I'm working on the reservation and ticketing system for a open source conference (http://ehsm.eu/
) that will happen next year. Getting to terms with a payment provider is a very time consuming process, and I was asked to look into Bitcon based payment systems to offer an alternative funds transfer option that requires less bureaucracy to get going.
First off, I am not a Bitcoin enthusiast. I find it kind of interesting, but not enough to make me want to speculate with Bitcoins or invest in mining, or even want to spend a lot of my own time into finding out how it works or does not. Now, given the task of interfacing with Bitcoin for the conference payment site, I found it rather hard to find a developer overview of the system. It seems that most publications on Bitcoin try to convince me that it is a great system, but I could not find something that is targeted at telling an agnostic person about the technology, how it is used and what it takes to implement a Bitcoin based payment system.
The first service that I looked at was http://bitpay.com/
, which allows customers to pay by credit card and sends the money to the merchant by Bitcoin. This seemed like an easy way to give people a way to spend their money using a traditional form of payment without requiring the conference organizers to participate in the traditional payment system infrastructure and bureaucracy. The API that is offered by BitPay looked straighforward, and even though it uses some terminology from the Bitcoin world which was not explained, it seemed as if it would not take a lot of code to integrate their system. What I found rather surprising, though, was that BitPay does not offer any test system. I asked their support whether I'd be missing something, and they told me that they do not have a test system at this point, but I could test using very small amounts. Haha, yeah right.
I was then pointed to http://bips.me/
as another offering for Bitcoin payment processing. They don't offer incoming currency conversion, so people would actually have to buy Bitcoins on their own to pay for their tickets. And again, there is no test system.
This makes me wonder: Am I missing something obvious? I mean, I have dealt with a few different internet payment providers in the traditional money-moving universe, and all of them have a test and integration system that developers can use. The same thing seems to be uncommon with Bitcoin.
I guess I'll stay out of the Bitcoin world for a while. It just does not seem to be very practical to me.