PayPal and bitcoin have always seemed somewhat like natural partners. In a very fundamental way, bitcoin was essentially designed to do what PayPal has long done: facilitate easy, digital payments in a secure fashion. There’s more to the cryptocurrency concept than just this of course (and for that matter there’s a lot more to PayPal these days also), but in a sort of core way, the two were made to serve some of the same purposes, and thus can be compared easily.
Somewhat unusually though, as PayPal has advanced and cryptocurrency has become more familiar to the public, the two seem to have diverged more than converged. More to the point, PayPal has seemingly pulled ahead in terms of its broad utility, with bitcoin and other cryptos still seeming to be largely impractical when considered as currencies.
For one thing, PayPal has continued to expand where bitcoin doesn’t (yet). It’s used by a massive range of retailers, and is even worked into many popular point-of-sale devices and systems, meaning people can make payments in person. PayPal now has a full range of credit card options as well, making it that much easier for customers to use their digital balance to make purchases. Bitcoin has more or less flirted with these areas, in that it is used sparingly by retailers and in point-of-sale situations. It can also be used with certain kinds of gift and mock credit cards. But it is nowhere near as visible in these ways as PayPal has become.
For another thing, PayPal has also managed to thrive even where bitcoin has gained seemingly meaningful footholds. For instance, you often see Overstock listed as one of the most significant companies to accept crypto purchases, but you can also use PayPal there. Similarly, some cryptos (mostly bitcoin) have caught on in online gaming spheres as safe options for people depositing money on internet casinos. Here too though, PayPal was already a preferred option and is used at many of the largest gaming platforms, whereas bitcoin is mostly on the fringes.
It’s been for these reasons that the PayPal-bitcoin partnership potential has typically wilted upon closer examination. Functionally speaking, the long-trusted payment processor is simply everything bitcoin would like to be – even if, again, there’s more to cryptos than the payment side of things. Even so, potential links between the two entities always seemed perfectly possible, until a late January event at which PayPal’s CEO more or less slammed cryptocurrency as a concept.
Speaking at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland (often simply referred to as Davos), the CEO, Dan Schulman, stated that we’re not seeing many retailers accepting cryptocurrency, and that he views it more as a reward mechanism for using blockchain than an actual currency. Schulman noted cryptos’ volatility, and specifically explained how it’s a bad match with retailers’ typically narrow margins. It wasn’t an aggressive or impolite take directed to take down crypto advocates – but it was still quite negative.
This would seem to end any talk of a significant link or partnership between PayPal and bitcoin anytime in the near future.