I first discovered Bitcoin when Wired.com announced it way back in 2009. Being a futurist, I saw the value of it and kept my eye on it. When Laszlo Hanyecz bought 2 pizzas for 10,000 btc back in 2010 I knew what an important event that was: bitcoin had just been assigned a dollar value. And when the Silk Road opened, announcing they would only be accepting bitcoin as legal tender, I knew that this technology was going to be big.
The trouble, however, was actually getting your hands on them. As late as 2012 it was tough for the Average Joe to get access to this new, incredibly powerful technology. You couldn’t buy them from exchanges here in the US, you could only deal with sites located in Europe or Asia. And the biggest of them all, Mt. Gox, later imploded due to either blatant fraud, or criminal incompetence, depending on who you talk to.
It would appear that those days are over, however, because there is now a website devoted to helping the novice investor navigate the treacherous waters of crypto currency purchasing. Going by the name Best Bitcoin Exchanges this site aims to provide user-generated feedback on the biggest crypto exchanges in the world, a sort of Angie’s List for the crypt set.
Recently I was able to correspond with the man behind the site, Tom Gullen, to find out more.
So, could you introduce yourself, Tom?
My name is Tom Gullen, I co-founded Scirra Ltd with my brother and have a keen interest in Bitcoin.
How long have you been interested in crypto?
I first read about them in 2011, and have been following them closely and trying to learn as much about them as I can since! I lobbied Vince Cable (UK Business Secretary) earlier this year to ask him to drop VAT for Bitcoin in the UK, as well as look into the anti competitiveness of the banking industry around Bitcoin. Earlier this year I also had the opportunity to present to FinTech businesses (financial technology) in Canary Wharf about the potential of Bitcoin. I’ve met a lot of people and talked to a lot of people about it and enjoy continuing to do so.
So you have a pretty technical background, do you?
I’ve been developing websites for the last 15 years or so. I studied Computing for A.I. at University of East Anglia in Norwich.
Why did you create the site?
I didn’t see many websites for rating Bitcoin exchanges. A lot of people are interested in buying, but are ‘flying blind’ a lot of the time. Being able to see reviews of exchanges may be beneficial and reassuring for some new buyers.
What are the criteria used for reviews, as of now?
We ask if the sites are incorporated, whether they’ve been audited, what their average daily volume is, what the fees are, if any, and what currencies they accept. We also check to see if they use SSL validation and Microsoft Extended Validation SSL.
Did you build the site yourself or did you hire it out?
Built it all myself using c# and SQL Server. It was a weekend project, and if it starts to get any traction I’ll be happy to spend more time on weekends/evenings adding more features and developing it further.
How does your site work, i.e. what are the criteria you use to rate exchanges?
It uses reviews left by visitors. No registration is required, but each IP address can only rate/review any exchange once over a fixed period of time. Visitors reading reviews can also rate them as helpful and unhelpful. Exchanges are ranked by average rating, but I’ll be changing this to a weighted rating soon based on the helpful votes and perhaps a few other factors.
I noticed Cryptsy is not on your site. Is there a particular reason? (Author’s Note: I first contacted Tom on June 2, then again on June 9. AS of June 12 Cryptsy was still not listed on Best Bitcoin Exchanges)
No reason! Will get this added soon!
How do you plan to police the site for any issues, such as potential trolls?
If people see an unhelpful review left by a troll, they should mark it as unhelpful. Enough unhelpful votes will sink it to the bottom! If this is not enough, I’ll be adjusting it until a balance is struck.
Where do you see exchanges headed in the future?
I think there’s a lot of demand from Bitcoin users to see more features and bells and whistles from Bitcoin exchanges. More sophisticated tools and options. I don’t agree these are needed, adding further layers of complexity makes the likelihood of failure higher. What Bitcoin needs most importantly are reliable, safe and long standing exchanges above all else.
I think there’s a lot of demand from users to evolve exchanges into higher levels of sophistication, but the ones that will be around in 5-10 years will be the ones that didn’t grow too quickly and valued their safety above everything else. They’ll have to endure the criticism of a lot of users though during that time! I just hope at least some have the foresight.
You’ve already indicated an impartiality towards exchanges in general, but are there any in particular that you like?
I’ve used Bitstamp and Localbitcoins. As we deposit in GBP, Bitstamp appears to offer the most competitive forex rates.
Do you plan to accept advertising on your site, or will you limit revenue to donations?
If someone wants to advertise they are free to contact me! I wont be actively seeking it though.
Do you have any favorite cryptos, and if so, which and why?
Bitcoin! I’m not a huge believer in other alt coins, but I like the fact people are experimenting with them.
Where do you see the crypto movement going?
Upwards, but it’s going to be a rocky ride! I believe crypto currencies have a real place in world economics and have the potential to level the playing field in a lot of interesting areas.
What annoys you the most about cryptocurrency right now? About the cryptocommunity?
I think there’s a big divide formed/forming in the Bitcoin community. One side believing crypto currencies are liberating, governments having no right to interfere. The other side (where I belong) is a place where government and crypto currencies can work together through regulation. There is often a lot of friction between these groups because it’s a conflict of basal philosophies and there’s very little middle ground.
One major downside of crypto currencies is that they are perfect instruments for blackmail, we’re starting to see a lot more of this now and I expect a lot more to come.
Do you believe that Blockchain technology and Decentralization will succeed in areas outside of cryptocurrency?
Too early to know I think. It has interesting applications, but it’s easy to get a bit carried away. For example, using it as a national voting mechanism (perhaps as a voting mechanism for small organisations it might work) is a pretty bad idea for lots of reasons.
Is there anyone in the cryptosphere that you really pay attention to? Like if you see they have written something your reaction is “Okay, I’m going to read that.”
Honestly, only Satoshi Nakamoto! I think Bitcoin is so new, there’s a lot of very interesting people and ideas forming, I like to read a bit of everything from lots of sources.
Top Bitcoin Exchanges is still online waiting for users to provide feedback on the burgeoning field of online cryptocurrency exchanges.