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eBay eyeing bitcoin use for its payments unit, report says

A deal to allow bitcoin as payment would apply only to eBay's PayPal Braintree business and not to eBay itself or to its PayPal subsidiary, says The Wall Street Journal.


eBay is reportedly chatting with bitcoin processors about bringing the virtual currency to its PayPal Braintree payments unit.

Citing the usual "people familiar with the matter," The Wall Street Journal reported on Friday that eBay has been aiming to add bitcoin to its PayPal Braintree business, a payment platform used by online and mobile startups that the company bought last year. If that happens, then people would be able to use bitcoin to pay for rental places at Airbnb, restaurant reservations through OpenTable, car rides through Uber, and other services offered by Braintree customers.

Bitcoin has been gaining favor with more businesses as a viable means of payment. Retailers such as Overstock, Dell, Expedia, and Newegg have adopted the virtual currency. However, bitcoin still has an air of suspicion about it in some circles.

Bitcoin exchange Mt. Gox created controversy earlier this year after declaring bankruptcy following the reported theft of almost 750,000 customer bitcoins. A US senator has called for a ban on bitcoin, labeling it "highly unstable and disruptive to our economy." Still, further adoption by businesses such as eBay would give bitcoin more of the legitimacy it needs if it's expected to survive and thrive.

So far, eBay has been discussing the matter with companies that process bitcoin transactions, such as Coinbase, according to the Journal, though no deals have yet been reached. Even if an agreement does pass, neither eBay nor PayPal would initially allow the direct use of bitcoin as payment, the sources said, though eBay CEO John Donahoe told the Journal last year that he was looking into ways to adopt bitcoin.

A spokeswoman for Braintree told CNET that "we do believe that Bitcoin will play an important role in payments in the future but we have nothing to announce."