Cryptocurrency payment processor BTCPay Server has launched its own peer-to-peer crowdfunding application. Described as “an app built inside BTCPay Server” in a comprehensive and very dry explainer video, the crowdfunding platform has two main value propositions. It doesn’t charge any fees, and it’s immune to censorship.
The platform looks similar to centralized crowdfunding sites like Kickstarter and Indiegogo, and indeed BTCPay Server compares it to both, calling it a “bitcoin alternative.” Unlike BTCPay Server’s new app, though, these centralized crowdfunding sites take both a fee for profit and a payment processing fee. Kickstarter, Indiegogo, and Patreon all take five percent for the former and about three percent for the latter. They rely on payment processors like Stripe and PayPal—companies that have the ability to ban certain groups or individuals from using their services.
Since BTCPay Server is a payment processor, it cuts out that intermediary, and because it’s open-source and decentralized, there’s no one to benefit from any sort of usage fee. To use the crowdfunding app, people have to deploy their own BTCPay Server (there’s an instructional video on how to do that on YouTube) or use a third-party host and create their own BTCPay Server “store,” which gives them full control over their own crowdfunding campaigns.
Per the demo in the crowdfunding app’s explainer video, it looks like users can fund campaigns using either bitcoin or Litecoin, but a Medium post from BTCPay Server doesn’t specify which cryptocurrencies people can use on the app. And even though people will be paying in cryptocurrency, the goals in the video’s sample website are still shown in U.S. dollars—but since anyone can create their own store, those details are ultimately up to the users. The crowdfunding app also supports the Lightning Network, a bitcoin protocol that facilitates fast and cheap payments.
The creation of an open-source, decentralized crypto crowdfunding app matters because it provides a haven for those who’ve been banned from centralized crowdfunding platforms. For example, in December 2018, Patreon stopped several alt-right and far-right figures from using its platform, like former Breitbart News editor Milo Yiannopoulos and conspiracy theorist YouTuber Carl Benjamin, aka Sargon of Akkad. Platforms like these have also removed funding campaigns for dubious products—like Kickstarter banning these “futuristic razors” in 2015. Social network Gab, essentially a Twitter alternative that welcomes people who get banned from other social platforms (its users include Andrew Anglin, operator of a neo-Nazi website, and Alex Jones), has already adopted BTCPay Server as its payment processor since getting banned by Stripe, PayPal, and even centralized cryptocurrency processors like Coinbase and BitPay.
There are all kinds of things people can’t raise money for on centralized crowdfunding sites. Kickstarter, for instance, doesn’t allow fundraising for “political campaigns,” weapons, drugs, pornography, “any item claiming to diagnose, cure, treat, or prevent an illness,” and “energy food or drinks,” among many others.
Since BTCPay Server’s service is free, it may not be only alt-right members and free speech supporters who adopt it. However, due to the barrier of entry (having your own crypto wallet and deploying your own app), it may just be the tech-savvy who do.