Payment Across Apps—and Borders

Digital currencies like Bitcoin seem tailor made for social peer-to-peer payment applications.  Transactions denominated in or convertible to digital currency could be withdrawn and transmitted by users at virtually no cost—only a small transaction fee.  Digital currency can then be converted using a myriad of exchanges, which navigate banking regimes.

A new peer-to-peer payment service, Current, launched on Tuesday with the motto “transact where you interact.”  For now, Current enables payments over Slack, the cloud-based collaboration and chat tool, but Current has aspirations to become “the API for money” across platforms and applications.  Instead of logging into a dedicated app or website to send money via Paypal or Dwolla, users could send money from their Current account within a variety of other apps.  Lydia, a French payment service, will offer similar functionality on Slack next week.

While a payment service may be able to integrate technologically with numerous apps, integration with the world’s banking regimes is more difficult.  This is a problem in online communities like those on Slack, which are usually international.  Users may not even be aware where their peers reside.  A foreign user who receives dollar-denominated payments might not be able to link local bank accounts.  This is where digital currencies such as Bitcoin may come in.

If the future of social payment services is a shared “API for money,” then digital currency should be considered for use as the universal interface for cash transfers.