Bitcoin Steps Toward Universality on Webpages

Lila Gray

LOS ANGELES — Bitcoin made a major stride towards becoming a universal web payment method today by passing preliminary approval to receive its own standardized “scheme” in HTML5.

In computer-speak, a “scheme” is an institutionalized shortcut embedded in HTML5, the computer language that underpins web browsers. For example, an ubiquitous scheme is mailto:, which, when included as a link on a webpage and clicked, directs your browser to send an email to a particular address.

A bitcoin “scheme” would take the form of a link which would automatically reroute to a transaction using the virtual currency. This is akin to the “buy now” schemes frequently encountered on the checkout page in the form of a link on commercial websites — the only difference is that a bitcoin scheme would direct to a virtual bitcoin wallet instead of a credit card.

Thus far, the bitcoin scheme has been “whitelisted,” or deemed Ok , to include on websites by one or more web standards bodies. This has spurred debates on forums like Reddit and Hacker News about the future of bitcoin — particularly concerning its potential universality on websites as a form of e-payment.

Whitelisting bitcoin, at the very least, shows that purveyors of the HTML5 standard consider bitcoin a serious form of currency that deserves consideration from the puppeteers of the web.

This seems to be a growing trend, not just amongst programmers and other tech folk but in business circles as well. Last week, OKCupid announced it would allow members to buy its A-list subscription using bitcoin. Yesterday, the president of PayPal, David Marcus, expressed his interest in the currency and announced a potential, albeit vague, collaboration with the currency.

“I think that for us at PayPal, it’s just a question whether bitcoin will make its way to PayPal’s funding instrument or not. We’re kind of thinking about it.” Marcus said.