Bitcoin wallet provider Airbitz continues to close in on the release of buy-and-sell functionalities within its wallets interface. The Lead architect of the wallet, William Swanson, recently told CCN that the firm will soon offer the service around the globe through its partners.
“Our US partner is bringing their service online and is in private Beta at the moment,” Swanson said. “We will be able to switch on our in-app integration soon.” The company also has a Eurozone partner ready to go.
“We just need to hook up a bit of code,” Swanson said. By offering this service through its partners, Airbitz is spared the regulatory headache of following regulations in each state and country.
Swanson, who has written software since the age of 11 years-old and is the chief architect and founder of Airbitz, has dedicated himself to Airbitz and its wallet technology. The wallet is one of the favorite Bitcoin wallet options today.
“Bitcoin is all about these things called ‘private keys.’ A key is just a big number – about 80 digits – that controls an amount of bitcoins,” Swanson told CCN.
“Losing the key means losing access to the bitcoins, and having somebody else learn your key means they can take the bitcoins,” he added. “Therefore, keys need to be kept both secret and safe.” The core DNA of Airbitz, according to Swanson, is key management.
“We never see customer data,” the San Diego County, California resident said. “Everything is encrypted or hashed before it reaches our servers, including innocent-seeming things like the username.” This, however, is only part of the equation for Airbitz.
“That takes care of the ‘secret’ part, since nobody at Airbitz has access to any customer data, even if they wanted to,” Swanson, whose specialities include the Bitcoin Protocol, C / C++, and Shell Scripting
explained. “At the same time, we maintain automated encrypted backups of all keys and data.” What does this mean for an Airbitz user?
“If somebody loses their phone, they can re-enter their password and retrieve their keys,” Swanson adds. “This takes care of the ‘safe’ part.” Turning the key-management problem into a simple username and password experience is the number one feature Airbitz brings to the table, according to Swanson.
“Bitcoin is just the first application, but there are many more, including secure chat, smart contracts, authentication, and pretty much anything with the word ‘block chain’ in the title.” Airbitz’s goal is to become a household key-management solution for block chain related technologies.
“We are already a super-easy Bitcoin wallet, and it’s because we solved this hard problem up front,” he said. Airbitz’s application focuses on being as intuitive as possible.
“Airbitz employees receive 100% of their pay in Bitcoins,” Swanson explained. “For many people, Bitcoin is just a nerd toy, but for us, it’s an essential part of everyday life.” The Airbitz team uses the wallet all the time, constantly searching for ways in which to improve upon the design.
“If there are any rough edges or confusing workflows, we experience them firsthand and are highly motivated to fix them,” Swanson said. “I remember one time where we spent almost an hour discussing what to call the ‘Exit PIN login’ button. We obsess over every detail.”
New users of Airbitz can expect a very familiar experience: set up a username and a password, just like you would with normal online banking. In fact, Airbitz strives to create an “online banking” feeling when using their wallet. There’s a simple “receive Bitcoin” screen with a QR code, as well as a “send Bitcoin” screen with a camera, including a log of the user’s transactions.
With online banking, we each receive monthly statements with information about where our money came from and went. Bitcoin, as a standalone, does not feature this functionality. Airbitz recognizes the responsibility on the part of their app to capture as much information as possible to provide statement functionality.
“Unfortunately, most Bitcoin apps completely fail at this, leaving you scratching your head about what all these transactions are,” Swanson said. “The information we store is a cross between a bank statement and what you might find in an app like Quicken.”
Airbitz stores payee name, an income/expense category, as well as a field for notes. The wallet also stores the transaction value in regional currencies using the exchange rate at the time the transaction took place.
“If you buy a $5 pair of socks with Bitcoin, and next month the price of Bitcoin doubles, that doesn’t change the fact that the socks were only $5,” Swanson said.
“Airbitz is determined to gather automatically as much of this information as possible,” he goes on. “We autocomplete the payee name using your address book, and if the user makes a payment request over email or SMS, we automatically tag the incoming funds with the right email address or phone number.” Beyond bank statements, security for Airbitz is another main focus. One touch two-factor authentication adds security to the Airbitz wallet.
“If an attacker can guess a user’s name and password, they can log into that account,” Swanson said. “This is how usernames and passwords work. If this is something that worries you, two-factor authentication adds security.” Aside from needing the username and password, a user would also need access to the user’s physical phone.
Whereas normally two-factor authentication involves scanning QR codes and typing numbers on every login, Airbitz built two-factor authentication into their wallet app.
“It’s literally a single button-press to set it up. Once it’s turned on, you don’t have to do anything else,” according to Swanson. Airbitz is designed for somebody living their lives in the Bitcoin economy by a team that does it themselves.
“I couldn’t imagine using a wallet that simply shows a balance, with no history of how that came about,” Swanson opined. “It would be like a credit card or bank account that refused to give you a statement.”
The Airbitz Directory
The Airbitz directory is a unique and useful future in the wallet though the team hopes it soon becomes obsolete in the future when everyone accepts Bitcoin.
“Until then, we want to encourage growth in any way possible,” Swanson said. “After all, the point of currency is to spend it, and our merchant directory provides a way to do that.” That’s not the only reason.
“On the opposite side of the fence, merchants who take Bitcoin deserve special recognition, and our directory provides that,” he adds.
The directory is free of charge for businesses. If there is a merchant who takes Bitcoin but isn’t listed, there is a “Submit a Business” link at the top of the “Directory” menu on the company’s website. The directory’s focus is brick-and-mortar businesses though the company does include online-only businesses from web hosts to retailers like Overstock.com
“The directory is super-nice while travelling,” said Swanson. “I have a pretty good pulse on what’s available in San Diego, but when going to other cities, I always use the directory to look for food and such.” The lead architect has made some observations about Bitcoin accepting bric-and-mortar stores.
“The businesses that take Bitcoin tend to be a little out-of-the-box, and are usually pretty excellent. I found the best little organic, GMO-free deli in Portland using the Airbitz directory, and it was some of the most amazing vegan food I have ever had,” he remembered. “I would never have had that experience if it weren’t for Bitcoin, and it’s like that in every city.”
What is your opinion on Airbitz? Let us know in the comments!
*CCN is not a financial advice website, and the opinions in this article are not the opinions of CCN or the author. Justin O’Connell has used the Airbitz app and agreed it is one of the best on the market. However, diversity in life is key, and this includes one’s Bitcoin strategy.