing.”

Corporate initiatives are boosting the interest in digital wallets in order to facilitate online shopping. Banks, retailers, mobile and technology groups companies, are competing to use new mobile wallets to streamline the online payment process. For this, the company is working to expand the PayPal wallet which will make it accessible to virtual payment systems including digital currencies.

This sudden interest in mobile payment solutions is the latest front in a battle between international tech giants in trying to increase consumer reliance on their products. And to give a new look to the industry eBay’s Chief executive believes that e-commerce needs to combine a more utilitarian nature of shopping online, with the experience of real shopping.

Today, there is a belief that Bitcoin and other currencies represent the future of online payments. eBay’s is trying to increase the possibility that digital currencies may in time have a role in online commerce. The company has focused on new ways of paying with Fiat currencies, rather than with other kind of digital mediums of exchange such as reward points or Bitcoin.

John Donahoe stated:

“We are building the container so any retailer could put their loyalty points into the PayPal wallet.”

Ebay is on a run to stay on track with the newest innovations in the mobile payment space and recently teamed up with several companies and has started a plan focusing on incorporating reward points from retailers’ loyalty schemes into its PayPal wallet. With these partnerships, the company is also seeking to to allow customers to collect goods from 150 of the British retailer’s stores.

Even though John Donahoe said ebay was not expanding the PayPal wallet to include Bitcoins, he said the new digital wallet would be able to integrate and accept several other digital currencies.

This is certainly a sign that the way digital currency is seen by the online payment industry is changing and that we might soon see it embrace bitcoin.

Source & Image

The online Bitcoin Gateway platform Cubits announced a partnership with the online selling tools company EPrime Global. The partnership will enable e-commerce merchants around the world to activate bitcoin payments.

In recent years, many companies have seen the enormous potential of the bitcoin payment system to send money directly with almost no fees. Merchants have recognized the potential of this technology that can help them save millions in transaction fees.

Cubits is an all-inclusive platform to buy, sell and accept Bitcoin. Their easy-to-use interface allows users to buy and sell Bitcoin instantly with 17 supported currencies. The Cubits Wallet offers secure Bitcoin storage and easy Bitcoin transfers and payments. The company works in tandem with Onlinebanktransfer.com, Sofort, OK Pay, SEPA and Swift to offer their customers a fast and easy buy and sell process. Cubits’ flexible API allows merchants to accept Bitcoin immediately, offering various shopping cart plugins including Shopify, WordPress, Magento, Shopware or osCommerce.

Tim Rehder, Co-Founder and CEO of Cubits stated:

“At Cubits, we’ve always believed in the potential of Bitcoin to give fast, cheap, secure, and most importantly, unfettered transaction capabilities to merchants both large and small. Together with EPrime Global, more businesses will get the option to grow and thrive by accepting Bitcoin into their payment platform. For us, the partnership with ePrime gave us the opportunity to bring our payment functionality over Blockchain technology to a new dimension.”

Founded in 2014, Cubits is an all-inclusive platform to buy, sell and accept Bitcoin. Cubits_article_midimage_NewsBTCTheir easy-to-use interface allows users to buy and sell Bitcoin instantly with 17 supported currencies. The Cubits Wallet offers secure Bitcoin storage and easy Bitcoin transfers and payments. The company works in tandem with Onlinebanktransfer.com, Sofort, OK Pay, SEPA and Swift to offer their customers a fast and easy buy and sell process. Cubits’ flexible API allows merchants to accept Bitcoin immediately, offering various shopping cart plugins including Shopify, WordPress, Magento, Shopware or osCommerce.

Many merchants are now accepting Bitcoin, including Microsoft, Valve, and now, EPrime Global’s merchants. Now, merchants who have an account with EPrime Global will be able to accept credit cards, PayPal, as well as Bitcoin.

Source & Image

We have been covering a lot about the Indian Bitcoin ecosystem for a while now, and in a recent post we have discussed the various features offered by prominent Indian Bitcoin start-ups in an attempt to get more people to adopt and use Bitcoin in their day-to-day transactions.

Zebpay is one such Indian Bitcoin company which has made the process of Bitcoin transfer as easy as sending instant messages on WhatsApp or WeChat. Zebpay has recently started selling cash vouchers for e-commerce sites, which can be bought using Bitcoin. This way, the company is allowing its customers to indirectly use Bitcoin for shopping on selected Indian online stores.

