CryptAvatar - Improving wallet usability

A lot of you know about Gravatar, a globally recognized avatar service. It's essentially a website that lets you set an avatar that is associated with your email address across multiple places, like forums, StackExchange, etc. From a user experience standpoint it's a great service that can fetch all of your relevant data wherever you go without you having to type it in over and over again.

Awhile back I learned that Gravatar supports Bitcoin addresses. Neat! Now anyone can know your address of choice for Bitcoin, Litecoin and Dogecoin. Sample profile. This is useful if say, you want to tip someone some BTC and only know their email and so forth.

However, if this concept was expanded a bit, this could become a really neat feature for a number of wallets!

Friendly wallet profiles

Imagine that whenever you scan someone's address, instead of seeing a boring string like "18zRT8jaHJUZe3foLcHkocV468dZ9sGiBq", you would see someone's profile picture. You could easily identify who you're paying to, what's their name and so forth. This would be a much friendlier user experience. Essentially, it could look a bit like what PayPal did with their mobile app:

While this wouldn't protect users from some fraud of someone creating a fake profile and what have you, it would still make Bitcoin wallets more user friendly.

Pay to anything

At the moment Gravatar does not support searching for a user profile by anything other than their email, which is very limiting. If we could search by users' coin addresses, we could use their Gravatar images easier. Moreover, if Gravatar supported searching by any field the wallets would become even more user friendly. Imagine being able to find someone's Bitcoin address by their Twitter handle, phone number, or any other online profile. This would eliminate the need to scan QR codes while still allowing for easy person-to-person payments.

CryptAvatar, a sample implementation

Awhile back I was inspired to create a sample implementation of what Gravatar could become for crypto users. I call it CryptAvatar. It's a service that allows any wallet provider to search for peoples' public profiles using their email, coin address, Twitter handle, phone number and a number of other handles. It supports any currency using a similar address scheme as Bitcoin. Data is presented in a human and machine readable code. Here is a sample profile found by a handle:

Now we just have to wait for some wallet services to start supporting this...

In conclusion

All in all, Gravatar supporting Bitcoin addresses in their public profile is great, but given a few more tweaks and more searchable data a service like Gravatar focused on cryptocurrencies could really take off!

A killer feature for wallets and exchanges

Awhile back I was working on some software for a Bitcoin ATM that didn't offset its Bitcoin sales instantly at an exchange. During that time it hit me - the software I was developing could be a killer feature for a number of wallets and exchanges. Since at the moment I don't have much time to implement this myself and Coinbase recently announced a similar feature on a smaller scale, I might as well share my thoughts on the matter.

Bitcoin transaction offsetting

One can do a lot with the transparent blockchain that Bitcoin has. For example, if one uses a wallet like Blockchain that reuses the same address for change, it is really easy to estimate how much money one has spent. Take for example, this random transaction:

We can see the owner of that address spent 0.05BTC somewhere and returned 0.0015876BTC back to their address. At the current rate of about 650 USD/BTC, that's roughly a $32.5 purchase.

Since we know exactly how much an address is spending without having to have a direct access to it, we can do a neat trick of offsetting any and all purchases made with an address at an exchange automatically. We would just monitor the blockchain for any transactions coming from our address, and see how much money was transferred out of it. Then, using some publicly available APIs on a number of exchanges we can buy the same amount of BTC back instantly. Pretty neat.

A service like that would encourage a number of Bitcoiners to spend their coins more willingly. I was hesitant to spend my coins at times since buying them at an exchange was a bit of a hassle. If I could just deposit some fiat at an exchange and automatically have all my purchases offset, I would be more willing to spend the coins at a regular basis, since I would be netting the same amount of them at the end of the day.

One step further

This simple scenario is a beginning. The same service could be expanded to say, let you invest into coins as you spend them. One would just take the amount to be offset and multiply that by a ratio greater than 1. For example, 1.05 would mean that I would be buying 5% more coins that I would be spending. As a person that is bullish on Bitcoin, this would not only encourage me to spend my coins, but it would reward me for doing so with more coins ;). (I know this can be done manually and what have you, but sometimes small automatic rewards can feel better than doing things yourself)

Another great part of this approach is that it doesn't have to be an external system. The same functionality could be handled by a wallet or even an exchange itself (they would probably love it more so as it would be bringing in more volume). I would love to see a big exchange implement something like this.

In conclusion

All in all, automatic transaction offsetting in Bitcoin is really easy and encourages more bitcoins to be spent and bought all the time. What Coinbase implemented is a nice step in the right direction, but it's far from a complete solution.