While the number of merchants who take Bitcoin is growing, actually finding a merchant who accepts Bitcoin hasn't been especially easy. Until now.
In a quiet announcement last week, Yelp Inc. (NYSE: YELP) said it had added a line for "who accepts Bitcoin" to its guide data. Yelp provides online data and reviews for about 53 million local businesses.
This development is a much bigger deal than it seems. With a major-name company like Yelp providing an easy way to find who accepts Bitcoin, it's a big piece of the infrastructure needed to make actually using Bitcoin more practical. And that will speed adoption of the digital currency.
It also doesn't hurt that Yelp draws plenty of eyeballs.
Consider that the Yelp.com website had 100 million unique visitors in January; the mobile app gets about 9.4 million unique visitors each month. Many smartphone users keep the free app handy to check out area restaurants and other businesses while on the go.
Some of those Yelp users may already be using Bitcoin, but a great many are not. But they'll see the line about whether a business accepts Bitcoin, and that could pique their curiosity.
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On its official company blog, Yelp explained why it added the information on who accepts Bitcoin.
"We're constantly thinking about how to make our business attributes more useful for consumers and businesses," the company said, comparing the information to such attributes as store hours and whether or not pets are allowed.
Yelp has added the Bitcoin option to the business owner tools on its website to make it easy for merchants to add the information to their listing.
Yelp also offered some thoughts on why it thinks Bitcoin matters.
"For those who haven't heard the buzz about Bitcoin, it's a new payment technology that allows consumers and businesses to make fast, secure and low-cost digital payments from any Internet-enabled device. Bitcoin also allows for consumers and businesses to transact without having to store sensitive data like a credit card number. Finally, like cash, Bitcoin's transactions are one-way, so businesses don't have to worry about chargebacks," the company said. "We're hopeful the introduction of the Bitcoin attribute will provide yet another way for consumers to connect with great local businesses."
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- Yelp Official blog: Now on Yelp: Businesses That Accept Bitcoin