In a recent communication with Sandeep Goenka, one of the founders of Zebpay, we were informed that the company is planning to sell prepaid mobile credits for Bitcoin in the near future. We asked him a couple of questions regarding Zebpay’s new features and more. This is what he had to say-

NewsBTC: What influenced Zebpay to offer its customers the option of buying Flipkart and Amazon vouchers with Bitcoin?

sandeep_colorSandeep: One of Bitcoin’s promises is to get the unbanked at par with the privileged rest of us. At Zebpay, we are working hard to fulfil this promise. In the first phase, we developed a mobile-only simple Bitcoin app targeted at regular people. Now in the second phase of our company, we are working hard to solve specific user needs.

Millions of Indians do not have credit / debit cards and are unable to participate in the e-commerce revolution in the country. However, now a Zebpay user can buy Bitcoin with his bank account and use them to buy vouchers of popular Indian e-commerce companies like Flipkart, Amazon, MakeMyTrip, BookMyShow, Dominos and more. Not only that, he will get 10% off on these vouchers, so he can buy, for example, a Flipkart voucher of INR 1,000 for INR 900 only via Bitcoin using Zebpay.

NewsBTC: How does it work?

Sandeep: Inside the Zebpay Android or iPhone application, a user can click on “Shop” on the home screen. He’ll then be able to see a list of vouchers that are available for purchase in his country. When he clicks on a voucher of his choice, he will see the price of the voucher after discount which is usually between 5-10%. He will also see the amount, in Bitcoin needed at the current exchange rate to buy the voucher. The user then clicks on “buy” and enters his 4 digit PIN to confirm the purchase. The respective amount in Bitcoin will be transferred from his Zebpay wallet and he receives a message with a voucher code. The user can use this code to shop on these e-commerce sites.

 The above process takes less than a minute.

NewsBTC: How was Flipkart’s reception towards this move? Do you think Flipkart and other e-commerce players in India will adopt Bitcoin as one of the payment options anytime soon?

Sandeep: The vouchers we sell are from 3rd party resellers which are appointed by these companies and the company is not directly involved. Rakuten, which is Japan’s biggest online store like Amazon and Flipkart started accepting Bitcoin 2 months back.

Merchants pay anywhere between 1-5% or even higher to accept credit card payments. As I mentioned, in India, millions of users do not have credit / debit cards unlike many Western countries. Online companies are struggling due to the lower adoption of credit/debit cards in the country. Everyone knows how Uber is struggling and experimenting with different digital payment methods in India.

If merchants accept Bitcoin, their cost can go down to less than 1% and this includes the cost to convert Bitcoin back to Rupees or Dollars. These companies are already studying the viability of accepting Bitcoin from technical and legal perspectives. It is only a matter of time before every business in the world accepts Bitcoin as a payment method. I believe in 1-2 years, we will hear the first big Indian e-commerce company starts accepting Bitcoin.

NewsBTC: How long do you think it will take for Zebpay to be the Paytm for Bitcoin? What do you think needs to change in the current situation for that to happen?

Sandeep: With the exponential increase in Bitcoin awareness and adoption, I believe in 3 years, Zebpay has the potential to become a global Paytm for Bitcoin, with our users using Zebpay to transact with merchants, buy vouchers, gift cards, airtime and more.

NewsBTC: Recently, there was news about banks withdrawing their service to one of the Indian Bitcoin exchanges.  Did Zebpay also face any challenges with regard to banking partners (in the past or present)? If so, how are you planning to deal with it?

Sandeep: The news is overblown. One Bitcoin company lost one banking partner. All other Bitcoin companies including ours continue to operate absolutely normally without any problems. The Bitcoin Alliance India which is an alliance of all Bitcoin companies along with Nishith Desai Associates, India’s top law firm are working hard to proactively represent Bitcoin and suggest best practices to RBI. Most Western countries have given Bitcoin a legal recognition and come out with Bitcoin friendly regulation.

In fact, progressive countries like Singapore and UK are working hard to attract Bitcoin companies to operate in their jurisdiction. Bitcoin is a precious resource like gold. It is easy to understand this and we are sure with all the positive news around Bitcoin, we will have favourable working conditions in India too.

If things go according to the way Sandeep has speculated, we can expect an increased Bitcoin adoption across the country in a couple of years along with \increased competition between Bitcoin businesses across the world to capture the maximum market share.