For as long as the Internet has existed, there have been companies attempting to create a digital currency. Do you remember Beanz? Launched in 1998, it crashed and burned in the midst of dotcom crash in 2001. Since then there have been numerous others, checkout Coinbase (creater of Bitcoins) along with Xbox points and Facebook credits attempting something similar today albeit the latter two are within their own closed networks.
In principal, it is a brilliant idea. The internet has no borders so why not have a single global currency – a global marketplace that would make global e-commerce simple and easy.
In reality, they make life difficult for the user. Back in the time of Beanz, it was a solution that solved a problem for the internet companies and not the customer. Now the only reason for Facebook credits/Xbox Points is some form of lockin to the platform. Not exactly a user first approach.
People are used to their own local currency and are able to make instant value judgements on a product if it is in their own currency. Without that, there follows a delay whilst the conversion happens either in their head or worse elsewhere. That can only result in one thing – a dampening on sales.
It is important to keep things as simple as possible for the buyer.
So it is good to see both Facebook and Microsoft (rumour) take steps to change its systems to support local currencies instead. Now if only all those loyalty schemes would convert to a local currency as well..
Having read a story today about a poker website allowing certain users to cheat (more on this later), I got thinking about the concept of trust online. I think this is one of the Internet’s biggest hurdles to usage (and therefore success), though it is one it has always managed to overcome. You can do a lot of different things online, here’s a few:
With each of those a level of trust is required. In the first, you need to trust that the retailer is legitimate and not stealing your credit card details. Just last week, I as chatting with a doctor who was worrying about transacting online. He asked me worriedly: “Is it really safe? Should I be doing this?”. Thankfully, compared to 3 or 4 years ago this question is few and far between. I usually respond with something like: It is safer to shop online than pay by card in a restaurant or shop provided (just like in a shop/restaurant where you shouldnt let your card go out of sight) you follow a few simple rules.
Make sure the retailer is legitimate and ensure that the website you are on is using a secure connection. I define legitimacy based on how tech literate the person is – if they are not, then it is simply “the brand one you have heard of or a site you know people who have used before successfully” – this usually means high street brands. If they are more tech literate then I tell them to look for indicators like Google Checkout and integration with shopping comparison sites, with a worst case of look for an address and phone number and call them! Today, with the work done to build consumer trust, this is less of a problem as most people have heard of the best sites and have learnt how to use shopping comparison pages. Social networking should allow for smaller sites to become more trusted as friends within the networks use them.
From a reading perspective – this is no different to newspapers, where if you lose faith in the quality of the content then you will stop reading. There is so much online that there is an abundance of rubbish – thankfully there is also plenty of good stuff
When it comes to playing online, you have to place trust in the provider of the game. You want to be on a level playing field with the other players. It has been a huge issue for the massively multiplayer games online like World of Warcraft and plenty of others. This also extends to poker games online – which has been a huge growth area online in recent years. As I mentioned in at the start of this post, a top 10 poker website has been found (Ultimate Bet) which was letting certain players see hidden (hole) cards giving them a huge advantage over other players. One player made $300,000 in profit over 3000 hands. Thankfully this scam was discovered by othe players, but this could have a huge impact on people playing poker online – how do you know that the other players at the online table do not have an advantage over you? The other question is on the quality of the anti-fraud software in place – why did it not pick this up? Why was it the players who spotted it..
Somehow, I think we will see a reaction to this by the other major poker websites. If you want to read more about the poker story you can read it over on msnbc